HVDC Cross-Channel

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Interconnexion France Angleterre
Sellindge Converter Station on the UK side of the interconnector
Sellindge Converter Station on the UK side of the interconnector
CountryFrance, United Kingdom
General directionsouth-north
FromBonningues-lès-Calais, France
Passes throughEnglish Channel
ToSellindge, United Kingdom
Ownership information
PartnersNational Grid plc
Réseau de Transport d'Électricité
Construction information
Manufacturer of conductor/cableAlstom
Manufacturer of substationsASEA (160 MW scheme); Alstom (2,000 MW scheme)
Construction started1985 (2,000 MW scheme)
Commissioned1986 (2,000 MW scheme)
Technical information
Typesubmarine cable
Type of currentHVDC
Total length73 km (45 mi)
Power rating2,000 MW
AC voltage400 kV
DC voltage±270 kV
No. of poles4 (2 bipoles)

The HVDC Cross-Channel (French: Interconnexion France Angleterre) is the name given to two different high-voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnectors that operate or have operated under the English Channel between the continental European and British electricity grids. The cable is also known as IFA,[1][2] and should not be confused with IFA-2, a much smaller interconnect with France.

The first cross-Channel link was a 160 MW link completed in 1961 and decommissioned in 1984, while the second was a 2,000 MW link completed in 1986.

The current 2,000 MW link, like the original link, is bi-directional and France and Great Britain can import/export depending upon market demands.

A fire in September 2021 caused the link to be removed from service. National Grid announced that half of its capacity would be restored within a fortnight, with full capacity being restored after six months.

160 MW system (1961)[edit]

The first HVDC Cross-Channel scheme was built by ASEA and went into service in 1961,[3] between converter stations at Lydd in England (next to Dungeness Nuclear Power Station) and Echinghen, near Boulogne-sur-Mer, in France. This scheme was equipped with mercury-arc valves, each having four anodes in parallel.[4]

In order to keep the disturbances of the magnetic compasses of passing ships as small as possible, a bipolar cable was used. The cable had a length of 65 km (40 miles) and was operated symmetrically at a voltage of ±100 kV and a maximum current of 800 amperes. The maximum transmission power of this cable was 160 megawatts (MW). The cable was built by ABB Group.[5] Given that the cable was laid on the surface of the seabed it was prone to being fouled by fishing nets, causing damage. Whilst repairs were undertaken there was considerable down time on the circuit resulting in a loss of trading. Indeed, by 1984 the circuit was disconnected from the Main Transmission System.

2,000 MW system (1986)[edit]

Because the first installation did not meet increasing requirements, it was replaced in 1975–1986 by a new HVDC system with a maximum transmission rating of 2,000 MW between France and Great Britain, for which two new converter stations were built in Sellindge, between Ashford and Folkestone in Kent (UK) and in Bonningues-lès-Calais (Les Mandarins station), near Calais, (France). Unlike most HVDC schemes, where the two converter stations are built by the same manufacturer, the two converter stations of the 2,000 MW scheme were built by different manufacturers (although both have subsequently become part of the same parent company, Alstom). The Sellindge converter station was built by GEC[6] and the Les Mandarins converter station was built by CGE Alstom.

This HVDC-link is 73 km (45 miles) long in route, with 70 km (43 miles) between the two ends. The undersea section consists of eight 46 km (29 miles) long 270 kV submarine cables, laid between Folkestone (UK) and Sangatte (France), arranged as two fully independent 1,000 MW Bipoles, each operated at a DC voltage of ±270 kV. Cables are laid in pairs in four trenches so that the magnetic fields generated by the two conductors are largely cancelled. The landside parts of the link consist of 8 cables with lengths of 18.5 km (11.5 miles) in England, and 6.35 km (3.95 miles) in France.[7]

In common with the 1961 scheme, there is no provision to permit neutral current to flow through the sea. Although each station includes an earth electrode, this is used only to provide a neutral reference, and only one of the two electrodes is connected at a given time so that there can be no current flow between them.

The system was built with solid-state semiconductor thyristor valves from the outset. Initially these were air-cooled and used analogue control systems but in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the thyristor valves of Bipole 1 and Bipole 2 were replaced by more modern water-cooled thyristor valves and digital control systems supplied by Alstom.[8]

This system remains the world's largest-capacity submarine cable HVDC system.[9]

In November 2016, during Storm Angus, a ship dragging an anchor cut four of the eight cable components, reducing capacity by 50%.[10] Repairs were completed by the end of February 2017. The equipment occasionally faults, causing capacity to drop: in a bad year, this might happen several times. To maintain grid frequency and power, the National Grid has a variety of frequency response assets, of which market batteries are the first to respond.[11]

In September 2021, a major fire at the Sellindge converter station led to the shutdown of the link.[12][13] National Grid announced that half of the link capacity would be restored within a fortnight, with full capacity being restored in March 2022. The shutdown came at a time of high prices and supply shortage in the UK electricity market, caused by low wind speeds and high prices for natural gas.[14][15]


Since the commissioning of the 2,000 MW DC link in the 1980s, the bulk of power flow through the link has been from France to Britain. However, France imports energy as needed during the winter to meet demand, or when there is low availability of nuclear or hydroelectric power.

As of 2005, imports of electricity from France have historically accounted for about 5% of electricity available in the UK. Imports through the interconnector have generally been around the highest possible level, given the capacity of the link. In 2006, 97.5% of the energy transfers were made from France to UK, supplying the equivalent of 3 million English homes. The link availability is around 98%, which is among the best rates in the world. The continued size and duration of this flow is open to some doubt, given the growth in demand in continental Europe for clean electricity, and increasing electricity demand within France.[16]


Map this section's coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
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Site Coordinates
Echingen converter station (out of service) 50°41′48″N 1°38′21″E / 50.69667°N 1.63917°E / 50.69667; 1.63917 (Cross-Channel ( old) - Echingen Converter Station)
Lydd converter station (out of service) 50°54′54″N 0°56′50″E / 50.91500°N 0.94722°E / 50.91500; 0.94722 (Cross-Channel ( old) - Lydd Converter Station)
Les Mandarins converter station 50°54′11″N 1°47′5″E / 50.90306°N 1.78472°E / 50.90306; 1.78472 (Cross-Channel ( new) - Les Mandarins Converter Station)
Sellindge converter station 51°6′21″N 0°58′32″E / 51.10583°N 0.97556°E / 51.10583; 0.97556 (Cross-Channel ( new) - Sellindge Converter Station)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://ifa1interconnector.com/ifa/
  2. ^ https://www.nationalgrid.com/our-businesses/national-grid-ventures/interconnectors-connecting-cleaner-future/interconnector-customer-portal
  3. ^ Compendium of HVDC schemes, CIGRÉ, Compendium of all HVDC projects.[dead link]
  4. ^ Cory, B.J., Adamson, C., Ainsworth, J.D., Freris, L.L., Funke, B., Harris, L.A., Sykes, J.H.M., High-voltage direct current converters and systems, Macdonald & Co. (publishers) Ltd, 1965, p175–218.
  5. ^ "60 years of HVDC" (PDF). ABB Group. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  6. ^ Rowe, B.A., Goodrich, F.G., Herbert, I.R., Commissioning the Cross Channel h.v.d.c. link, GEC Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1987.
  7. ^ Compendium of HVDC schemes, CIGRÉ Technical Brochure No. 003, 1987, pp194–199.
  8. ^ "Anglo – French HVDC Link" (PDF). Areva. 2009-12-01. Retrieved 2010-02-28.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "HVDC Submarine Power Cables in the World" (PDF). Joint Research Centre. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  10. ^ "How a Loose Anchor Cut Up Britain's Power Link With France". Bloomberg. 2 December 2016.
  11. ^ Stoker, Liam (5 June 2019). "Batteries act as first responders when UK-France interconnector trips". Energy Storage News.
  12. ^ "National Grid site fire shuts down power cable between France and UK". BBC News. 15 September 2021.
  13. ^ Ambrose, Jillian (15 September 2021). "Fire shuts one of UK's most important power cables in midst of supply crunch". The Guardian. London.
  14. ^ "Fire-damaged power link will be out for six months, says National Grid". Sky News. 16 September 2021.
  15. ^ "The UK's Energy Price Surge Could be Just Getting Started". Pound Sterling Live.
  16. ^ http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/tna/+/http://www.dti.gov.uk/files/file11257.pdf/

External links[edit]

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