Carmarthenshire farmer unable to power farm on solar panels 'because of national grid capacity'

Rural communities have felt the force of rising energy costs over the last year, but solutions are proving difficult to come by. Credit: ITV Wales This Week

A farmer in Carmarthenshire says he is unable to completely power his farm on renewables because of the national grid's capacity.

Garry Williams would like to run his farm entirely on solar power, which he generates himself. 

The energy bills on the farm in Llangadog in Carmarthenshire have increased from around £2,000 per year to £6,000 per year.

It has an existing 3.9 kilowatt solar panel and Garry would like to expand it to produce more energy.

However, the amount he is able to produce is limited by the capacity of the grid in the area.

Rural communities have felt the force of rising energy costs over the last year.

Garry said it is a frustration for farmers in rural Wales.

Garry told ITV Cymru Wales: “The first port of call for us here is to generate our own energy to use on this site. But we are limited with the amount of energy we can send down the line into the national grid. 

“I’d be quite happy to cover all the farm buildings with solar panels if it made business sense.

"We cannot increase the volume at present. So whatever contribution we want to make to net zero, and we’re all concerned about the environment, we cannot do so at present.” 

Garry believes there are other farmers across Wales in similar positions due to grid limits. However, he believes that if capacity is increased, it could go a long way to addressing energy supply issues in rural areas.

“You get a high percentage of farmers in rural Wales doing that and you’re talking a significant portion there,” he continued.

“Why isn’t it that small private businesses looking to diversify shouldn’t be able to gain an income when these massive energy companies are making huge huge profits?”

Community-owned projects are one of the main ways the Welsh Government wants to increase renewable energy production. 

However, in reality, there’s a big problem. 

Owen Calendar believes the National Grid is working to make progress, but it is a big task.

Owen Calendar, head of Fuel Poverty at Severn Wye Energy Agency, said: “The district network operators like Western Power and SSE are working on it but it’s a huge issue because the grid wasn’t designed for local generation. It was designed for central generation to then feed out. 

“All across Wales there is particular hotspots where the grid is at maximum capacity. 

“We have community clients that would like to put in a hydro scheme, but it’s going to cost a million pounds to upgrade the grid, and it’s really limiting what, especially communities and businesses, can do. 

“And in this day and age when energy prices are rocketing, solar panels and things like that make a huge amount of sense now, but people are being restricted in what they can do because the grid just can’t take it.

“And so there’s a huge amount of work that these organisations need to continually do to make this future possible.”

The National Grid says it is planning to invest in updating its infrastructure from next year, and is working with Ofgem to make sure the money is available. 

A spokesperson for the National Grid said: “Broadly, our network is highly reliable and efficient at feeding power from the centralised power stations which we’ve traditionally relied upon, and as more renewables become embedded in the network, we’ve facilitated this. 

“We recognise the need for further investment to accommodate even more renewables and the decarbonisation of heat and transport. 

“Our ED2 plan for 2023-2028 forecasts a large increase in expenditure to get the network ready for net zero and we’re working with the regulator to ensure we have the right funding available."

You can watch Wales This Week: Power in our Hands at 9pm on Thursday, October 20 on ITV Cymru Wales