The uptake in solar panels on the back of the feed-in tariff mechanism is creating excitement amongst industry insiders in the UK. Indeed, recent announcements about impressive growth figures from such firms as Solar Century have perpetuated a general feeling of optimism about the future of solar energy in the UK. Soon to invest in the UK PV market are Inventux Technologies and Abound Solar. Both of these companies have recently received their MCS (Microgeneration Certification scheme) certificates and are ready to invest in the UK. Moves like this are sure to be followed by other solar manufacturers, creating jobs and bringing the UK closer to the much hyped ‘green revolution’ expounded by politicians across the globe.
The solar feed-in tariff works by offering guaranteed, premium rates for units of renewable energy both used and fed back into the grid by small scale solar pv generators. The tariffs were introduced as a way of encouraging investment in what have historically been expensive projects to set up – solar PV. The scheme has already been successful in bringing about an increased uptake in solar panels through a variety of projects being set up by fledgling and indeed, more experienced installers.
A number of projects under way; most typically employing the model whereby the solar company installs the panels on the homeowners roof free, allowing the homeowne to benefit from vastly reduced utility bills over the life-time of the project. The solar company benefits over the life-time of the project from the revenue, generated by the feed-in tariff. While homeowners have the option of buying out the contracts, such schemes have been criticised in some circles as being grossly unbalanced with regards to the profits made by the companies compared to the monetary savings made by the homeowners. Nevertheless, such projects have proved popular over the last 10 months and all evidence suggests that they will continue to prosper until tariff rates are cut as part of a government review.
Inventux and Abound are buying into this market, aware that the aforementioned buoyancy us based on the government’s tariff scheme and without it, the UK solar pv industry would be unviable. Inventux who specialise in micromorph silicon thin-film modules have already announced that they are involved in projects in the UK and will continue to grow their UK operations so long as tariff mechanisms make it a sustainable operation. Similarly, Abound with its CdTe thin-film modules is hoping to expand into the UK market by building relationships with already established UK installers. However, both companies will be aware from past examples that where feed-in tariffs are in place, there is no guarantee of long term success – this of course is in the hands of the governement.