What we plugged in during 2023: a year of clean energy connections

We connected over 3GW of clean electricity projects to our transmission network during 2023, from the world’s biggest wind farm to a clever piece of grid-stabilising tech.

Throughout 2023 the conversation around grid connections often focused on the need for reform – and we’re making strides as an industry to shape a new connections process that’s fit for the future.

As the transmission owner in England and Wales, we’ve also kept our focus on the job at hand: plugging clean energy projects into our network to help decarbonise Britain.

Statkraft's Greener Grid Park, connecting to our Lister Drive substation

A new spin on grid stability

Our first connection of the year was a trail-blazing innovation which provides an emission-free way to boost the stability of the electricity system.

We upgraded our Lister Drive substation in Liverpool to connect Statkraft’s new Greener Grid Park – a specialised set of synchronous compensators and flywheels which provide the crucial inertia that could previously only come from the spinning turbines in fossil fuel plants.

It’s a unique ‘zero megawatt’ connection – neither generation nor demand – and is built adjacent to the site of the former Lister Drive coal power station, marking a transition from old to new.

Boost for batteries (and buses)

In spring we completed work to connect an EDF Renewables UK battery to our Bustleholm substation in Sandwell – a facility that became operational later in the year.

The 50MW storage project replicates elements from the Energy Superhub Oxford, which we connected to our Cowley substation last year, with future plans by the developer to link it to rapid EV charging locations in northwest Birmingham.

It’s not the only EDF project we connected in 2023. We also plugged 50MW batteries in to our Walpole (Norfolk) and Coventry substations – the latter set to play a key role enabling the city’s buses to go fully electric.

Larks Green solar farm, which we connected to our Iron Acton substation

UK first for solar power

Before last summer, every solar farm in the country fed electricity into the local distribution network.

That changed in May when we plugged in the 50MW Larks Green solar array to our Iron Acton substation near Bristol, making it the UK’s first transmission-connected solar array.

This landmark moment was a key step in the renewable energy transition, allowing solar-generated power to be transported at higher voltages and over greater distances for the first time.

We’ve also since connected a 50MW EDF Renewables UK solar farm to our transmission network at Burwell substation in Cambridgeshire.

Electrifying trains in Wales

Connections are not just about generating power. We also make connections to meet electricity demand, for example from the country’s extensive railway infrastructure.

In July we completed a multi-year project with Transport for Wales to electrify its historic Core Valleys Lines (CVL), which involved upgrading our Upper Boat substation in Pontypridd with two new 100 tonne traction transformers and connecting two new circuits.

The connection is boosting the Welsh government’s plan for a South Wales Metro and enabling the rail operator to replace noisy and less environmentally friendly diesel trains with faster, greener, battery-electric hybrid solutions for the first time.

First power for world’s biggest wind farm

We connected what will become the largest offshore wind farm in the world to our electricity transmission network earlier this year, following work to extend our Creyke Beck substation in Yorkshire.

The 1.2GW connection allowed SSE Renewables’ Dogger Bank – which will be fully operational next year – to start producing electricity for the first time in October, marking a major milestone in the development of offshore wind power and the transition to a cleaner, more secure energy system.

This landmark moment followed the connection last year of Hornsea Two – currently the largest operational wind farm in the world – which we plugged into our Killingholme substation in Lincolnshire.

Richborough Energy Park's battery, connecting to our adjacent substation

From coal to clean at Richborough

In another development capturing the clean energy transition to a tee, we’ve just connected a 100MW battery storage project on the site of a former coal power plant.

We plugged Richborough Energy Park’s new battery into our Richborough substation via a tertiary connection – a complex but cost-effective connection type – following the installation of new switchgear and new protection and control systems.

The new battery will help exploit the clean electricity potential of other renewable projects in the region – for example our 1GW Nemo Link interconnector and a 300MW offshore wind farm, both of which connect to the grid at the Richborough site.

Connecting our grid with Denmark

To round out the year, we recently completed connection work at our Bicker Fen substation in Lincolnshire to ready the electricity transmission network for the new 1.4GW Viking Link interconnector with Denmark.

Our reinforcements at Bicker Fen saw new connection bays built for the interconnector and the substation’s control systems upgraded, which will enable the sharing of clean electricity across the North Sea once the link is live.

Since the IFA interconnector with France was energised back in 1986, we’ve connected 24GW of clean energy capacity via subsea links with our neighbours – connections that continue to boost Britain’s energy security and resilience.