New rules to kick ‘zombie’ solar farms off grid queue
That's according to regulator OFGEM
Energy regulator Ofgem has unveiled a plan to eliminate “zombie” wind and solar farms which are holding up the rollout of renewable electricity.
A new queueing system will allow the company that runs the grid to kick unserious potential developers out of the queue if they do not meet key milestones.
Serious developers have complained for years about the time it takes to get a cable to connect their wind or solar farm, or other project, to the grid.
But at the moment, there is a first-come, first-served system, which means that a serious project which could provide renewable electricity to millions of homes is often behind hundreds of other projects in the queue, many of which will never be built.
At the moment, the proposed projects in the queue to get a grid connection would have the capacity to generate almost 400 gigawatts (GW) of power if they were built.
This is several times the gigawatts that the country needs.
Under the new rules, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) will be able to force applicants to prove they have reached certain milestones.
If they do not, the ESO will be able to kick the projects out of the queue and free up space for wind and solar farms which are more likely to be built.
In recent years the wait time between the date that developers want to get connected to the grid and when they actually will be has soared from around 18 months in 2019 to five years today.
More than 40% of all the projects in the queue will not be connected until 2030 or beyond, Ofgem said.
“This means that viable projects face inefficient delays and are being hindered from progressing in a timely way, particularly in the case of those that are behind stalled, slow to progress or non-viable projects in their queue,” Ofgem said.
It has proven problematic as the country tries to build 50 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 70 GW of solar panels by 2035.
Ofgem deputy director for institutions for net zero energy systems management and security Eleanor Warburton said: “The transition to net zero demands urgent changes to the electricity connections system – or we cannot unlock investment, speed up network build and accelerate new technology.
“This is a big step towards phasing out the first-come first-served queuing system.
“We want new power on the grid as quickly as possible, so if you’re ready, you can connect sooner. If you’re not ready and are blocking the progress of others, you’ll be removed – you can’t sit on the queue with no consequences.”
ESO chief engineer Julian Leslie said: “We warmly welcome these new rules approved by Ofgem enabling us to proactively terminate zombie projects in the connections queue.
“This is a milestone moment in the ESO’s efforts to lead the transformation of the grid connections process, making it fit for purpose for a modern network that is rapidly evolving and decarbonising.
“The ESO will be uncompromising in our approach to driving out projects that cannot meet their connection date, paving the way for more viable projects that have a real chance of plugging into the grid, energising the UK economy.”Published: by Radio NewsHub