Rush to build UK solar projects ‘storing up grid problems’

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The rush to have projects connected ahead of a key deadline under the UK’s main large-scale solar support mechanism has the potential to cause future grid problems, the boss of a connection engineering firm has warned.

Speaking to PV Tech’s sister site, Solar Power Portal, Dragon Infrastructure Solutions chief executive Simon Phipps said “significant risks” were being taken by contractors in order to have projects finished to deadline and that too much extra-high voltage capacity was being installed in a short space of time.

“The pressure we’re all under to deliver these infrastructures within a ridiculously short space of time at 33,000V is just lunacy.

“It’s really not the way to do business, but those are the ground rules that have been laid out by the government,” Phipps said.

Tomorrow, 31 March, is the deadline for developers to complete large-scale projects in order to qualify for the 1.4 renewable obligation certificate level. After that RO support will only be available for projects under 5MW and at a lower level of 1.3.

Last year developers faced major difficulties completing projects before the last ROC deadline after extended periods of poor weather and flooding hampered construction efforts and caused significant delays.

But while Phipps said this year’s weather had been “almost perfect”, delays in obtaining approval and the requisite licences from various authorities have caused similar delays, resulting in another pre-deadline construction rush.

Earlier this month business rescue specialist McTear Williams & Wood warned that one in 10 large-scale solar projects in the UK could be at risk of missing out on funding, a figure Phipps agreed “sounded about right”.

“There’s so much money involved in these contracts – there’s hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds… [and] developers have gotten themselves into a position where they've spent too much money to back out, as they can't afford to lose that money so they've got to go for it,” Phipps said.

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