Monthly archives: May 2010

With the Queen’s speech today outlining the coalition Government’s plans to revitalise the economy, those within renewable energy will be pondering the future of the UK low carbon economy.

Frost & Sullivan have conducted a study which indicates that the Clegg-Cameron alliance commitment to a low carbon economy could prove beneficial to other struggling industries and in particular, chemicals. The chemical industry plays an important part in the manufacture of new renewable technologies such as solar PV. Frost & Sullivan therefore predict that the growth of the UK solar industry, pushed by the feed-in tariff could help support the chemical industry.

Making comparisons to Germany who introduced their own feed-in tariff system in 2000 in order to incentivise solar investment, Frost & Sullivan believe that the UK feed-in tariff could prove to be a similarly successful catalyst for UK industry as a whole.

Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst, Dr. Nicola Rudd stated that,

“Increased deployment of photovoltaics has a knock-on effect on the chemical industry as the raw materials, such as solar grade silicon and industrial gases, are supplied by chemical manufacturers. Several of these companies, such as PV Crystalox Solar and Linde, have facilities in the UK and could benefit from this increased local demand for photovoltaics.”

Rudd believes that other areas of UK manufacturing could also benefit from moves towards a low carbon economy. The manufacture of electric and hybrid vehicles in the UK is set to grow, creating jobs and supporting related industries. Rudd believes that,

“The UK is going to be a manufacturing hub for electric vehicles, as demonstrated by Nissan’s announcement that they are going to be manufacturing electric vehicles in Sunderland from 2013.”

After the official commencement of the UK feed-in tariff on April 1st we were surprised by the relatively mute response that it received in the UK media. The event did get some press coverage, but the general impression given was that this was just another green initiative, rather than the introduction of a program that has caused a major renewable energy boom in every other economy where it has been introduced.

Since then however, signs have been emerging that there is an ever increasing wave of companies entering this market, and that solar energy in the UK is getting interest from international investors.

As you may well be aware, qualifying for the feed-in tariff requires an MCS accredited installation company. Newly qualified installers have been added to the MCS list every day since April now and the range of companies now offering MCS solar installations is very broad. Some companies are one man, local electricians whilst at the other end of the spectrum are large energy companies such as E.On with thousands of installers, there is a large choice for those wishing to have solar panels installed.

One trend to look out for is the increasing number of professional investors who see an opportunity to make money from the feed-in tariff. By paying for a solar installation on a rented roof or field, investors can have access to the feed-in tariff revenue. Owning the PV system can provide up to 10% annual returns over a 25 year period with a high level of security.

Quite how these arrangements will work is not yet clear. There are a number of ways the contracts between the investor and property owner can be written, and great care to needs to be taken to ensure that all liabilities are covered in the case of a property sale or an accident. Despite this, a number of companies are exploring this type of agreement for the UK, which is already very common in the rest of Europe.

For land owners or property owners with suitable roofs, leasing space for solar panels can be a very attractive option. It requires no upfront investment, generates significant revenues, carries little risk, and improves the environmental credentials of the building. A property owner might earn more money if they own the solar system themselves, but that would require significant initial capital expenditure, something which many companies may not be able to afford.

The feed-in tariff is obviously very attractive to investors as there is little risk. Once you are in the scheme, the payments are guaranteed for 25 years. Photovoltaic systems are generally reliable, so long as you use good quality products. Solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years (to 80% of their power production) and inverters usually for 10 years (you should expect to replace an inverter at least once in the lifetime of the installation). Other than this, the only risk is that the sun will stop rising each day, and if it did, you’d have something a bit more serious to worry about than your profits…

If you would like to invest in a photovoltaic system, or have a suitable roof that you would like to rent, you can contact us for more information.

The 25th EU PVSEC and 5th World Conference on Solar Photovoltaic Energy will take place between the 6-10 September 2010 at the Feria Valencia, Spain. Considered to be one of the leading annual conferences in the field of solar PV energy generation, the 25th EU PVSEC conference will be held in conjunction with the 5th World conference on Photovoltaic energy conversion.

The ground-breaking Valencia conference will also bring together the 36th US IEEE PV specialists conference and the 20th Asia/Pacific PV science & engineering conference in what is expected to be a massive and unique internationally focused forum for solar energy specialists.

Attendees of the Valencia conference will have the opportunity to meet experts fro around the world and discuss potential developments in the field of solar photovoltaic generation. New trends will be discussed with a keen focus on recent innovations in the science of solar PV. The opportunity for networking, exchanging ideas and perspectives and keeping abreast of international PV developments will provide an exciting prospect for anybody involved in this industry.

With subjects of discussion covering Industry, R&D, Policy, Utilities, Architecture and of course, end users, those involved will get a truly global perspective on all the key issues facing the solar PV market now and in to the future. With side events such as Fora, workshops and technical tours, the 5 day event will be sure to provide a wide array activities.


  • Plenary lectures focusing on the state-of-the-art and targets of PV
  • Oral and poster presentations of specific research, development and demonstration projects, PV applications, 
    PV markets
  • Exhibition of PV products and services (6-9 Sept.)
  • Fora and workshops on present-day PV issues
  • Scientific tours and a social programme

For more information on the 25th EU PVSEC and 5th World Conference on Solar Photovoltaic Energy please visit:

The rate of photovoltaic installations in Germany has continued at a faster than ever pace during the first two quarters of 2010. Far from slowing down after the record 4th quarter in 2009, installation of solar panels accelerated through the new year. Accurate projections are hard to make, but there are suggestions that the market volume in the first half of this year could be 4 gigawatts. This is likely to make 2010 another record year for Solar. This demand has been fuelled by the discussions surrounding the reduction in the feed-in tariff in Germany, which has now finally been decided. At the recent Photon PV Technology Show in Stuttgart, there was much discussion surrounding how the PV market would continue to grow despite the feed-in tariff reduction. Many were optimistic that the market may be unaffected the changes.

The scale of activity means that Germany’s dominance of the world solar market remains. In 2009, over 60% of the world’s solar panels were installed in Germany and it is likely that this trend will continue in 2010. This is having a big impact on markets in the rest of Europe. There is currently an extreme shortage of inverters for commercial and domestic rooftop installations and there are also reports of shortages of solar panels from the leading manufacturers.

This shortage is being felt across the UK PV industry. As demand in the UK steadily grows, installers are finding it more challenging to source the right products in a short time period. Many installations are being carried out without an inverter, meaning that customers are forced to wait several weeks for the inverter to arrive and they can start collecting the feed-in tariff. If you are considering getting a PV system for your home then make sure to ask your installer about their lead time for products.

Fortunately there should be an end to this shortage. The inverter manufacturers have been working very hard to increase manufacturing capacity, and some of that new capacity should be coming on-line later in the year. After the feed-in tariff change in Germany in July demand is expected to reduce to some extent which should free-up availability for the rest of Europe. SMA, the world’s leading manufacturer of inverters with a market share of close to 40% are expected to resolve their supply issues by the end of the summer, meaning that their highly sought after small inverters, the SunnyBoy series, become significantly easier to come by.

This will be important for the UK. Prices of PV systems in the UK are still significantly higher than in the rest of Europe. The shortages prevent new wholesale distributors from entering the market and keep costs high. As the market becomes less supply constrained we expect that the industry will become more competitive, allowing an advancement in price reduction. With the great feed-in tariff we have now, any cost reductions mean better returns for the customer, and will hopefully motivate more people in the UK to ‘go solar.’