Solar panel farms in Groningen and Drenthe are generating more electricity than the current grid infrastructure can handle, and grid management company Enexis says it is being forced to limit large scale solar facilities coming online for the foreseeable future.
Translation by Traci White
For the municipality of Hoogeveen, solar panels are seen as one of the major solutions for becoming CO2 neutral by 2040. But the Hoogeveensche Courant reports that regional grid management company Enexis announced in late December that they could not take on any additional large scale solar panel arrays: the grid is already at max capacity.
The temporary halt on connecting new arrays is limited to bulk consumption projects and will not impact private citizens. Jan Bakker, a spokesperson for Enexis, told the Hoogeveen paper that a project qualifies as bulk consumption if it requires a connection with capacity of more than 240 amperes, and projects of up to 180 panels which generate roughly 100,000 kilowatt hours still qualify.
If Enexis pumps the brakes, that could put business owners in particular in a difficult position: if a company that has a subsidy to install solar panels does not have a contract with a supplier, then they are unlikely to receive a permit from the municipality to connect to the grid.
This announcement comes at a time that municipalities across the Netherlands are investing heavily in solar power, including incentivizing citizens to put panels on their property with SDE (stimulering duurzame energieproductie; stimulating sustainable energy production) subsidies.
Dagblad van het Noorden reports that entities using large amounts of energy such as football clubs and farmers across the north have signed up for the subsidies, which are provided by the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland(the Civil Service for Dutch Businesses) to set up panels on their properties. But their eligibility for the subsidies is time sensitive and cannot wait until the grid capacity has been increased, and they cannot sell back the excess electricity generated in the meantime, the profits from which many applicants planned to use to repay the subsidy.
Solar delta plan
According to Enexis, it will likely take between 3 and 10 years to adequately upgrade the grid’s capacity, an endeavor which is projected to cost hundreds of millions of euros in public money. Bakker told the Dagblad that the company and national grid management company TenneT are being overwhelmed by the vast number of solar initiatives, especially those in more rural regions like Drenthe, Groningen and Overijssel.
Bakker told the Hoogeveen paper that a lack of guidance from the national government is partially to blame for the mismatch between capacity and demand. Cheap land prices in the north have made it especially attractive to set up panels in the region in recent years, but the grid infrastructure has not kept pace with solar array construction.
Calls are increasing for a delta plan in order to meet the rapidly increasing capacity demand, and Enexis is reportedly in talks with those three provinces about setting up hubs. Similar issues with wind-generated power are far more limited in scope, a difference which Enexis attributes to the existence of a nationally coordinated approach which is carried out on the municipal level.
In December, RTV Drenthe reported that GroenLinks wanted stricter rules to be put in place for solar panel sales in Drenthe after it was revealed that some panels which were sold in the province had come from a Japanese company which also manufactured cluster bombs. An investigation by the regional news provider and Follow the Money found that Q-panels manufactured by Hanwa were sold through an initiative called “SLIM wonen met energie”: many of the panels were sold to elementary schools in Groningen and Drenthe.