Figures released by trade body Solar Energy UK indicate the nation surpassed the gigawatt mark for unsubsidized PV generation capacity during the first three months of the year, with the cumulative national solar figure passing 14 GW.
The 175 MW of solar added this year to the end of March in the U.K. represented a fall from the volumes installed in the July-to-September and October-to-December periods of last year but still indicated a healthy market, according to the solar and energy storage industry group.
Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett, quoted in a press release issued to accompany the figures today, said: “The U.K. solar industry is going from strength to strength. Great Britain had its cleanest ever grid electricity over the Easter weekend, with solar providing 21% of generation at one point.”
The figures compiled by the organization, with partner Solar Media Ltd, showed the quarter-on-quarter retreat in new capacity additions observed this year masks a longer-term rebound in the U.K. market since the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program was halted at the end of March 2019.
The looming deadline for closure of the scheme had prompted solar installations to roughly treble from the quarterly levels recorded a year earlier, from the end of March 2019 onwards, according to Solar Energy UK. Closure of the FIT scheme saw solar capacity additions retreat to baseline 2018 levels in the second quarter of 2019 and a relatively swift, steady uptick thereafter came to a crashing halt early last year, as Covid-19 shutdowns occurred.
The previous, apparently steady rise in the market was confirmed by a leap in new solar projects in July-to-September last year, after lockdowns were lifted, with utility scale solar leading the charge. If the first-quarter figures for this year mark a retreat to a new baseline for solar capacity additions, it would at least mark a similar level to that peak caused in early 2019 by the rush by developers to connect projects before the FIT expired.
Grid scale solar again dominated the three-month figures, amounting to 70% of the new additions in Q1, but Solar Energy UK also reported 14% year-on-year growth in rooftop capacity.
The trade body added, a freedom-of-information request it had lodged with the authorities–compelling the relevant public body to provide answers–had revealed the government had allocated almost £140 million (€161 million) for solar on public buildings this year as part of its Public Sector Decarbonization Scheme policy. That could translate into 160 MW of rooftop solar on public buildings this year, Solar Energy UK said.
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