Monthly archives: July 2010

Bad news abounds in the British press with daily economic doom and gloom stories painting a grim picture of the public sector with key areas such as education set to struggle as purse strings are tightened. However, good news at last as Solarcentury and GE announce their Solar4Schools programme, a scheme designed to make solar energy affordable for UK schools.

The Solar4Schools project will see GE Capital cover the installation costs of solar panels with average costs of £16,000 for a secondary school being paid off after just 15 years, utilizing the feed-in tariff mechanism. GE Capital’s investment means that schools only have to foot the deposit for the installation but can subsequently make significant savings on their energy bills as the panels begin to generate power.

The real benefit for schools comes once the initial cost of the installation is paid off. The feed-in tariff works by paying premium rates for the energy generated by small renewable projects meaning that schools will be able to enjoy a constant revenue stream from the energy generated by the panels over the projects 25 year lifespan.

CEO of Solarcentury Derry Newman stated,

“We’re delighted GE is helping roll Solar4Schools out on a larger scale. As local authorities face budget cuts, this is an opportunity for them to create a long term revenue stream.”

Certainly, with 250 schools already benefiting from a scheme which could see potential savings of £840 pa on bills and generating up to £3000 in revenue, the Solar4Schools project is already proving a success.

Time and time again it has been shown that implementing a Feed in Tariff policy is the single most effective way of boosting the Renewable Energy share in a country’s, state’s or region’s energy mix.

First introduced in the USA in 1978 under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA), the Feed in Tariff policy has developed and grown to become an integral part of 59 country’s energy legislation. Energy Ministers and policymakers have learnt a lot from Germany’s Feed in Tariff (introduced in 1990), which brought in the idea of “differentiated tariffs” (different tariffs for different technologies) and “stepped tariffs” (different tariffs for different sizes of the same technology), which take into account the lower costs of economies of scale. Germany also introduced the idea of “degression”, which means that tariffs reduce each year as a way of stimulating installers, manufacturers and other market players into reducing their costs.

The Feed in Tariff is geared up towards reaching grid parity, that magical moment where a Renewable Energy technology becomes price competitive with traditional energy sources such as coal, gas and oil and at which point it becomes a simple economic choice to abandon fossil fuels. For certain countries, this change may only take 2-3 years.

Global Feed in Tariffs was set up in April 2010 with the aim of providing information to anyone globally wanting to find out about the FiT policy. Released today is the basis of a resource which will grow and grow with time into one of the most comprehensive Feed in Tariff resources worldwide. It provides information on each of the 59 country or state-wide Feed in Tariffs in operation today and also looks at those countries which will shortly be added to the list of 59. The resource will be updated daily in order to provide an as accurate and reliable information source as possible.

For more information please visit

Estate agency firm Knight Frank claims that rural estates and farms in the UK could bring in extra income in the tens of thousands if they take advantage of the renewable energy feed-in tariff. In its latest publication, Rural Report Knight Frank created a hypothetical renewable energy farm utilizing all forms of renewable energy as a means of generating revenue through the feed-in tariff calculating the cash that could be generated from wind, solar, hydro and anaerobic digestion.

The report found that if complete grid-connectivity were achieved, the following incomes could be generated:

  • 2 wind turbines: £300,000
  • Anaerobic digester: £460,000
  • Hydroelectric Installation: £190,000
  • Solar Panels: £26,300

The total income for these renewable projects would be an impressive £916,000 with a potential of £18.5m to be made over the project’s lifetime.

The potential for landowners to benefit from feed-in tariff legislation in the UK is enormous with the potential not only to receive tariff payments but also to significantly reduce overheads by using the energy produced on the land.

The Knight Frank report explains the mechanism stating,

“Feed-in tariffs were introduced in the dying days of the Labour government and were designed to encourage people to create their own renewable electricity.

An index-linked payment guaranteed for up to 25 years is made for each unit of electricity produced even if it used by the generator for their own consumption. The tariff varies depending on how the energy is being generated and the scale of the scheme”.

Although the hypothetical estate set out in the Rural Report gives the absolute optimal conditions for generating revenue from renewable energy, it nevertheless highlights the potential to make money though renewable energy. With project lifetimes of 25 years and revenues protected by government legislation, landowners are catching on to the fact that there is real money to be made from investing in renewable installations.

President Obama has approved $1.85bn in loan guarantees for two large scale solar projects as part of the economic stimulus package. Combined these projects are thought to be creating 5000 jobs. Abengoa Solar is to receive $1.45bn in loan Guarantees to help support the development of a new solar farm in Arizona which is expected to power 70,000 homes.

 A further $400 Million in Loan Guarantees will be provided to Abound Solar Manufacturing to develop two new solar manufacturing plants. This is expected to create up to 1500 permanent jobs. It is an interesting move away from the Bush era’s pro oil approach. With the BP crisis in the gulf still in full swing Obama will face far less opposition in pushing these loans through. There will also be much stronger public support for renewable energy generally and drop in support for further off shore drilling programmes.

Obama is looking towards renewable energy as not only an investment in the environment but as a new industry to help rebuild America’s fragile economy. By investing in Solar power production Obama is opening a new income steam to the U.S and is also going to be competing directly with China who currently have huge solar panel production capacity.

 As more countries realise the importance of investing in solar energy and solar panel development we are likely to see increases in efficiency and a decrease in technology costs.