Political shifts and technical advances are redefining the solar energy market
Steve Helliwell, a leading ground-mounted solar PV construction expert, discusses the physical, technical and political challenges facing this particular corner of the market...
Contrary to widely-held misconceptions, opportunities in solar energy are increasing. According to finance experts, there are more investors interested in funding large-scale solar PV projects than ever before.
In the industry's early years, development of the UK market, for example, was skewed more by government policy than market forces. The way forward for solar energy and other renewable technologies was seen as the proliferation of thousands-upon-thousands of small scale roof or garden installations, funded by ‘retail' sources of finance.
Those who installed electricity-generating technology from a renewable or low-carbon source, such as solar photovoltaic or wind turbine, qualified for the government's Feed-In Tariff scheme (FiT). Residential households, businesses, farms and small landowners could benefit from low cost energy generation and also have money rebated from their energy supplier for the surpluses they exported to the grid.
However, proposed changes to this government tariff triggered a period of considerable uncertainty. The reduced FiTs for solar PV systems came into effect on 3rd March this year, not 12th December 2011 as the Government had originally intended.
The Government has since announced that a further cost control framework for solar PV, reducing FiTs, will be in effect from 1st August 2012 and rates for other renewable energy technologies should be reduced, or stay the same, from 1st October 2012. Specifically: