The electricity network in Northern Ireland is facing an unprecedented demand for the connection of new sources of power generation. The government has set a 2020 target that 40% of the electricity consumed in Northern Ireland should be supplied from renewable sources. In 2010 approximately 10% of the energy used was provided by renewable generators.
To date the majority of renewable generation has been provided by onshore wind farms, however offshore wind, tidal and biomass generation projects are currently in the early stages of development. At Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE), to facilitate the connection of high levels of renewable generation, we have developed short, medium and long term plans to reinforce the electricity transmission network.
Short and medium term plans
The short and medium term plans are a series of reinforcement projects designed to deliver increased capacity from the existing transmission network. Delivery of the short and medium term plans is expected to allow the connection of enough renewable generation to reach half of the Government's target. The first four projects in the medium term plan are described in detail in the following funding submission to the Utility Regulator.
Long term plan
The long term plan is an overall strategy for the transmission network. Its purpose is to provide a network capable of meeting the Government's 40% energy target. Currently a range of development options are under consideration. NIE and SONI, the operator of the transmission network, continue to work closely together in relation to transmission matters, in a relationship governed by their respective licences, and specific Transmission Interface Arrangements.
Connection of wind farms
In parallel with developing infrastructure plans, we have developed a plan to connect wind farms to the electricity network in groups. The purpose of grouped or ‘clustered’ connections is to reduce the number and length of new overhead lines needed for the connections. We are currently consulting stakeholders on this.
The following documents provide further information on current clustering practices:
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