Annual demand for solar power in UK passes 1GW milestone

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The UK solar market’s annual demand has hit the GW-level for the first time, according to research data published by NPD Solarbuzz.

The news confirms the UK’s position as one of the up and coming markets in the global solar industry, marking out the UK solar sector as a GW-status end-market territory.

NPD Solarbuzz vice president Finlay Colville told PV Tech it was important to note that despite recent negative publicity around solar and other forms of renewable energy as a result of mainstream newspapers’ coverage of ‘not-in-my-back-yard’ (nimby) pressure groups, the findings demonstrate that end-market growth remains strong.

Figures published by NPD Solarbuzz show that demand for solar PV during the first quarter of 2013 stood at 520MW, dropping to 282MW for the second quarter. When added to figures of installed capacity in July and August, the total exceeds the 1GW mark.

The cumulative total of solar PV installed in the UK to date stands at over 2.7GW, with 50% residential, 22% commercial rooftops and the remaining 28% from ground-mounted PV.

The research also reveals that the ground-mount segment declined by more than a factor of two during Q2’13 compared to the previous quarter. The slowdown has been attributed to the cut to the available Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) rate for large-scale solar developers, which fell from 2ROCs to 1.6ROCs in April 2013. This aspect of the slowdown was widely anticipated. Colville added: “The slowdown in the ground-mount segment in Q2 was also impacted by the availability of Chinese modules coming into Europe, prior to the European Commission ruling at the start of August.”

As the EU-China dispute went on in April and May, the temporary halt of module shipments from China brought some uncertainty to the market.

However, solar farms continue to dominate the level of solar capacity installed in the UK. Over the first six months of 2013, 106 solar farms sized 1MW and over were installed across the UK. More than half of the new developments had an installed capacity in excess of 5MW, with 8% boasting installed capacity of 10MW and above.

Solar developers have continued to target the southern regions of England, with 67% of all large-scale solar installed in the South East or South West. However, scarcity of suitable sites has driven developers further north, with the mid-eastern regions accounting for 27% of solar farms during the first half of the year.

According to NPD Solarbuzz, there is currently more than 1.5GW of solar farms that have gone through successful project planning application stages and are awaiting build-out or financial go-ahead.

Colville noted: “The strength of the ground-mount pipeline will ensure that the UK retains a healthy top-10 market ranking for 2013 and beyond.”

Finlay Colville will be speaking during the first session of ‘In it for the long-haul: utility-scale solar finance, re-finance and maximising your ROI’ in the Solar Business Seminar Hall at this year's Solar Energy UK event.

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