Feed-in Tariff cuts tomorrow highlight need to boost support for large solar roofs & community farms

As of Wednesday 1 July any new small solar farms built under the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) will get 28% less for every unit of electricity they generate ---- Large-solar roofs represent only 1% of UK market and require urgent boost

The domestic solar market will glide through the FiT changes tomorrow as the rates will continue to provide a good return for homeowners investing in solar. However, the FiT cuts tomorrow indicate difficulties for both large solar roofs and smaller solar farms (ideal for shared community ownership), both of which Ministers have said they support.

Deployment in the large solar roof market (250kW+) has been very low in the UK, with only 85MW installed since 2010 under the Feed-in Tariff in just 70 installations [1]. Large solar roofs therefore represent only 1% of UK's entire solar capacity. Because the FIT for large solar roofs is tied to activity in the small commercial roof market, the FIT will be cut for large roofs tomorrow from 6.16p/kWh to 5.94p/kW, even though this sub-market has yet to take off [2].

Cuts will be dramatic for small solar farms below 5MW in size due to a ‘hyperdegression' in the tariff for ground-mounted solar. The Feed-in Tariff for small solar farms is set to drop a massive 28% to 4.44p per kWh as of this Wednesday 1 July, down from 6.16p previously. The Solar Trade Association has long said that due to the design of the FiT, just a small amount of solar deployment can trigger a very large cut in the tariff. This means smaller solar farms, including those where ownership is shared with the local community, will struggle to get built going forwards.

Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs at the Solar Trade Association said:

"The Feed-in Tariff helps to democratise energy in the UK because it enables homes, businesses, schools, farmers, communities and big industry to invest easily in solar power. But some of the FIT cuts make no sense, particularly for large solar roofs on factories and industrial buildings, or for community groups looking to invest in a local solar farm."

"The industry still awaits clear policies from Government but Ministers have spoken positively about community solar schemes and larger solar roofs, so we very much hope the new Government will correct the FIT to boost these markets. We have set out how easy and cost-effective it would be to do that in our Solar Independence Plan."

The Solar Trade Association has put forward a set of detailed proposals for the forthcoming review of the Feed-in Tariff in its ‘Solar Independence Plan for Britain' [3] to fix this ‘hyperdegression' problem, allowing more growth in commercial rooftop solar and small solar farms while gradually bringing tariffs for new installations down to zero by 2020. This would allow a doubling of the amount of solar in 2020 for only a modest amount of extra funds.

The Solar Trade Association is this Friday 3 July and Saturday 4 July opening up a series of solar homes, commercial solar rooftops and solar farms as part of its national celebration of solar, Solar Independence Day [4]. One of the sites is a community-owned solar farm in Hampshire, the West Solent Solar Cooperative near Lymington, which is opening to the public on Saturday [5], and is an example of a very successful community solar project.

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