Official statistics show UK deployed just 233 MW of PV in 2019


The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has reported in its monthly statistics for PV deployment that just 233.4 MW of new solar capacity was connected to the grid last year.

The results are considerably lower than the installation figures recorded in 2018, when 297.1 MW was connected to the grid. In 2017 and 2016, annual new additions hit 949.3 MW and 2.18 GW, respectively.

Last year, the market for residential PV systems up to 4 kW in size grew by 91.7 MW, while the market for installations between 4 kW and 10 kW in size increased by 32.4 MW. Solar arrays ranging in size from 10 kW to 50 kW grew by 67.1 MW in the 12 months to the end of December.

Poor performance

But as PV installations become bigger, the numbers start to look quite different. For installations between 50 kW and 5 MW, for example, full-year growth was just 0.3 MW, while projects between 5 MW and 25 MW in size only accounted for 7.2 MW of new capacity additions. For PV projects larger than 25 MW, the BEIS reported that just one 34.7 MW solar plant was completed last year.

In terms of cumulative capacity, the United Kingdom reached 13.35 GW at the end of 2019. Most of this installed power was represented by solar parks ranging from 5 MW to 50 MW (4.39 GW) in size, followed by 50 kW – 5 MW installations (3.52 MW), and PV plants over 25 MW (1.57 GW).

In the rooftop segment, small residential PV systems up to 4 kW in size accounted for the largest share of cumulative capacity at 2.69 GW, followed by systems sized between 10 kW and 50 kW, with 875.7 MW of capacity. Projects between 4 kW and 10 kW in size accounted for the smallest share at just 267.9 MW.

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Incomplete datasets

According to the UK Solar Trade Association, however, the statistics provided by the BEIS are based on incomplete datasets.

“The statistics fail to accurately capture PV systems sized above 50 kW, with no update to the ‘50 kW to ≤ 5 MW’ category since March 2019, and only one large-scale site added to the ‘> 25 MW’ category in 2019 – a 34.7MWp array completed in December by Gridserve,” the association said.

The organization added that a number of systems larger than 50 kW were installed last year, including a 50 MW array that was completed in December by Next Energy Solar Fund.

“They paint a picture of a stagnating market, when in fact solar in the UK is stable and recovering after a difficult couple of years,” said Solar Trade Association CEO Chris Hewett. “The industry continues to gather momentum in the subsidy-free era, and we expect to see a glut of projects deployed over the coming years, some underpinned by power purchase agreements and others that are purely merchant.”

In June, the association predicted that 250-400 MW of corporate PPA-driven solar projects, including some that include storage, may have seen the light of day last year, with more expected from 2020 onward.

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