Wiltshire solar farm to power 20,000 homes a year through innovative new approach

By Nick Batten on 23 August, 2021

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution has installed its first Point of Connection Mast (POC-MAST) to a solar farm in Wiltshire, using the innovative system to create greater flexibility for generators to connect to its network. This will support the cost-effective connection of a solar farm that will provide enough energy to power 20,000 homes annually. 

It’s the first time SSEN has used the technology which enables a connection directly onto an existing tower which is already part of an existing electricity infrastructure; reducing time scales, costs and the potential need to reconfigure or build new sections of network to accommodate the new connection. 

The distribution operator has installed the POC-MAST at a 70MW solar farm at the former RAF Lyneham base. The 213-acre site is the first to be developed with the Ministry of Defence and in addition to generating enough power to cover the average annual usage of around 20,000 local homes, it will save around 21,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

The location of the solar farm, next to an ancient woodland, presented several challenges to SSEN and it initially appeared that the permanent connection would require installation of a new tower, diversion of an overhead line and removal of part of the woodland. 

As a considerate constructor, SSEN looked for alternative options that would prevent any negative impact on the surrounding woodland and contracted Freedom to install their POC-MAST system on the site. The installation of the mast technology took just ten days, with no disruption to power supplies for those living and working nearby.

Craig Gilroy, Head of Connections for SSEN said, “I’m delighted that SSEN has been able to use this system at the RAF Lyneham site, providing us with a flexible and quick solution to enable the connection of this substantial solar farm.

“This innovative solution provides greater flexibility for renewable generators to connect to the network in a fraction of the time needed to connect using existing solutions and helps DNOs optimise the use of their infrastructure.”

He continued, “SSEN is a considerate constructor and, as such, we always look to carry out connections with minimal impact on our customers and the environment. The use of this POC-MAST™ system has resulted in minimum disruption, with maximum benefit to local customers through the power generated by the site.”

POC-MAST has been developed to change the way new connections to the high voltage electricity distribution network are delivered; offering a viable solution for connecting renewable energy projects to the distribution network as more customers look to take up low carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, in their transition to net-zero.

Martin Buckland, Managing Director for Freedom Professional Services, added, “We developed POC-MAST to offer an easier, quicker and more cost-effective option for energy projects to get connected to the network, so it’s pleasing to see our innovative product offering these benefits to SSEN as a distribution network operator, with minimum disruption to their network.”

The use of the POC-MAST technology is an example of SSEN Distribution’s commitment to supporting the communities it serves and helps them transition to net zero in a secure and cost-effective manner.