Vlagtwedde, the largest solar farm in the Netherlands, is connected to the grid

On 5 October, Vlagtwedde solar farm, the largest in the Netherlands, was connected to the electricity grid. It has 350,000 solar panels which now provide enough sustainable energy for the equivalent of 30,000 households. On a clear sunny day, up to 700MWh of clean energy is expected to be delivered to the grid.

Working towards grid connection

Planning and completing the grid connection for a solar farm the size of the Vlagtwedde is complex and requires collaboration between developer, construction partners and the grid operator. The solar farm was split into a northern and southern part each with a separate substation to reduce the distance the current has to travel, therefore minimising energy losses and costs. The grid operator, Enexis, connected the northern part in June and the southern in May.

Project Manager Thijs Martens was pleased with the way things were planned: ”Normally a solar farm isn’t really finished until the grid connection is complete. It’s common for the construction of the solar farm, panels and the rest, to be installed, and only then for the grid connection to be organised. However Vlagtwedde was the other way round. The two grid connections were ready for weeks before the construction on site was finished, allowing sustainable electricity to be supplied to the grid immediately. That is quite unique.’’

Impact of COVID-19

In December last year, Thijs Martens referred to the development of Vlagtwedde solar farm as a ‘sunny challenge’ given its scale. Then we couldn’t have foreseen the impact of COVID.

All partners involved in the grid connection and the construction swiftly adapted to new measures and processes put in place to keep them safe, but delays were unavoidable.

The short delay can easily be overlooked, says Thijs: ”We’re pleased that we took the time to ensure the safety of our staff. A delay of 10 weeks on such a large project, during a pandemic, is absolutely forgivable.”

A new phase

Vlagtwedde solar farm is complete and has been supplying clean electricity to the area since the beginning of October. Most of the employees have departed the site, with just a few managing the finishing touches and setting up the online management system. The soil has been planted ready for the spring, when a flowery grass landscape will bloom.

Thijs reflects, as the project draws to a close: ”It’s been a major project, not only in terms of scale but also time and energy spent. Now it’s complete, the result is fantastic. Soon I’ll pass the baton to a new team who will monitor Vlagtwedde’s energy for the next 20-plus years. I will look back with great pride on this project.”