Posts tagged with: Solar Century

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.

Hamburg based solar specialist. Centrosolar has opened a UK subsidiary as a way of tapping into the now lucrative UK solar market. Buoyed by the introduction of the feed-in tariff back in April, the UK has attracted growing interest from investors at home and abroad looking to take advantage of the tariff’s offerings.

Centrosolar are a company well known in Germany for the production of both crystalline high performance solar modules and thin film modules designed for roofs not able to take weightier systems. With UK product certification now granted, Centrosolar is looking to ship its products from their plant in Wismar, Germany to the UK where demand for solar systems has grown exponentially through the summer.

Centrosolar are more than aware of the positive affects which strong incentives can have on renewable energy and in particular, PV. Germany has been one of the world’s leaders in solar energy uptake over the last ten years thanks to the strong tariff legislation which has attracted investment in its renewable industries.

With a view to twinning German solar engineering with local market knowledge, Centrosolar have recruited Simon Gerrard, former Head of Sales for Solarcentury to run its UK operations. With daily news updates reporting on the ever-growing success of the UK feed-in tariff, it is very likely that not only will Centrosolar build a strong bridgehead, but others are likely to follow suit before too long.

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.

At the beginning of the month the British parliament voted in favour of a parliamentary motion supporting next year’s introduction of feed-in tariffs by a massive majority of 240 MPs. The legislation designed to spur investment in the photovoltaic (PV) industry will, when implemented be an extremely effective mechanism for promoting growth in the fledgling renewable industry in the UK as it has been in other regions where feed-in tariff legislation has been introduced.

Feed-in tariffs work by offering fixed, premium rates for electricity fed-in to the grid by small scale solar energy producers. Over a period of 20-25 years the feed-in tariff (FIT) contract offers a return to solar investors thus greatly increasing the installation of PV plant. In Germany, for example where the tariff has been extremely successful in attracting investment there have been other market advantages such as job creation in the solar industry and of course a sharp rise in solar equipment manufacturing.

Members of the UK solar industry are now increasingly optimistic that the government FIT will generate a successful solar industry across the UK. As Clive Collison, head of Action South Facing a Hertfordshire based solar installation firm commented,

“We are very excited about this. We are now getting all sorts of inquiries from companies, local authorities and individuals. But nothing is guaranteed. We don’t know the level it will be set at yet and the big energy companies are still lobbying against it.”

With big conventional energy producers lobbying against solar energy legislation and a lingering support for nuclear power, it will be essential that the government seizes the opportunity this year to set up a FIT which offers real possibilities for a vibrant PV industry in Britain. With Gordon Brown’s commitment to the ‘Green New Deal’ with planned job creation and economic revitalization by means of the renewable energy industry, it is expected that the UK will reap the benefits of a strong tariff mechanism. Jeremy Leggett, Chairman of Solar Century has added his wait to the debate by pointing out the dangers of missing the boat on effective PV policy,

“UK plc will essentially have to sit and watch as other countries create jobs, tax income and energy security in one of the fastest-growing industries within the emerging green industrial revolution.”