United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Pragmatic approach to grid connection -- Managed leapfrogging

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Wind projects in Scotland totalling 454 MW have been told by system operator National Grid they can jump up the queue for connections to the transmission network. In total, the queue consists of 9.3 GW of wind power capacity, listed in order of when they applied to connect to the Scottish grid system, but those that are closest to construction may now move to the front.

Some projects in the queue were originally given connection dates as far away as post-2018 due to the amount of reinforcement required under original rules for connecting new capacity. Many of these projects -- some already consented -- are awaiting completion of the 400 kV upgrade to the line from Beauly in Highland region to Denny, near Stirling. Latest estimates suggest this will not be completed until 2013 and even that date is dependent on the new line gaining planning consent. The Beauly-Denny line has been subject to a planning inquiry and a decision is expected soon.

To deal with the backlog, National Grid is "managing" the queue to allow projects that are consented and ready to proceed to leapfrog those that are at a less advanced stage. At the same time, for other projects it is adopting a more flexible approach that it dubs "interim connect and manage." This allows projects to connect ahead of necessary reinforcements, subject to capacity being taken off line at times the system is overloaded. But it stresses that interim connect and manage is only offered to projects that are "ready, willing and able" to proceed and where the carbon savings outweighs the cost of constraining dirtier plant off the system.

National Grid says that all of the 454 MW of projects have now accepted their revised offers, allowing most of them onto the grid within two years of their desired connection dates. Most of this capacity -- 300 MW -- is in the north of Scotland, with 118 MW being offered "non firm access," interim connect and manage. The remaining 154 MW is in the south of Scotland. National Grid is now looking at options for moving a further 1.6 GW up the queue. As yet, these projects do not have planning consent. But based on desktop studies, National Grid believes that as soon as any project gains permission, it will be able to connect within four years. For the time being, however, most of those sited north of the Beauly-Denny line will have to make do with an offer of "non-firm" access.

More problematic is grid connection for projects proposed for the islands, in Kintyre and in south-west Scotland. But now that some progress has been made on planning and developing interconnectors with the Scottish Isles and transmission links to other peripheral areas, the company can begin to offer projects more realistic dates for connection.

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