LANDOWNERS interested in securing income from renewable energy schemes should not be put off by an apparent lack of grid capacity, because grid availability is changing all the time, and a successful bid for a share of it often depends on timing.

According to Hugh Taylor of energy consultants Roadknight Taylor, new grid capacity becomes available regularly – the trick for farmers pursuing renewable energy projects is to know exactly when.

“Distribution Network Operators are constantly upgrading the network to create additional capacity," said Mr Taylor. "Alongside this, many large schemes – particularly battery storage projects – are being cancelled, freeing up previously allocated headroom. We’ve had a number of cases where we have gone back to re-appraise grid availability, and some has become accessible, enabling projects to proceed which had previously been blocked.

“DNOs are always investing in the networks, which is creating additional capacity. Some of these reinforcements take years to come to fruition, but once the works are programmed the capacity is up for grabs, and you can apply for it in advance.”

The industry was also investing heavily in flexible connection arrangements, he added: “Networks are modelled for worst-case scenario conditions, so there is nearly always a lot of spare capacity that’s not being utilised. Actively managed connections enable developers to utilise that headroom. However, to access it for your site you need to know who to ask, what to ask, and how to interpret their answers.”

He explained that the battery storage market had become 'saturated' over the past couple of years, and now many developers were cancelling unviable projects: “If a 20MW storage scheme is cancelled, that new headroom would almost certainly be suitable for a solar farm, if you were able to secure it.”

Last month, Roadnight Taylor secured 50MW of capacity for a landowner, for a 180-acre solar farm in Gloucestershire, even though a month before that there 'definitely wasn’t any availability'.

In another case, it carried out a Stop/Go study for a client, which showed lack of capacity was a stumbling block. “We went back three months later and secured enough capacity for a 23MW, 90-acre solar farm,” said Mr Taylor. “With ground rents of around £850/acre over 40 years, that’s worth £3m to our client.”

Of course, not all sites will be suitable for an energy project, he advised, but where one would be viable, excepting available capacity, it is worth carrying out regular network reviews.