2014 looks set to be a winner for the United Kingdom’s solar energy sector. A new report showing a major increase in approvals for megawatt-scale solar farms will position the UK as Europe’s biggest photovoltaic market by the end of the year.
According information contained in analysis by market research firm NPD Solarbuzz, more than 325 solar PV farms were completed by the end of April 2014, with more than 60 above 10-megawatts of solar capacity.
“While reaching the long-term goal is expected to involve a blend of rooftop and ground-mounted systems, solar PV farms above 10 megawatts will provide the dominant contribution in 2014,” said Finlay Colville, vice-president at NPD Solarbuzz.
This year has seen more than 120 new solar projects granted planning approval, with an additional 444 awaiting building approval. The report found the UK sector had profited from a rush by solar developers to take advantage of the UK government’s support scheme under its Renewable Obligation policy before a funding reduction in 2015.
“Establishing a large portfolio of solar PV assets has become an attractive long-term financial proposition within the United Kingdom,” according to Colville. “The race is now on to develop and acquire solar PV farms, before the Renewable Obligations scheme is discontinued in 2017, or ahead of any legislative changes that may occur after the May 2015 general elections.”
A Solar PV Strategy released by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) contains an aspirational goal of 20-gigawatts of installed solar capacity in the UK by 2020. This has resulted in a booming large-scale solar farm market worth an estimated £2.5 billion ($AU 4.54 billion).
Earlier this month Energy Minister Greg Barker announced a plan under the Solar Strategy to lower carbon emissions by transforming the UK’s 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial rooftops into solar power hubs by encouraging business to install solar panels.
“Widespread solar will ensure a better deal for hard pressed consumers and help move towards a greener, more local energy sector,” the Minister said.