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Regen SW recently published its “Renewable Energy Progress Report”, which, among other findings, demonstrates that renewable capacity in the South West of the UK has more than doubled over the past year. The renewable electricity capacity grew by 142% from 217MW in 2010/2011 to 525MW in 2011/2012. Solar Power Portal noted that the region’s growth was propelled by solar PV, which accounted for 237MW of all new renewable capacity during the 2011/2012 year.
Small-scale solar was the front runner in the installation market taking 160MW of the installed capacity while large-scale solar made up 75MW of the region’s capacity. Regen SW pointed out that the first half of 2011 saw, “great interest from nation and international developers in large-scale solar parks in the South West due to the feed-in tariff.” However, when a fast-tracked Fit review was introduced, and cut the applicable large-scale Fit rate, applications came to a sudden halt in the spring of 2011.
The report states, “Before the change came into effect over 20 solar farms were deployed, adding 75MW to the region’s total capacity. The number of applications for solar parks is now increasing again, as costs have dropped and projects are becoming financially viable using support from the ROCs regime. Solar parks are likely to be a major part of the 2012/2013 renewable electricity figures.”
Regen SW’s approximates around 47,000 domestic solar PV arrays were installed in the South West during the last year, a more than 1,000% increase over the same period from the year before. Furthermore, of those installations, 62% were installed in the four months before April 1, 2012.
Regen SW notes that the “six months of policy changes, legal challenges and confusion” were painful for the newly emerging solar sector, but despite the setbacks, the FiT is expected to be considered a success, with the report praising the “Benefits of Microgeneration and the feed-in tariff, setting out the 2,000 jobs created, the energy efficiency gains and the extraordinary flowering of interest in renewable energy amongst community groups, landowners and small businesses.”
The report points out that the rapid growth in installed capacity was matched by large inflation in the number of green jobs in the South West. Regen SW estimates that 10,000 people are currently employed in the clean-tech sector, a 40% year-over-year increase.
Merlin Hyman, Regen SW chief executive, stated, “This has been an exciting year for renewables – but it could be just the start. Renewable energy is the greatest economic opportunity of the decade: lead the way and we will enable great businesses to develop, flourish and sell their technologies and skills around the world.”
Regen SW’s report also took the time to outline five “lessons”, which it stated need to be taught in order to maximize the growth potential of renewables and the fields’ related jobs. The lessons include clear, consistent government policy, targeted local and national strategies, a re-assessment by elected representatives on the public mood of renewables, and the public’s education and acknowledgement that renewables are needed and communities should be more engaged in their development.