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Monthly archives: April 2011

A Manchester-based lawyer at boutique commercial law firm Heatons LLP has this week completed a deal for the procurement of what is believed to be one of the first large scale solar parks in the UK.

Construction partner James Flynn, who specialises in the renewable energy sector, advised client SOLON SE, one of the largest manufacturers of solar modules in Europe, on the agreement with Rockspring Property Investment Managers. Rockspring owns the site of the plant, part of an old RAF airfield at Westcott Venture Park in Buckinghamshire.

SOLON will be responsible for the design, construction operation and maintenance of the plant, as well as the manufacture and delivery of the solar modules themselves.  Construction work on the site has already begun and is due to complete in June this year. The park is expected to deliver a peak power output of around 408 kilowatts.

James said:

“This deal represents one of the few large-scale solar projects to go ahead in the UK following the Government’s publication of its plans to reduce the Feed In Tariff for large scale solar plants.  It is fantastic that the parties involved have managed to continue with this project.  We hope this will encourage others within the industry to follow suit, and that the project can be used as an example with which to encourage Government to change its attitude to large scale solar projects.

“At a time when many larger solar projects have been scrapped, this deal sends out the clear message that large European solar specialists like SOLON remain dedicated to helping UK businesses develop renewable energy projects.”

James added that Heatons continues to build on its service offering to the renewable energy sector:

“As a firm, Heatons has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the renewable energy industry.  We are now at the cutting edge of this sector, having also advised on the country’s first project funded AD (anaerobic digestion) plant, and we hope to continue to use our experience to help get these projects financed and built,” he said.

http://www.heatons.co.uk/

 

Recent changes announced to the feed-in tariff were designed to encourage investment in smaller scale, household solar panel projects away from larger scale solar farms which were hoping to tap into the tariff mechanism on an industrial level. While commendable in theory, the reality is that householders and small scale investors simply can’t afford the steep upfront costs in installing solar equipment. While it is of course possible to generate long term revenue from solar projects by tapping into the solar feed-in tariff, photovoltaic solar installation can cost as much as £15,000, capital which most would find hard to raise. This is where critics believe that banks in refusing to lend to small businesses are crippling the solar industry in its infancy.

Already in the UK there have been over 31,000 solar installations amounting to 86MW with 81MW of these being domestic, roof mounted projects. For this reason, you would imagine that the solar industry in the UK has already shown potential lenders that there are returns to be made through investing in photovoltaic equipment especially when twinned with a government protected tariff mechanism like the one introduced last April. Lee Summers of Alumet Renewable Technology stated that,

“It would not be difficult for Government to instruct the state-subsidized banks to recognise its own feed-in-tariff scheme as suitable collateral.”

However, despite the clear evidence from abroad that there are indeed healthy yields to be taken from solar pv, the reluctance of the banks to lend is prohibiting a huge number of people to install solar panels. Summers went onto add that,

“For most homeowners they are unable to benefit from the 8 to 10% that the FiT guarantees to domestic generators because they don’t have the £12,000 or £15,000 they need to install the photovoltaic panels in the first place. Banks do not regard the Government’s 25 year index-linked, commitment as collateral for a loan. It is totally unfair that only the most ‘well-off’ individuals in a community can benefit from solar technology. The feed-in-tariffs are paid for by levies on every energy bill and so every home owner should have the opportunity to access the FiT.”


Through studying the UK solar industry in the wake of announcements of cutbacks in the solar feed-in tariff, IMS Research has concluded that the future looks very uncertain, if not bleak. Recent news that the government is set to reduce the aforementioned tariffs has been bemoaned by members of the UK solar industry and has been reflected in the findings from IMS. The feed-in tariff offers fixed, premium rates for units of energy both generated and fed back into the grid by renewable energy generators and is essential in off-setting the obvious costs in installing solar pv panels.

The government and in particular the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has made it clear that they would like to stifle investment in large scale ‘solar farms’ and instead concentrate on household roof-mounted solar projects. This, IMS believe will destroy the potential for industrial scale solar projects in the UK, something which they suggest will be the downfall of the industry in this country. Certainly, where feed-in tariffs have proved successful elsewhere, larger scale projects have proved extremely effective in helping to create competition and bring costs down over a longer term.


IMS Research has stated that,

“Effectively making solar energy uneconomic for commercial organisations demonstrates the Government’s lack of commitment to renewable sources. It also has an implication for the management of public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, for whom solar power will no longer be financially viable. Limiting solar power to small-scale installations means the sector will simply never take off, other than creating a niche industry. And while countries such as Japan, Italy, Germany, China and the U.S. have said that they will be giving greater financial support to solar power and already have substantial solar PV capacity in place, the UK government has taken the opposite approach, making it clear that nuclear energy is definitely part of the plan for power generation in the UK.”

At a time where job cuts appear daily in national newspapers and politicians expound the notion of a return of a British manufacturing sector, the reduction of solar feed-in tariffs for industrial scale projects is unsurprisingly being met by criticism. It will be hoped that the government does not retract tariffs any more than it has done, otherwise UK solar may just not survive infancy.

Barnsley Football Club is to become the first in the country to be powered by solar energy.

Work will start next month installing photovoltaic panels on the roofs of two stands and the external wall of the south stand at Oakwell – enough to provide energy to for about 140 homes.

Electricity generated will be used within the ground, with any excess being fed back into the National Grid. It’s estimated it will save the club about half its electricity bills a year – equivalent to tens of thousands of pounds.

General manager Don Rowing said: “With energy costs spiraling and likely to continue that way it makes business sense to use the large amount of roof surface available to us to save the club money and also to reduce our carbon footprint.

“The icing on the cake is that the work is being done by a Barnsley company and that will help the local economy. This just shows what a green place Barnsley is and even though we are the Reds we can go green.”

Dodworth-based Solar Europa Limited is due to start work on the project, which is costing more than £1m, on May 9, with completion due in June. The panels on the south and east stands will generate about 0.5 megawatt of electricity.

The cost of the installation will be met by the company, which will recoup any money made selling electricity back to the National Grid via the Feed In Tariff.

David Hawkins, of Solar Europa, said: “I just hope that by doing this we can inspire other football clubs and other businesses to take advantage of the roofs they have. It could be a warehouse or office block roof – it doesn’t matter – it all helps cut bills and cut carbon dioxide emissions.”

Solar Europa, which manufactures its own solar panels, as well as installing them, receives business support from the Enterprising Barnsley programme.

Adrian Waite, who works for Barnsley Development Agency and Enterprising Barnsley, said: “Barnsley Development Agency provide business support to the football club and we introduced the benefits of solar power to the management team at Oakwell earlier this year.

“To their credit, Don and his staff realised the need to move fast on this opportunity, and a number of Barnsley based companies were invited to complete surveys.  We are delighted that Solar Europa has been selected for this high profile project.”

The Enterprising Barnsley programme offers business support to Barnsley businesses with growth potential. Enterprising Barnsley has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme. Enterprising Barnsley also runs networking events and provides office space throughout the borough.

For more information on Solar Europa go to www.solareuropa.co.uk

NOTE TO EDITORS

Don Rowing can be contacted on 01226 211300 or donrowing@barnsleyfc.co.uk or 07984 572739.

David Hawkins or his colleague Glyn Cooper can be contacted at Solar Europa on 01226 249852. David can also be contacted on david@solareuropa.co.uk

Adrian Waite can be contacted on 01226 787531 or adrianwaite@barnsley.gov.uk

Additional media contact: Kate Betts on 01226 766900 or 07910 165 444 or at kate@katebettsmedia.co.uk

Enterprising Barnsley is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency, Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre and the University of Huddersfield ’s Barnsley Campus. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to provide an integrated programme of business support. For more information on Enterprising Barnsley go to www.enterprisingbarnsley.co.uk