UK to become Europe's biggest PV market in 2014

Fueled by the rapid growth in ground-mounted solar PV farms, the United Kingdom is in line to become the largest solar market in Europe this year.

More than 120 large-scale solar PV farms in the U.K. have recently received project-planning approval and many are scheduled to be completed in the next 12 months, according to the new NPD Solarbuzz UK Deal Tracker report.

"In the past six months, the Department of Energy and Climate Change released the United Kingdom’s

Solar PV Roadmap and Solar PV Strategy reports, restating aspirations to hit 20 GW of cumulative capacity by 2020," says NPD Solarbuzz Vice President Finlay Colville.

Speaking to pv magazine about the amount of new PV capacity NPD Solarbuzz expects in the U.K. this year, Colville says: "We are forecasting the U.K. at 2.875 GW for 2014, so this means about 1.72 GW being added during [the second to the fourth quarter of 2014].

By comparison, Germany, until now Europe’s PV heavyweight, "is forecast below this figure. Germany is forecast at 2.6 GW during 2014," Colville adds.

Reaching the long-term goal will involve a mix of rooftop and ground-mounted systems, according to Colville, who predicts solar PV farms above 10 MW will provide the dominant contribution in 2014.

By the end of April 2014, more than 325 PV farms in the megawatt class will have been completed in the U.K., with more than 60 different sites having an installed capacity in excess of 10 MW, the report says. An additional 444 large-scale ground-mounted solar PV farms are currently at various stages of planning, with 124 having planning applications approved and seeking to be installed before the level of support under the Renewable Obligation scheme is reduced in April 2015.

"With the U.K. projected to be the largest solar PV market in Europe in 2014, global component suppliers and project developers need to quickly understand the dynamics of the U.K. solar PV industry," added Colville. "Aligning with suitable partners and choosing the most attractive PV projects in the pipeline will ultimately determine the winners and losers over the next 12 months."

In addition to the opportunities arising from the multi-gigawatt pipeline of projects yet to be built, a thriving secondary market has developed for completed PV farms, NPD Solarbuzz points out. Based on recent acquisitions of completed solar farms, the U.K.’s existing solar farm portfolio is valued at approximately £2.5 billion ($4.2 billion).

"Establishing a large portfolio of solar PV assets has become an attractive long-term financial proposition within the United Kingdom," says 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."