Renewable energy grants offered for upgrades to protect grid

Farmers who generate renewable energy for the National Grid could face a big bill to keep their systems compliant if they don’t grab free upgrades while they last, consultants have warned.

Hugh Taylor, chief executive of energy consultant Roadnight Taylor, said new rules meant thousands of businesses would need to replace expensive devices and upgrade control mechanisms designed to protect the energy network.

Most costs can currently be covered by National Grid grant funding, but the last scheduled grant application window opened on 11 November 2020 and closes on 9 February 2021.

See also: Where now for renewable energy on farms?

“Businesses must act now or have to cover costs themselves,” Mr Taylor said.

“Those that do not make the changes now may be subject to an enforcement programme if they wish to continue to operate from September 2022.”

Any business or organisation generating more than 16 amps per phase (typically from 5kWp of solar at single phase, or 10kWp at three-phase) using systems commissioned before February 2018 will probably have to update Loss of Mains (LoM) protection equipment to Rate of Change of Frequency (RoCoF).

While the existing equipment already allows generators to be disconnected from the grid for safety reasons, in some cases disconnects are happening unnecessarily and cause cascade tripping – where a network loses power.

Farmers are advised to seek out a Distribution Network Operator-approved contractor and to avoid those offering to do the upgrade work for free and claim the grant themselves.

“There are a number of DNO-approved contractors available so it is worth ensuring that they are taking an appropriate approach that will bear the scrutiny of a site audit,” Mr Taylor said.

“Due to the limited application window, National Grid has sole discretion as to which applications to fund. This is the sixth application window, and it is likely that some smaller generators will not be granted funding to cover the works.” 

More information is available on the Energy Networks Association website.

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