Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Solar farm development update: panels

I know it seems that there is no progress on my solar farm… but there is. I last posted about it in october, and despite the pandemic and Christmas, there has actually been some progress.

To recap, there is a list of things you need to do in order to build a solar farm:

  • Get planning permission
  • Sign a lease with landowner
  • Get an electricity grid connection quote
  • Order panels and optionally a battery
  • Actually build out the farm

In theory, you would get planning first, and do nothing else, because ALL the other things are super expensive, so if you fail to get planning permission, its all money wasted. However, planning can take months to prepare and maybe 2-3 months to actually get, so that adds 2-3 months at the START of the project. You then may need to wait 6 months for a grid connection, and 3 months for panels to be delivered (given current supply woes, normally easier).

So if you do everything in the right order it could easily end up dragging to over a year from the start before you actually put a single post in the ground on-site.

Frankly, we need to hurry this shit up. There is a reason we now say climate emergency. We need to get extra renewable energy capacity operating right NOW. And also, I hate waiting for stuff, and find the process to be stupidly drawn out, so I am pushing to go faster and faster. As a result here is where we are:

  • Lease is signed at my end (still awaiting final bill from lawyer and countersigned copy.
  • Planning permission has been applied for, and paid for (about £9k….just to APPLY for permission).
  • A grid connection quote was paid for, and we have it, but have not accepted yet (its a six figure sum, will wait for some feedback on planning, if not full permission).
  • Panels got ordered this week.

This is all pretty good progress. Building out the farm will take maybe 8 weeks. I’m hoping to get planning permission on the first attempt, hopefully in the next 8 weeks, so some time in April with any luck. Panels are expected to show up at the start of Q3, so in July.

This means that if we get good planning feedback, we can take the risk of agreeing to the grid connection earlier (maybe March?) and that then starts the clock ticking on that. Even assuming a rapid (ha!) 6 months for that, we will not get a connection until August/September.

This whole project is a minefield of timelines, because its a situation where the actual useful operation of the farm is dependent on the slowest/latest part of the process. No point in having an installed farm with no grid connection. No point in having a connected farm, with no panels. My gut feeling is that we end up with planning permission, panels delivered, everything else delivered, even the battery, and we end up with a farm, sat idle and not connected because we are waiting on the grid.

If you think being charged a six figure sum for some upgraded powerlines would get you super-fast priority, then you would be wrong. Frankly the grid is just not designed to handle this at all, and the companies seem to have no tight schedule enshrined in law to ensure new power generation gets connected on a short timescale.

But anyway…

Progress at last, and it means my spin off energy company is no longer a small side project. We ordered over 3,000 panels, and they are BIG ones (410 watts each), and the total weight is 70 tons. I’m not sure how many truckloads or container loads 70 tons is, but its certainly not trivial.

For those technically interested, the panels are from QCells (South Korean), 410watt. Black (monocrystaline) They are 20.9% efficiency (which is pretty good). After 10 years they guarantee 93.5% output, after 25 years its 86%. This is pretty standard for high quality panels.

I’ll do another update when another chunk of stuff happens, probably when we say yes to the grid connection, or planning goes through. You *can* get a partial refund on a grid connection you agree to, but cancel if everything fails (ie: you only pay for works they have currently carried out). I think agreeing early will be prudent, because I strongly suspect that the connection costs are pretty back-loaded, with real costs not being incurred until workmen are out on site installing new poles and building a substation.

2 thoughts on Solar farm development update: panels

  1. Do you have to do much maintenance on these panels? Obviously there aren’t any moving parts, but I can imagine they’d benefit from a good clean occasionally.

  2. Not much. They maybe get cleaned once a year, and every few years an inverter will fail and need replacing. The only other thing is checking the bolts on all the steel frames they are mounted on are tight, which is done every few years. Its 99% hands-off.

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