There is a tendency to compare getting our home connected to the electricity network and connecting a large generator such as a wind farm to the network. The underlying question in people’s mind is “Why can’t it be simpler?” The reality is, whilst a home may take between a few hours and a few days, the connection for a wind farm facility typically takes 12-18 months.
The main reason for this time difference is that when we call our electricity retailer and request a new connection to our house or simply to switch retailers, the electrical infrastructure is already in place and ready for our house to be “plugged in”.
Large generation infrastructure projects such as a wind farm require both the generator itself and the electrical infrastructure to be planned, designed, procured and built for each specific project. This requires significantly more time. In addition, there are strict technical requirements and contractual arrangements that need to be in place to allow a new generator to be connected to the electricity network in a way that does not cause major disruption to either the network itself or to previously connected generators.
This is commonly referred to in the industry as the ‘grid connection process’. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is responsible for managing the grid connection process for all projects seeking to connect to the transmission network in Victoria. AEMO has obligations such as negotiating and agreeing on Generator Performance Standards that define the functional specifications for connection works and procuring the network services that will be passed on to the generator (wind farm). AusNet Services, as the owner of the existing transmission infrastructure, needs to divert these lines into the project’s newly built infrastructure.
Finally, the generator needs to engage a Network Service Provider, to build and operate these connection assets through the project’s lifecycle. The generator needs to procure several other services, including the supply and installation of the wind turbines and the civil works that need to be done at the wind farm site. This complex process often results in an average of 18 months, or more, between lodging a connection application with AEMO and commissioning the wind farm to start generating electricity.