Survey highlights risk of changing UK solar policy

Carried out by Regen SW, the ‘Renewable Energy Progress Report: South West Annual Survey’ shows that there were 2,451 renewable electricity projects installed in the region over the past 12 months. Of these, 97 percent were photovoltaic systems.

Merlin Hyman, Regen SW chief executive believes that the growth is a direct result of introduction of the feed-in tariff last April 1. However, he says that the UK Government’s proposed solar policy changes are "undermining confidence and putting growth in all renewable energy sectors at risk".

The survey additionally stated: "This expansion has resulted in a rapid increase in jobs with some installers reporting doubling or even tripling their workforce. The lesson is that a clear, long term policy framework does stimulate entrepreneurs and unlock investment. The dramatic knock to market confidence by the early review of the feed-in tariffs by government is evidence of the importance of consistent long-term policy.

Solar breakdown

The survey explains that most of the 2,442 renewable electricity installations recorded were microgeneration projects (less than 50 kilowatts (kW)). Of these, 2,393 were new photovoltaic projects, which contributed a total of 6.77 megawatts of installed capacity.

"In contrast," says Regen SW in a statement, "only eight renewable energy projects were larger than 50 kW but contributed over 70 per cent of the capacity increase, highlighting the lack of progress on community scale schemes."

Currently, no large-scale solar farms have been commissioned in the south west, although the company says a number have been approved. They are reportedly expected to be installed before the results of the feed-in tariff fast-track review are implemented.

Looking at specific counties, Somerset saw the south west’s largest solar array installed last year. Built at Glastonbury founder Micheal Eavis’ Worthy Farm, it was also named as the largest privately owned rooftop photovoltaic system in the UK at time of construction. Covering an area of 1,450 square meters, the 1,116 photovoltaic panels have a capacity of 200 kW.

Meanwhile, of the 265 new electricity installations in Wiltshire and Swindon, all but two were photovoltaic systems.