The tunnel boring machine that will excavate the tunnel for the electricity interconnection between Spain and France has been built. The machine, which has been christened with the name Alberes and that has been manufactured in Germany, will be transported to Spain over the next few months to begin boring the tunnel in the spring of 2012.
Together with its French twin, named Canigó, that will work from the French side, they will excavate a tunnel of 8.5 kilometres in length in the Eastern Pyrenees, between the municipalities of La Junquera, Spain, and Montesquieu, France.
Designed to work not only on hard rock but also on soft rock and in fault zones, the machine has a cutting head with an exterior diameter of 4.3 metres, and a length of 11.5 metres. It is completed with trailing support decks (back-up system), forming a train with an overall length 308 metres.
At present, a gallery of 40 metres in length, at the tunnel entrance in the municipality of La Junquera, has already been excavated. The preparatory work carried out on the Spanish side is necessary in order to install the tunnel boring machine when it arrives in Spain in March next year.
The German company Herrenknecht, that has designed and manufactured the tunnel boring machine especially for this project, unveiled the machine on 16 December to the technicians of the Dragados-Eiffage TP consortium, responsible for the construction of the tunnel, as well as to representatives of Inelfe, the company set up by Red Eléctrica de España and its French counterpart, Réseau de Transport d?Électricité to construct and commission the interconnection.
The 65 kilometre interconnection line with France, between the municipalities of Santa Llogaia (near Figueras, in Spain) and Baixas (near Perpignan, in France) will be buried underground. Due to its length and its special characteristics, the link will use direct current instead of alternating current, therefore it also involves the construction of converter stations at each end of the connection, one in Santa Llogaia and one in Baixas, that will be responsible for transforming direct current into alternating current and vice versa.
The interconnection, that has a budget of 700 million euros, has been declared a project of European interest, and is financed by the European Union with 225 million euros within the framework of the EEPR programme (European Energy Programme for Recovery). INELFE has reached an agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to receive a loan of 350 million euros destined for this project.