Renewable Connections – delivering new solar farms across the UK

Discover how we're helping our clients, renewable connections to scale and growth with their Smartsheet Control Center solution.

Renewable Connections is one of the UK’s leading renewable energy developers, delivering new solar farms across the country. From land identification through the planning process to construction and linking to the National Grid; their objective is to deliver solar farms that will meet UK energy needs now and in the future.

As a relatively young company, in a relatively young industry, Renewable Connections have had the opportunity to set new ways of working, that were right for them.

There was no ‘it’s the way we’ve always done it’ to contend with. Alex Bruce, Operations Manager, identified the need for a project management platform that could scale in tandem with their growth and could evolve with the needs of the business.

Renewable Connections chose Smartsheet Control Center as their platform, and Cheetah Transformation as their Smartsheet Consultants to build the solution.

bubney renewable connections solar farm

Including all stakeholders every step of the way

To begin a project with an empty plot of land and end it successfully with renewable energy pulsing onto the National Grid for use across the county, is a huge and complex undertaking with a multitude of stakeholders, with varying positions and interests.

The various stakeholders were very much on Alex Bruce’s mind as she briefed the project, and their involvement has been instrumental in the structuring of the solution.

Each group of internal stakeholders have their own tailored element of the solution:

The Grid Team, tasked with looking at capacity on the National Grid, and connecting to it, complete their documents using Smartsheet Document Builder which speeds creation, by filling Smartsheet column contents into document fields.

The senior team, investors and project funders have their own dashboards showing information about how projects are progressing. These run in real time, with new projects being added and completed projects removed through Control Center native functionality.

In addition to internal stakeholders, plus suppliers and customers; infrastructure projects have external stakeholders with specific needs:

The local populationThose people whose homes and businesses will co-exist with the solar farm.

Local councils’ planning and highway departments -Tasked with balancing the needs/wishes of the local community and approving or rejecting development of the environment.

Engagement with the former group can heavily influence local council decisions, and the outcome of a planning application, hence project success.

The management of the legal consultation period alone can involve handling hundreds to thousands of emails with comments and questions.

Renewable Connections have significantly reduced the hours, and effort, spent managing public representations, by enabling the local population to give their feedback directly into the Smartsheet project.

In every project, a Smartsheet form exists to gather feedback from the local population.  Access to the form is via a QR code, unique to the project. That code is prominently displayed at every touch point during the consultation period, making it quick and easy for anyone to provide feedback, raise concerns and ask questions.

Because the form leads to the project; every entry is collated and stored there. This means that Renewable Connections team have full view and access to all that information, so it can directly refer and respond to it across the life of the project, and beyond into its archive stage.

This level of stakeholder involvement and care has been key to Renewable Connections enviable record of 100% success in planning applications, a rarity in infrastructure projects.

“Smartsheet has been an integral part of our growth as a company. The easy-to-use interface has become a tool that we use with both internal and external stakeholders alike. Cheetah helped to build a solution that worked for us and allowed us space for continuous growth. It is now a reliable and well-maintained machine that we use to report across our whole portfolio”

Alex Bruce, Operations Manager, Renewable Connections

Ubiquitous use and self-sufficiency at the heart of solution success

Renewable Connections success in using their Smartsheet Solution is due to the same level of stakeholder care that went into building it. Alex Bruce has put ubiquitous use and self-sufficiency at the heart of deployment.

The solution is made available to everyone involved, with permissions and access appropriate to the user.

New investors, project funders and clients are introduced to their dashboards from week one. Using Control Center Global Updates means Alex can introduce any new metrics they require swiftly, so they have immediate connection to and engagement with their project portfolio.

In a team that has grown significantly over the last three years; Smartsheet solution training is high on the priority list. Every induction programme includes a session with Alex to train on Smartsheet and the solution.

Alex has avoided a ‘command and control’ attitude to Smartsheet. Her philosophy that knowledge becomes more powerful when shared comes through strongly.

Ongoing upskilling of everyone means they work independently with the solution, and they don’t rely on Alex to answer a constant stream of questions. In fact, she estimates that she spends less than two hours a week keeping the solution maintained and running.

“Smartsheet has quickly become an essential part of our project management process at Renewable Connections. It is a tool used confidently by the entire team and one we will continue to benefit from within the business”

Round-up – scalable in size and complexity

Renewable Connection’s solution is scalable in the number of projects it can host, and for the size and complexity of the project. For a fast growing company in a dynamic market, that is essential.

Clear understanding of their processes from land identification to connection to the grid has underpinned the solution, but their understanding of differing stakeholder needs and how to engage with them is at the heart of this solution.

It drives the value Renewable Connections get from the solution and from their Smartsheet account, both in the time they save by its deployment for projects, and consistently providing necessary information when it is needed.

bubney solar farm

About Renewable Connections

One of the UK’s leading renewable energy developers.

Renewable Connections deliver highly innovative renewable energy developments in strategic locations across the UK, offering rooftop and ground-mount solar, battery storage, green hydrogen, as well as power purchase agreements. With an outstanding success record of taking projects through planning, the Renewable Connections team are unlocking hundreds of megawatts of solar and storage, increasing energy independence in the UK. Renewable Connections was established by sustainable energy investment specialist, Armstrong Capital Management.