Defra’s solar clampdown based on ‘politics not evidence’


The Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) was informed by the CAP Direct Payments Team that solar farms do not have a “serious” impact on the UK’s agricultural output ahead of its controversial decision to remove CAP payments for solar farms.

A freedom of information (FOI) request filed by Solar Power Portal reveals that the CAP Direct Payments Team told Defra in September 2014 that: “Given the small areas of land covered [by solar farms] currently, it is not possible to argue that, at the national level, there is yet a serious impact on agricultural output.”

However just one month later, environment secretary Elizabeth Truss proclaimed that her department was removing CAP payments for solar farms because she did not want to see English farmland’s “productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms”.


solar UK doubled in 2014

UK almost doubled solar PV capacity in 2014

solar UK doubled in 2014

Official Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) figures out on January 29th, 2015 show that solar electricity generation in the United Kingdom almost doubled over the course of last year, with almost 5 GW of capacity at the end of 2014 up from 2.8 GW at the end of 2013. 

This is enough power to supply the equivalent of 1.5 million homes, the UK Solar Trade Association (STA) emphasizes.

The statistics, part of numbers released on a monthly basis by DECC, reflect steady growth in the UK solar industry and rapidly falling costs, much of which in the large-scale solar sector.

Britain now boasts over 650,000 solar PV installations of all shapes and sizes

“This milestone achievement is testament to the hard work of Britain’s several thousand solar businesses, almost of all of them small and medium sized companies, who are all at the forefront of a real solar transformation as the technology steadily becomes one of the cheapest sources of clean, home-grown power,” commented STA CEO Paul Barwell.

The UK now has over 650,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, across homes, offices, schools, churches, warehouses, farms, police stations, train stations and even a bridge.

“We are now well underway to a million solar installations, of all shapes and sizes, across the country. This is a world class achievement and something the Coalition Government can be proud of. Analysis has shown that solar is the most popular form of energy generation, and could provide 50,000 jobs by 2030 if given the right support,” Barwell continued.

 STA CEO Paul Barwell: Next Government is to provide a stable policy framework

Solar could by 2020 be cost competitive with gas and no longer need any kind of Government support at all on homes and commercial roofs, Barwell explains.

“But we will only reach that point if the next Government provides a stable policy framework and a level playing field with other technologies. Last year was a rollercoaster for the solar industry, with the closure of the Renewables Obligation to large solar farms sending shockwaves of uncertainty across the renewables industry. The outlook from this April is a concern and it seems to make little sense to stymie such a success story. I hope the new Government will build on this success and set higher solar targets for 2020 and provide the stable business environment the industry needs to deliver,” the STA CEO concludes.

The Solar Trade Association has developed a ‘Solar Independence Plan’, and is urging the Government and all political parties to support the proposals which will effectively double solar ambitions for little extra cost.

Analysis has shown that the next Government will have a big opportunity to get the first low-carbon technology off subsidy within the course of the next Parliament – quite an achievement if it succeeds in getting to that point.

The statistics can be found here:

2015-01-30 | Courtesy: Solar Trade Association (STA) UK | © Heindl Server GmbH

abundance enewable energy

Abundance launches “new avenue” for finance for renewable energy developers

abundance enewable energy

Abundance, the award-winning crowdfunding platform that allows direct investmentin UK renewable energy, today announced it was launching the UK’s first regulated ‘shared ownership’ service.

“20 communities” 
Abundance said it aimed to work with “at least 20 communities across the UK next year” to help grow the UK’s renewable energy capacity and ethical investment market. Projects financed through the new ‘shared ownership’ scheme are expected to deliver investment returns of between seven and 10 per cent, the company said. The shared ownership service is being launched on the back of the Government’s UK’s Community Energy Strategy, which aims to see communities sharing in the ownership of their local renewable energy projects such as wind and solar developments from 2015. It comes at a time when onshore wind projects are finding it increasingly difficult to get planning permission in England and it is less attractive to invest in large-scale solar projects due to withdrawal of Government subsidies.

Ed Davey: Solar will become ‘cheapest form of energy’

520-daveyDECC secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey has said that he is “absolutely convinced” the falling costs of solar will make it the cheapest form of energy available in the coming years.

Solar Power Portal spoke to the minister as he visited the offices of China-headquartered panel supplier ReneSola in East Sussex last week. Davey praised the recent work of the UK solar industry and asserted that there is a strong case for investing in renewable energy.

“The people I talk to, whether they’re in financial institutions or research labs, are showing very clearly that solar costs are going to come down and down, so it will be the cheapest form of electricity, I’m absolutely convinced about that.”

Are solar farms really hitting British food production?

Sheep remain an essential part of this solar energy farm at Wymeswold in Leicestershire, and the panels even provide shelter for the animals.
Sheep remain an essential part of this solar energy farm at Wymeswold in Leicestershire, and the panels even provide shelter for the animals.

The environment secretary, Liz Truss, has stripped farmers of subsidies for solar farms, saying they are a “blight” that was pushing food production overseas.

But the new minister has fundamentally misunderstood the way solar farms operate, according to the solar industry and farmers.

Truss revealed on Monday new rules on payments under the Common Agriculture Policy that will see agricultural subsidies removed from solar farms. She said: “I am committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze.”

Cheap African solar energy could power UK homes in 2018

The plan involves focussing the rays of the Sun on a central tower
The plan involves focussing the rays of the Sun on a central tower

Investors are seeking funding from the UK government for an ambitious plan to import solar energy generated in North Africa.

Under the scheme, up to 2.5 million UK homes could be powered by Tunisian sunshine by 2018.

The company involved says they have already spent 10 million euros developing the site.

A number of overseas energy producers are competing to bring green energy to the UK from 2017.

The TuNur project aims to bring two gigawatts of solar power to the UK from Tunisia if the company wins a contract for difference (CFD) from the British government.

Solar Installations to Rise 20 Percent in 2014

clean-energy-collectiveGlobal photovoltaic (PV) solar installations will rise to 45.4 gigawatts (GW) in 2014, with 32 percent of this total, or 14.4 GW, coming in the fourth quarter, according to IHS Technology.

Although IHS has trimmed its forecast for 2014 by 1.5 GW due to weaker-than-predicted performance in several key markets, a 20 percent increase is still forecast in installations from 37.8 GW in 2013.

Driven by strong demand in China and the United States, the final quarter of the year will again be the largest in terms of new installations. A total of 32 percent of annual installations will occur during the fourth quarter, as presented in the attached figure. IHS predicts that these two countries alone will account for more than half of all global demand in the final quarter of 2014.

“Following a first half that saw declines in several key countries, the global PV solar market is undergoing a major acceleration in the final quarter of the year,” said Ash Sharma, senior director of solar research at IHS.

“China and the United States will propel global growth. With China installing more than 5 GW and the United States installing 2.3 GW in the fourth quarter of 2014, these two countries will account for more than 50 percent of global installations during this period. The huge final quarter in China is expected to be only slightly higher than what was achieved in the same quarter of 2013-a figure that surprised many in the industry.”

Information in the release is derived from the Q3 2014 PV Demand Market Tracker from the Solar service at IHS.

A tale of two halves for solar
Several countries achieved strong installations in the first half of the year, including the United Kingdom and Japan. However, there were also declines in Europe and in countries that typically undertake more installations toward the end of the year. This set the stage for a major rebound in installations during the second half of the year.

However, Germany and Italy will see another year of market decline with only 2.1 GW and 0.8 GW of new installations in 2014, respectively, down from 3.3 GW and 1.7 GW in 2013.

Second-half rebound for China and US
Throughout 2014, IHS has expressed doubts over China’s capability to meet the ambitious targets the government set for distributed PV (DPV) in 2014. After a recent adjustment from its government, the country’s overall target of 13 GW is now in line with the IHS forecast.

However, IHS predicts that ground-mount PV will still dominate the market this year and account for 8.5 GW of installations. DPV is struggling to overcome barriers, including the lack of suitable rooftops and difficulties in obtaining financing.

Installations in the U.S. are forecast to follow a similar seasonal pattern in the final quarter. Installations have been ramping up throughout the year, and IHS predicts that 33 percent of U.S. installations in 2014 will be completed in the fourth quarter.

UK to become fourth largest PV market in 2014
Among the leading photovoltaic markets in 2014, the United Kingdom is experiencing the strongest percentage growth by far.

The country saw a huge boom in utility-scale installations in the first quarter as developers took advantage of the attractive renewable obligation certificates (ROC) scheme, which offered 1.4 ROC per megawatt-hour (MWh).

The U.K’s massive growth in 2014 is in part an unintended consequence of the government’s review and subsequent closure of the ROC scheme to PV projects above 5 MW in size.

The resulting rush to beat the March 2015 deadline of the expiration of the scheme will lead to 3.1 GW of PV installations being completed in the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. IHS predicts that a significant portion of this will be completed in 2014 to avoid the bottleneck and delays in connections that were seen during an equivalent rush in February and March of this year.

In total, IHS forecasts 3.0 to 3.2 GW of new installations in 2014, making the United Kingdom the fourth largest market this year after China, Japan and the United States. IHS predicts that following a strong first quarter in 2015, in which more than 65 percent of annual installations in the U.K. will take place, utility-scale installations will fall, leaving residential and commercial rooftops as the main sectors.

Market growth to slow down in 2015, but to remain solid
Annual growth of global PV installations in 2013 and 2014 will be more than 20 percent as established markets have expanded rapidly. However, IHS is forecasting increases to slow to 16 percent with 53 GW of new capacity being installed.

China’s market more than doubled in 2013 and is projected to grow by 30 percent in 2014. Unless new policy or targets are raised further, IHS predicts China’s annual growth to slow to 10 percent in 2015-but still sufficient for the country to remain the largest end market globally.

Meanwhile, installations in Japan are expected to peak in 2014 at 9.1 GW, before slightly declining in 2015 as land availability, grid connection issues and an upcoming feed-in tariff review take their toll on demand.

Emerging regional hot spots across the globe represent huge opportunities for growth, and IHS predicts such markets will steadily increase their share. However, development in these regions should not be overestimated, as policies are slow to be implemented and governments are keen to avoid the boom-bust scenarios seen in other markets.