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As investments in solar energy continue to grow, there is also an increasing number of applications for technical acceptance and grid connection. Several hundred power plants are waiting for technical acceptance, the time of which is prolonged by staff shortages. However, this is not the only problem faced by investors – more and more photovoltaic farms are getting rejected by distributors.
A growing interest in renewable energy sources and huge investments in the photovoltaic sector have contributed to the increase in the number of applications for technical acceptance and grid connection. It is estimated that over 400 solar farms are waiting to be connected to the electricity grid. Distribution system operators report protracted procedures and approvals. Currently, farms from the 2018 and 2019 auctions, from a basket of up to 1 MW of capacity, are waiting in line. If they had already received positive decisions, the farms could produce 4-5 MWh of energy per day, but the long delay makes it impossible to start them up, and thus generates losses for investors. As Paweł Konieczny, a member of the board of the Polish Solar Energy Association points out, not all regions are affected by the problem of delay in approving and connecting the farms. He stresses, however, that such a situation, in which there will be a shortage of employees for connection and technical-service maintenance, could have been predicted earlier.
According to the Energy Regulatory Office, in the first half of this year, 1,246 grid connection refusals were issued. In 2020, the number of refusals was 768, and in the first half of the year, it reached 318, four times less than in the same period in 2021. Energa and PGE are responsible for 90% of rejected applications, as the power grid on the eastern map of Poland is the weakest and connecting new PV farms becomes impossible in many places.
In accordance with the data published by the DSOs, which concern the connection capacities for the company’s entire network with a rated voltage of more than 1 kV, broken down by power substations or their groups included in the network with a voltage of 110 kV and higher, Tauron has the most connection capacities available. The company has only 14 groups with zero connection capacity out of all 82 groups at its disposal. In Energa, more than 30% of the connection nodes had zero connection capacity, the same number of groups were at the level of 5 MW. Only in four nodes of that company, the available capacity exceeded 20 MW. Enea had as many as 37% groups with zero connection capacity, while PGE reported a lack of available connection capacity in more than 40% of nodes.
It is worth noting that the situation with zero connection capacity in selected nodes may change. The current data take into account the applications submitted, which may not be fulfilled. Space may become available in the grid for other photovoltaic farms.
Additionally, according to Enea, investments in photovoltaic farms are so large that the capacity resulting from applications submitted by May 2021 by RES generators is expected to be more than 3 times higher than the maximum demand of all Enea customers. In 2020, in the same period, the capacity resulting from submitted applications reached 1 895 MW, while in 2021 – 11 141 MW.