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The solar industry has welcomed new figures revealing the market is gradually recovering from deep cuts to the popular feed in tariff incentive scheme, which effectively halted growth across the sector last month.

 

The current figures are testament to the need for a consistent government policy for renewable energy, which will encourage public investment and interest in this sector. Solarfeedintariff would hope to see more positives coming from the UK Government in this regard.

 

Deployment of solar PV has increased steadily at around 620 kilowatts per week since the start of April, according to a report published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) late last week.

Demand collapsed after the government changed the rules governing the scheme and halved the level of incentives available from April 1. The number of installations dropped to 885 in the first week of April, creating around 2.5MW of new capacity – a huge reduction on the tens of thousands of installations undertaken during February and March.

However, provisional figures show that 1,788 solar installations were completed in the week ending 3 June, creating around 6.4MW of new capacity. The figure is less than the 2,186 installations in the last week of May, however the June 3 figure is likely to be revised upwards slightly as new information is collected.

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said he was confident the industry was now “on the road to recovery”, following the recent confirmation by Climate Change Minister Greg Barker that the next wave of cuts to the solar feed-in tariff will come into effect in August, cutting payments for small scale installations from 21p/kWh to 16p/kWh.

Barker also announced a new mechanism for reducing feed-in tariff that gives the government an option to cut the tariff every three months from November, based on the level of deployment in the preceding months.

“The steady climb in deployment – which will see a minor blip next week owing to the Jubilee weekend – is a sign of a stable and sustainable future for the UK PV sector,” said Barwell. “Consumers are getting the message that returns are as good as ever and the feed-in tariff is finally stable.”

However, many industry insiders remain concerned that the industry has shrunk in size as a result of the deep cuts to feed-in tariffs.

Building company Carillion confirmed last month that it would cut 1,400 jobs following a drop in demand for solar as a result of the deep cuts to feed-in tariffs. Coventry-based Norton Energy Solutions also entered administration at the end of May, putting around 100 jobs at risk.

 

Originally published on BusinessGreen.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the UK solar photovoltaic industry, the fact remains that with the feed-in tariff in place in any form, there will continue to be a market for investors. The coalition government has announced that they will be changing the feed-in tariff to focus on smaller scale, roof-mounted solar installations to the detriment of large scale solar farms.

However, for those installing solar pv panels, there are still very healthy returns to be had from the payments which come from the feed-in tariff scheme something which Eco Environments believe is the main catalyst behind the growth of the industry in the UK.

There is a very evident media focus on climate change and the resulting political rhetoric which follows and also, a growing culture of awareness in green energy, recycling and the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions on a domestic level. David Hunt of Eco Environments believes however that the growing interest in installing household, roof-mounted solar panels comes not from a desire to be environmentally friendly but from the commercial advantages which come as part of the feed-in tariff.

Hunt believes that,

“Most people are looking at it now domestically because they are going to get two or three per cent on an ISA or out of the bank account, but with the solar they can get 15 per cent”.

At a time where it is very hard to find savings accounts offering attractive interest rates and there is a worldwide lack of confidence in traditional investment opportunities in the stock market, it is perhaps unsurprising that the great majority of people look to install solar panels for purely financial reasons. After all, while it is the government’s business to meet carbon reduction targets and appear to be environmentally friendly, it is the homeowners business to dramatically reduce their utility bill while hopefully creating a very steady revenue stream on the side

Cambridge based solar technology company Polysolar has developed a hi-tech photovoltaic glass which could be used at next year’s Olympic Games in London and also the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Polysolar’s transparent PV glass has been designed for use by architects in windows, cladding and glass structures as a way of generating green energy. The glass is already in use in other countries and is able to generate 100w of energy from each pane of glass making it an effective way of generating clean energy from wall and roof space.

Explaining the idea behind the glass, Hamish Watson the founder of Polysolar said,

“Our product is different from any other solar panel on the market, because it can be used as a building material, making it a highly cost effective integral part of the building. Unlike traditional solar cells, which need to be southward facing, the glass can be positioned anywhere, so is more flexible for large scale architectural and engineering projects and hence it generates a higher yield.”

Importantly, Polysolar’s glass has received MCS certification for the UK feed-in tariff. This means that where installed, landlords will be able to generate revenue from the energy which the panes generate which is used or fed back into the national grid. The Ploysolar product will also have the attraction that where installed, property owners will see massive reductions in their electricity bills. Aside from the obvious financial benefits, Hamish Watson is well aware that the green credentials of solar pv technology will be very welcome by event organising committees.

“Our PV glass has generated a lot of interest and we are in discussions to install it at the 2012 Olympic village, where it could be used to help generate power for information displays across the site. We have also had early discussions with the organisers of the 2022 World Cup and the developers of London’s Walkie Talkie building – both projects are obviously quite exciting for our company.”

Wadebridge, sitting in picturesque North Cornwall is a sight to behold with its abundance of solar panels furnishing rooftops with not inexpensive solar pv equipment. This concentration of roof mounted solar pv panels in Wadebridge has not occurred by chance, rather it is the result of a project designed to make the Cornish town the first in the country to be powered by solar energy.

The project, known as the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network or WREN is a scheme which hopes to meet self set targets of generating a third of its electricity from solar by 2015. By hooking into the government’s feed-in tariff mechanism WREN has hoped to install projects throughout the town and of course off sets costs through the tariff scheme. With bold targets of installing 7MW by 2015, Wadebridge could become a potential beacon for wholesale community solar projects in the UK but of course also reflects the fickle nature of an industry completely reliant on government tariff legislation.

The feed-in tariff enables small scale solar pv generators to generate revenue for the electricity produced and consumed by solar projects. Through the feed-in tariff WREN has projected that it could potentially generate £2.5million over the project’s 25 year life span with the money being reinvested back into other green energy projects. Recent announcements of the cuts to be made to the tariff could prove detrimental to Wren’s plans and the potential for healthy yields over the course of the project.

Stephen Frankel, the founder of Wren explained that,

“In contrast to recent green announcements, their success could be limited due to Government proposals to restrict the size of solar installations in the UK”.

“Proposals to limit the Feed-in tariff, payment for clean electricity, to small 50kWp systems means the town wouldn’t go ahead with mid to large scale projects which would bring much needed income into their community fund and help the town meet their renewable energy targets”.