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Electricity Grid ‘Strained’ by Renewable Energy Sources in Cornwall

According to Cornwall’s power firm, Western Power Distribution (WPD), all of the renewable energy projects within the region are now starting to put a strain on the electricity grid. The company also went on to say that the grid wouldn’t be able to withstand much more power unless extensive amounts were spent on it.

The costs involved in improving the grid could also be put on developers as they suggested that they may be asked to taken on “a large proportion of these costs.”

As much emphasis is placed on the importance of developing renewable energy sources it is clear that many have taken heed within the region as the number of renewable energy projects rose by a whopping 46,487 from 2009/10 to 2011/12. In 2009/10 there were just 936 renewable energy projects in the South West, which has risen to 47,423 in 2011/12. These figures were provided by Regen SW, renewables advisor, who also warned that the charges for improvement to the grid could reach as much as £4million, potentially creating a barrier in developing any further renewable energy schemes.
Over 1,600 acres of land in Cornwall is now used for solar farms which have been approved by Cornwall Council – all since 2009. Speaking about these farms, WDP said that an additional 250 megawatts would be added into the pipeline, which “would be at the limit of the generation they can accommodate”. They identified St Tudy and Pyworthy as being areas that are almost at maximum capacity.

In a statement released by WDP they said: “We have seen many large scale photovoltaic (PV) generation applications, as well as a few wind farms across the South West and particularly in Cornwall over the last few years.

“To connect further would therefore require extensive reinforcement of existing or building of new circuits, which can be quite expensive.”
These costs could vary from £1million to £4million depending on the scale of any changes imposed.

Merlin Hyman of Regen SW, who are responsible for promoting renewable energy within Cornwall, also added: “It is not a secret that the grid’s capacity is the biggest constraining factor for the growth of solar energy.

“We are working hard with Western Power Distribution to ensure there is investment in reinforcing networks, otherwise the grid will be a major barrier to some renewable energy projects.

“Investment to create robust local networks will enable more local generation of secure energy rather than relying on uncertain imported fossil fuels.”

He commented on how WDP are looking to increase their plans of spending £3million a year in order to reinforce the network, suggesting that this isn’t enough.

Also adding their views, the Energy Networks Association said: “Large scale generation projects will benefit from the energy they will sell to consumers and so it is fair that they cover the cost to reinforce the network that their project will profit from.”

Equally, Greg Barker, Climate Change Minister, said that it was essential that they “manage additions to the grid more carefully.” He also went on to say, “Cornwall is the most extraordinary powerhouse for natural energy and it’s very exciting…But we need 21st century connections to get that energy out of Cornwall and into the rest of the country.”

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