Five things you need to know about ICPs and competitive renewable connections
When it comes to connecting new renewables facilities to the National Grid, appointing an ICP can be an economic, efficient and standardised option. Recently, our commercial director, Dave Ogden spoke to Electrical Times to explain what benefits site developers should look for when considering turnkey service providers.
Demand for renewable energy solutions has been growing steadily over the past few decades, and the trend has significantly affected the entire supply chain – from network operators through to consumers.
In recent years, the initial outlay associated with utility-scale wind and solar and has declined significantly. So, here are five things you should know, when it comes to managing competitive renewable connections.
Healthy market competition
Introduced as a way of increasing competition within the new connections market, ICP status is granted through the National Electricity Registration Scheme (NERS) and audited by the Lloyd’s Register and Ofgem – providing assurance that all quality, environmental and safety specifications are met by the contractor.
Offering a viable alternative to Distribution Network Operations (DNOs), ICPs can act on behalf of the developer to connect new sites to the National Grid.
Look for a multi-disciplined team
Taking care of everything from design and procurement of components, to on-site civils and electrical engineering, commissioning and testing, any reliable turnkey contractor must have a vast amount of expertise within its team.
Alongside proficient management skills and commitment to high safety standards, exceptional technical knowledge is essential.
For starters, an ICP will have an excellent background knowledge of networks and distribution transmission, switchgear and protection, construction and planning requirements. Plus, with ever-evolving technology, equipment, and regulations to keep up with, investment into continual workforce training as well as ongoing research and development is similarly crucial.
Communication and collaboration
At specific phases in the assignment, there will be involvement from different in-house teams – including design, procurement management, project management, quantity surveying, programme management, site management and on-site personnel. Having strong communication and teamwork as standard is therefore important.
Collaboration with third parties is also key and having all these roles under one umbrella is a huge advantage when it comes to ensuring everyone is on the same page and working towards a unified goal, budget and timescales.
Alongside the client, ICPs are also required to work closely with the DNO and any external consultants. Having one contractor taking care of all engineering aspects therefore makes this process far more transparent and easier to manage.
End-to-end project management is key
As with any large-scale assignment, rigorous project management is required to ensure that the comprehensive scheme of electrical engineering works stays on track and to budget. Working backwards from this target ‘go live’ date enables timescales for each distinct phase to be determined.
The design to energisation process for connecting a new wind or solar site to the grid can take anything from 14 weeks for 11kV, to six months for 33kV and up to a year for 66/132kV. So, scheduling tools and proactive planning is essential to keep everything running smoothly.
Indeed, working closely with the developer is a prerequisite for an ICP and a key selling point when it comes to appointing a connection provider. As well as often being a faster, more flexible and cost-effective option, many renewables firms are choosing such turnkey services for the increased freedom and greater opportunity for design input they offer.
No two connection projects are the same, and bespoke components frequently need to be sourced in order to fulfil client requirements – particularly on large-scale, complex assignments. The delivery of one-of-a-kind turnkey electrical solutions demands a vast amount of foresight and preparation, meaning the supply and procurement phase of a project must often begin months in advance of on-site construction work.
A good ICP will factor such proactive planning in from the outset, and it’s this ‘bigger picture’ perspective that developers are increasingly seeking from connection providers.