STA wins 2014 focus on unlocking mid-scale solar

1 million roofs campaign to boost domestic markets STA drives best practice on solar farms

Energy Minister Greg Barker revealed at the STA's Solar Britain event in the Commons last week that his officials are working with STA experts to unlock the potential of the mid-scale solar market. The Solar Britain event was held by the STA with all-party groups PRASEG and Intelligent Energy and attended by 200 people. The Minister said that the challenge for 2014 is to mobilise the "crucial" non-domestic roof-top sector.

The STA has long argued that Government intervention is needed because mid and large-scale roof installations are failing to take off significantly in the UK, yet commercial and industrial roofs dominate the European solar market. Despite some high profile commercial solar schemes, such as Sainsbury's and Greggs, deployment on mid/large roofs is much lower than both domestic deployment and solar farms.

The STA has identified a range of non-financial barriers which are adding to costs and complexity and inhibiting investment. Even if growth were to take off, the tariff degression mechanism currently severely constrains the growth of all solar over just 50kW within the Feed-in Tariff scheme. The STA is keen to see the degression ‘capacity triggers' greatly expanded to support strong growth in larger-scale solar roofs and community solar.

Leonie Greene, STA Head of External Affairs said

"It makes no sense at all to constrain large-scale solar roofs when they are cheaper than other sustainable energy options. Solar on business and public sector premises is particularly efficient because power is generated during the day when it is needed. Large-scale solar roofs can quickly add up to utility-scale volume and they provide an entry point for new competition in the power markets to compete with established utilities. We're delighted the Minister is moving to address this, but the devil will be in the detail."

The Solar Britain event also heard from Jonathon Porritt about the extraordinary outlook for solar power. Porritt's new book, ‘The World We Made', anticipates a third of global electricity coming from solar power by 2050. Porritt told the audience at Solar Britain that anyone thinking solar was simply part of the solution had "missed the plot" - so critical was solar power to future energy supply and climate change mitigation. The leading environmentalist backed the STA's 1 million solar roofs campaign which has also been friended by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, The Eden Project, Solar Schools and Forum for the Future. The campaign aims to ramp up the domestic solar market to deliver 1 million solar roofs in 2015, up from half a million today.

On solar farms the National Trust, also speaking at the event, explained its work with the STA to develop best practice for supporting biodiversity in solar farms. The STA is working with the National Solar Centre, Buglife, RSPB, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and others to deepen understanding of solar as a conservation tool and to spread best practice. A guide will be published early in the new year. Less than 5% of the land used for solar farms is taken up by mountings, leaving over 95% of the land available for other purposes.

Paul Barwell, STA Chief Executive, said

"There are three major sub-sectors of solar - domestic, community & commercial sector and utility. The STA is taking specific actions to address the needs of all three to ensure that 2014 is the most successful year yet for the UK solar industry."

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