Posts tagged with: solar feed in

The government has lost its high court appeal over its plan to cut subsidies for solar panels on homes.

The appeal was against a High Court ruling blocking government plans to make large reductions to payments made to households with solar panels.

It would have hit customers who installed panels after 12 December.

Under the feed-in tariffs programme, people in Britain with solar panels are paid for the electricity they generate. The government tried to reduce them prior to the results of the consultation being released. The High Court agreed with opponents that this was legally flawed.

The new tariff of 21p per kilowatt-hour, down from the current 43p, had been expected to come into effect from 1 April, but in October the government said it would be paid to anyone who installed their solar panels after 12 December.

Upholding that ruling, the Supreme Court said the government’s appeal “does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time”.

The government said the court’s decision drew a line under the case.

“We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

Here at we applaud the High Courts judgment and hope it encourages fairer and better planned legislation from the government In the future when amending renewable energy policy.

Friends of the Earth is urging Ministers to focus on putting the solar industry back on a stable footing after Energy Minister Greg Barker confirmed via Twitter today (Tuesday 3 January 2012) that the Government has decided to try to appeal a ruling that its solar cuts are illegal – at a potentially huge cost to taxpayers.

The green campaigning charity said the Government must introduce a clear plan to reduce solar power payments in line with falling installation costs, rather than prolonging industry uncertainty and jeopardising jobs by pursuing an expensive legal appeal.

Following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms Solarcentury and HomeSun just before Christmas, the High Court ruled that the Government’s plans to rush through sudden cuts to solar payments – before its own consultation had ended – were illegal.

The court refused permission for an appeal on the basis that the Government has no realistic prospect of winning. The deadline for lodging an appeal is 4pm tomorrow, 4 January 2012.

Friends of the Earth is also calling on Ministers to reduce tariff rates in a planned way from February 2012 to protect jobs, and to increase the overall budget for the feed-in tariff to allow more people – including poorer households and community groups – to benefit from solar power.  The group says this is possible without any additional cost to bill payers because of the increased tax revenue the scheme is generating.

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said:

“The Government’s illegal cuts to solar tariff rates have near-crippled an industry and threatened thousands of jobs.

“Trying to appeal the High Court’s ruling is an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money – the court says the Government has no realistic chance of winning, and it will prolong uncertainty among solar companies just when they need reassurance.

“Ministers should accept the High Court’s decision and end business uncertainty and protect jobs with a clear plan to reduce payments from February, in line with falling installation costs.

“The Government must expand the scheme overall – with all the tax revenue the scheme generates, this can be done at no extra cost to bill payers.”

If you’ve ever carried a solar panel you’ll know that they’re pretty heavy (about 25kg for a 1.5sqm panel), and if you add on the racking that’s required it makes things even heavier. This is a bit of a problem for roofs that can’t support large weights, and for the installers who have to get the stuff up there.

As with many things in life however, technology has a solution on the way. In this case the solution comes in the form of flexible solar panels. This new type of solar panel doesn’t use glass as the supporting material; it uses transparent, flexible plastic sheets. They can be rolled up like carpets and unfurled across a low-sloping roof. This process is much quicker and easier than normal solar panel installation. The solar panels just need to be tacked down at the edges, rather than have heavy metal racking bolted into the frame of the roof. The material is also light enough so that any roof can support its weight.

This technology is spreading quickly but has yet to win dominance in the market. This is for several reasons. Firstly – only one company in the world is making flexible solar panels in large volumes. That company is UniSolar, based in Michigan, USA. UniSolar have developed their own proprietary process for depositing thin-film solar cells (see discussion “REF TO previous article”) on flexible plastic sheets.

In order to increase efficiency of the panels, their design in fact uses three solar cells stacked one on top of the other. Each solar cell responds to a different part of the sun’s spectrum so it maximizes the amount of energy converted to electricity. Despite this compmexity, these solar panels are significantly less efficient than traditional, crystalline silicon solar panels. They are made from ‘amorphous’ silicon and are currently around 6-8 percent efficient, compared to 16 percent for crystalline silicon panels. This means you have to cover a larger area of the roof.

A number of companies claim to have more efficient versions of the technology on the way. Companies such as US based Advent Solar, claim to have flexible solar panels that will soon reach over 10 percent efficiency while other companies, such as G24 Innovations in Wales claim to have lower manufacturing costs for this technology.

Given the success of UniSolar with their low efficiency and complex design, any company that can make an improvement is likely to have success with flexible solar panels. Let’s wait and see…