Watt a pain: grid issue causes solar park backlog
By Punchline reporter | 27th February 2023
A boom time for Gloucestershire farmers hoping to join the rush for solar park investment faces the bottleneck of a huge wait for connection to the National Grid.
With the government declaring a target for all electricity to come from 100% zero-carbon generation by 2035, farmers in Gloucestershire have had a wake-up call to either sell or lease land for solar generation – as we reported last week .
Between now and 2029, new ground-mount solar photovoltaic production is expected to contribute about 14GWp-dc of new capacity, helping to push solar's contribution to just over 40GW by the start of 2030.
But according to land and property agents David James , a significant sticking point is emerging: they can get the nod for the installation, they can build it... but can't connect.
Director Matthew Blaken said: "We have seen a number of solar proposals throughout South Gloucestershire and Stroud, in common with the rest of the country. The use for solar is encouraged by national policy.
"From a landowner's point of view, most agreements are for 35 to 40 years and are producing revenue to offset the forthcoming loss of agricultural subsidy (the Basic Payment Scheme) which will end in 2027."
David James says it's consequently seeing high levels of landowner interest in solar agreements "where the land has potential - good access, not overshaded."
In most cases, farmers are also retaining the rights to graze the land with sheep under and around the panels.
But Matthew added: "The biggest issue is for the solar providers to get grid connections, as the national infrastructure requires a substantial upgrade.
"We are being told that the delays could be up to six years and this is starting to restrict interest in agreements so, notwithstanding our energy demand, the uptake of agreements may have peaked until this is resolved."
In conjunction with solar, Matthew told Punchline we are now seeing smaller areas of land being used for battery storage: "These look like shipping containers assembled in a group. This is effectively storing the energy produced during the day to feed back into the grid at peak demand and/or through the night."
Last September, the National Grid's Electricity Systems Operator announced a drive to try to clear the backlog of applicants.
A spokesman said: "There is also a need to implement more effective Queue Management (QM) arrangements. To that end, the ESO has raised a code modification, CMP 376, under the Connection and Use of System Code (CUSC), to formally introduce QM arrangements. This modification is subject to approval."
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