Thousands of rural businesses could face massive remedial costs on renewable energy systems unless they apply for a National Grid grant by February 2021.
According to independent energy consultant Roadnight Taylor, recent regulatory changes require technical modifications to renewable schemes’ grid protection arrangements by September 2022. For thousands of systems this will involve replacing expensive protection devices, as well as firmware updates across multiple assets like inverters.
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. “Businesses must act now or have to cover costs themselves,” warns Hugh Taylor, CEO at Roadnight Taylor. “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 over 16 amps per phase (typically from 5kWp of solar at single phase, or 10kWp at three-phase) commissioned before February 2018 will likely have to update its Loss of Mains (LoM) protection arrangements to Rate of Change of Frequency (RoCoF).
LoM protection is designed to detect significant network issues and disconnect generators from the electrical grid when necessary. However, oversensitivity of historic LoM settings mean that in some instances, generators disconnect unnecessarily, and this can cause cascade tripping of other generators. “Although operators generating over 16 amps/phase can apply for a grant to cover the works, those with RoCoF settings in place already will not qualify,” warns Mr Taylor.
Some inverter manufacturers have written to distribution network operators (DNO) suggesting that their devices, while not using RoCoF settings, will not require hardware or firmware upgrades. “While contractors may rely on these letters, some are disputed by some network operators,” warns Mr Taylor. “Be cautious as not all the quick fixes that contractors may be using will withstand an audit by the DNO.
“Given that many contractors are offering to deliver remedial works for free and claim up to £4,000+VAT grant funding for themselves, there is clearly also a risk of negligence or abuse. Ultimately, responsibility for compliance will fall to the owner of the generator, as opposed to the contractor.”
So what can rural businesses do? “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,” says Mr Taylor.
Roadnight Taylor can provide light-touch advice either before or after landowners engage with a contractor. “It’s also important to know that, 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.”
For more information call 01993 830571 or visit www.roadnighttaylor.co.uk