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

Solar farm update: earthworks!

Its been a while since there has been any progress update on the farm. I could write at length about my frustration on this topic, but to sum up what I think about the general lack of urgency in the world to get stuff like this actually BUILT, I’ll just use one graph:


We are actually back working on physical stuff, rather than just people arguing over email, which is a change of pace. I am still waiting for the REGO application, which everyone in the industry I talk to says ‘is tedious and bureaucratic and torturously slow’. Amazingly, nobody has ever fixed this, and our government actively despises the environment, so it will likely not be fixed until after a general election (ha…not even then I bet). So no, I do not have ANY progress after MONTHS in trying to get a bureaucrat to say ‘yes, those are definitely solar panels’. Amazing.

The last few MONTHS have been basically a lot of back and forth arguing about earthing design. The site itself needs to be earthed, in case of lightning strikes (almost inevitable given 25+ years of 60 tons of solar panels on a hilltop), and the substation building also needs earthing. There are 2 substations, one owned by us, and one by the DNO (distribution network operator). They have totally separate earthing designs, and electrical experts fret a lot about if they could interfere. They also get very concerned about metal perimeter fencing, CCTV camera towers, and anything else metal in the vicinity.

After a LOT of email back and forth, which frankly drove me crazy, we seem to have finally agreed on everything. That means that we can build the base for the substations, which is the only bit of concrete involved on the farm (except maybe a tiny, tiny amount for CCTV tower bases). Because the substation base has to happen before we install switchgear, the substation itself, or move the overhead line which eventually allows the last few panels/frames…. its been holding up the entire project.

Here is a thrilling picture of a digger digging some substation foundations:

Here is an even more exciting picture of a trench being dug that will be needed for cabling to the substation.

There are also trenches needed for CCTV communication and power, and of course the trenches that link up the final cable runs from each of the inverters to the main switchgear stuff. Obviously its cheaper to get all your earthworks done in one go, and also we have the horrible English weather to battle against. Its been bad.

I have tried exceedingly hard to make this whole project run faster by doing things in parallel. I was hoping to get the PPA (power purchase agreement) sorted at the same time as the earthing, at the same time as the legal stuff, at the same time as the REGO stuff. It seems impossible to do this, unless I spent my whole life trying to hard to stay calm on the phone while literally begging people to get things done. Its infuriating to the extreme, especially given the hugely bureaucratic nature of all the involved businesses. Nobody at the DNO, or Ofgem, or any law company gives a damn if this project gets done on time, or at all. The potential for improving the whole process is epic, but it would require a change in culture.

I have high hopes that we may actually get the earthing done, the switchgear done, and the substation done in the next month. It looks like we wont be connected to the grid until next year. Don’t worry. Its not like we have a climate emergency, or sky high energy bills.