Power grid cannot keep up: Several solar parks in eastern Denmark put on standby

1. februar kl. 10:57
Power grid cannot keep up: Several solar parks in eastern Denmark put on standby
Five solar parks have been fully or partially put on standby due to a lack of capacity in the power grid in South Zealand and Lolland. Illustration: Heartland.
At least five solar parks in South Zealand and Lolland have been asked to wait until the capacity of the transmission network is expanded.
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For developers of solar parks, Lolland, Falster and South Zealand seem like obvious locations.

Lots of sunny hours, low population density, and cheap land make those areas attractive for renewable energy facilities.

But one thing is missing.

The high-voltage connections to the rest of Zealand, where a large part of the consumption is, do not have the capacity to accommodate the electricity that the companies are queuing up to produce.

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This has caused five planned solar cell projects to be fully or partially put on standby, according to documentation from Cerius, the company responsible for the distribution network in large parts of Zealand, Lolland, and Falster.

Three of the solar parks have not yet been built. Cerius has given the companies permission to connect to the grid, but they have to wait until Energinet has built a new substation.

As a result, consumers are temporarily missing out a total of 179 MW of green energy from solar panels at Ladager in Faxe municipality as well as Rødby Fjord and Hobygård in Lolland.

On top of that, two existing solar parks in the Faxe municipality have had limits imposed on how much power they can supply to the power grid.

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Restrictions have been set at 80 MW for solar panels in Bregentved Solcellepark and 8 MW in Royal Unibrew’s solar park until the grid is reinforced with 50 kV.

“It’s a by-product of not investing in the power grid in time,” says Peter Bjerregaard, market regulation manager at Better Energy, the company behind the delayed solar park at Ladager.

“It has been a well-documented challenge for many years, but it has unfortunately only grown bigger. Energinet and the power grid companies have been too cautious,” he says and adds that something has finally started to happen recently.

Peter Bjerregaard finds the long connection times to be a problem throughout the country, but particularly in the eastern part of the Danish power grid.

This can cause companies to scrap a solar park altogether, he says.

“On Lolland and Falster, we have shelved 1.3 GW because of that. Energinet may not refuse, but often gives a time frame of many years without being able to guarantee a certain capacity. It’s too big a risk for us to take.”

1.3 GW corresponds to roughly half the capacity of all currently available solar panels in Denmark.

Sudden solar boom

The five projects are not the only ones waiting for the expansion of the power grid. They are just the only ones with a finalised grid connection agreement: everyone else has received loose notices and is more difficult to count, according to Energinet and Cerius.

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Several of those projects have been described in the media, including a collection of solar parks at Vordingborg, which are to supply electricity to 100,000 people.

The long wait times for grid connection are caused by the fact that in recent years, solar panels have become competitive on pure market terms, explains Anders Steen Kristensen, head of grid planning at Energinet.

“Historically, all renewable energy has come with subsidies, and thus the authorities have been able to manage it and place it where it makes sense for the electric power system. Then a sudden change happened around 2019, and it became much more market-driven. Now we have to move into a higher gear to make sure the power grid is available everywhere.”

The graph shows that there has been a significant shift from 2019, with a sudden influx of plans for renewable energy without government support:

Illustration: Energinet.

The change is significant: today, Energinet has 14 GW of renewable energy under development or waiting for connection at market conditions, Anders Steen Kristensen says.

In comparison, the maximum Danish consumption is 6.5 GW, so there is still a lot of work ahead in finding out where the energy will flow.

“If we had developed the grid blindly without knowing where the projects and the consumption would be located, it would have cost significantly more money.”

Wait times are normal

The biggest bottleneck in the power grid is in South Zealand, Lolland, and Falster, but there is a lack of capacity in many places in the country, says Anders Steen Kristensen, head of grid planning at Energinet.

In particular, there can be wait times for larger renewable energy parks that must be connected directly to the national transmission grid, as a new grid must be built. Here, the longer timeframes cannot come as a surprise, he believes.

“Of course, when the developers come up with a project, they want a grid to be ready there by tomorrow, so they can make money. That’s fair enough. But we have a different task: To look after society’s interests and make sure that we don’t blindly spend money on something that doesn’t make sense, for example if the project is not realised after all, or if there is a greater need elsewhere.”

Ingeniøren has also sent questions to the other major power grid companies that are responsible for the local power grid in Denmark.

No one other than Cerius has projects in the queue that already have an official grid connection agreement.

Energinet: Change the location for better timeframes

The explosive increase in both renewable energy production and plans for consumption for e.g. PtX has caused the Danish Energy Agency to dramatically increase expectations for future power consumption.

That is why Energinet is also currently working on an updated plan for the power grid of the future.

At a press briefing last week, Energinet’s CEO said that the so far planned DKK 25 billion investment in the power grid is “not enough at all”, and that they are “working hard”.

Capacity map example: The green zones show current available capacity in the transmission network (marked with lines on the map) to connect facilities to the local grid, i.e. distribution grid. The map looks different if the facility needs to be connected directly to the transmission network.

Illustration: Energinet og Green Power Denmark.

In the meantime, Energinet is trying to solve the problems by, among other things, communicating closely with the municipalities to find out whether the planned projects have a chance of being voted through, says Anders Steen Kristensen, head of grid planning at Energinet.

In addition, Energinet has a clear message for renewable energy developers:

“Either you have to use a location with spare capacity in the power grid, ensure that there is local consumption, or let us know in good time. Solar panels can be built extremely quickly, and often the companies can be very far along the project before they tell us about it. They may have already talked to the municipality, bought land, and ordered solar panels.”

The current and future power consumption and capacity in the power grid can be checked on publicly available maps, Anders Steen Kristensen says.

In the future, more projects will be placed in the obvious places, he believes, because new regulations obligate renewable energy companies to pay for a large part of the expansion themselves.

Developer: Easier said than done

But Energinet’s proposal is out of touch with reality, according to market regulation manager Peter Bjerregaard from Better Energy.

“Projects in the so-called green zones (zones with spare capacity in the power grid, ed.) also have to wait a handful of years. You can’t look at it statically—the capacity is quickly filled up when larger facilities are established.”

Furthermore, the green zones do not at all indicate the best spots to place solar energy, but simply the spots where there is greater consumption than production, Bjerregaard says.

"We place solar energy where the sun shines, and we also need a power grid, free space, and local support. It should ideally be somewhere between the four variables and make sense on the whole.”

Peter Bjerregaard would like to see long-term and integrated planning from the state.

“Some kind of grid reference for 2030, 2040, and 2050 would help, so we know what the power grid companies, consumers, and producers should expect.”

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