The Solar Trade Association (STA) has called for greater collaboration between electricity networks and the solar industry if solar is to reach its full potential in the UK.

The association’s comments follow an STA and European PV Grid -organised seminar Towards a full-scale grid integration of solar PV in the UK, which gathered industry and regulators together to discuss the future demands of a PV-fed grid.   

Commenting on the key themes to emerge from the seminar, Paul Barwell, STA CEO said: “When the STA set up its large scale PV group last year, it immediately identified grid connection and capacity planning as key barriers to deployment.

“In its recent update to the Renewable Energy Roadmap the government forecasted 10GW of solar coming on-stream before constraints are reached in the existing network infrastructure.

“However, we have the potential for much more. Getting the grid ready for full solar integration will require coordination between all stakeholders, and we were delighted to be asked by PV Grid to coordinate the UK’s efforts in bringing together the relevant bodies to develop solutions to the challenges ahead.”

Speakers at the seminar included Ofgem, the Electricity Networks Association, Western Power and a number of solar developers. A key recurring theme highlighted by all of the speakers was the need for further investment in the UK’s aging energy infrastructure in order to fully support the level of deployment the UK solar industry is aiming for.

Distrbution Network Operator (DNO), Western Power recommended that UK lower its voltage limits from 240v to EU levels, a move welcomed by STA PV specialist Ray Noble. He said: “The tangible spirit of collaboration at the event was very encouraging. The solar industry needs to know how we can help the DNOs to help us. Building these relationships, fully understanding the barriers and providing technical solutions is the key. 

A study of over 500 domestic solar PV systems led the DNO to suggest that adopting to the EU voltage limits would lead to a 1.5% fall in energy use through voltage reduction of 2.5% across only half of the 230,000 UK ground-mounted distribution transformers, at an average of 150 domestic customers per transformer which would save some 850,000MWh each year.

Noble added: “The case studies from Western Power, who have monitored 525 domestic PV installations to date, provided some very helpful evidence on how to minimise the negative impact of PV on voltage, potentially allowing more PV on to the grid. This is a key finding, and will be welcomed by industry.”

A number of solar developers raised concerns about the accessibility of suitable grid connections, especially for solar farms. Developers of large-scale solar are finding that large areas of the UK’s 33kV network have already gone. Bob Knowles from Empower Community added that the industry is “hitting the limits of DNOs” even at a residential level.

The presentations made at the event can be viewed on the STA website here