Work on the tunnel that will house the electrical interconnection between France and Spain was completed today, as the Spanish TBM Alberas pierced the final wall of rock to meet up with its French counterpart Canigou beneath the Pyrenees. The now fully excavated tunnel runs for 8.5 kilometres alongside the high-speed rail tunnel, between the villages of La Junquera in Spain and Montesquieu-des-Albères in France. It will act as the conduit for a 320,000-volt line, linking the French and Spanish power grids with minimal environmental impact.
The new tunnel is part of the wider project to create an electrical interconnection between France and Spain being carried out by Inelfe, a jointly-owned subsidiary of Réseau de Transport d’Electricité (RTE) and Red Eléctrica de España (REE), which is responsible for constructing the new interconnection power line. With 65 km running underground, and a direct current line with a high capacity (2 x 1000 MW), the France-Spain electrical interconnection is a world first. It will double the exchange capacity between France and Spain, while promoting the integration of renewable energies into the European power system and reducing CO2 emissions.
Construction work on the tunnel began in March 2012 on the Spanish side and October 2012 on the French side. It will be fully completed in January 2014, once the tunnel has been entirely fitted out and the power line cables have been laid. This work will be carried out by Eiffage-Dragados.
Over the next few weeks, the TBM Alberas, which started from the Spanish end of the tunnel and whose work was completed today when it met up with Canigou, will be dismantled. The French TBM, which finished its work in March 2013, is currently being dismantled. The Baixas – Santa Llogaia electrical interconnection project has a budget of 700 million euros, and has been declared a project of European interest. It has been awarded 225 million euros in financing by the European Union under the EEPR (European Energy Programme for Recovery), along with a 350-million-euro loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).