Energy futureConnecting renewable energy sources to the national grid

Published 20 February 2008

Connecting different renewable energy sources to the national grid may be a costly proposition; new study aims to find community generation schemes which are able to connect to the grid without the need for expensive cable upgrades or digging up roads

Hexham, Northumberland, U.K.-based Econnect has been awarded a contract by RDA One NorthEast to study the feasibility of connecting small to medium-sized renewable energy technologies in to the U.K. national grid. The study could result in future community generation schemes being able to connect to the grid without the need for expensive cable upgrades or digging up roads. It could also lead to north east England becoming a net exporter of renewable energy across the United Kingdom and potentially into Europe. The feasibility study to be carried out by Econnect already has the support of network operator CE Electric, which is keen to investigate possibilities for increasing the amount of green community energy distributed by its existing networks.

Mark Pearson, business strategy manager at One NorthEast said: “This research project will investigate how we can economically connect small to medium-sized energy generation to the electricity grid without the need for major upgrades. This includes hydro, wind turbines, solar power, landfill gas, and other low carbon technologies. We look forward to the completion of the work by Econnect as part of our wider strategy moving towards the region being at the forefront of development of a low carbon economy.” Guy Nicholson, chief executive at Econnect, added: “If you’re building a large wind farm of a dozen turbines or so, it’s economical to incorporate the cost of digging new cables and building substations. But if you’re a landowner looking to generate your own energy and export excess energy, then the grid connection can prove to be a massive barrier. If we could get to the stage where generators could simply plug into existing networks without the need for cable upgrades and new substations, we could very easily become a focal point of renewable energy in the country.”