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UK Solar PV Capacity Reaches 5 GW

Solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed throughout the United Kingdom has apparently reached 5 GW, according to NPD Solarbuzz, making the country just the sixth country to reach the figure (behind Germany, China, Japan, Italy, and the US).

Finlay Colville, Solarbuzz Vice President, posted about the data on the company blog, referencing statistics from their UK Deal Tracker and European PV Markets Quarterly reports. Colville also penned a post at Solar Power Portal, and explained why, in his words, “few will be hoisting any bunting to celebrate what ought to be at least worthy of a group hug.”

UK solar PV

Regional Location of 5 GW UK Solar PV — With Almost Half of the UK’s 5 Gigawatts PV Capacity is Located in the South Regions. Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

According to Solarbuzz, the 5 GW milestone can be segmented as follows;

  • 90 percent of the 5 GW capacity has been installed in the past three years
  • 46 percent of the capacity is located in the South West and South East regions
  • Small-scale feed-in-tariffs (FITs) have accounted for 42 percent
  • Ground-mounted Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) have incentivized 39%
  • Residential installations represent one-third of the 5 GW capacity
  • Large-scale ground-mounted solar farms, occupying 50 acres or above, have grown in popularity in the past 18 months, and are responsible for 20 percent of the total

UK solar PV has benefited from incentive schemes such as the small-scale feed-in-tariff (FITs), as can be seen in the graph below.

UK solar PV

Despite the fanfare of large-scale solar farms, small-scale FiTs have been the backbone of UK solar.
Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz UK Deal Tracker and European PV Markets Quarterly reports.

Colvile believes that “incentivised vehicles subsidised from the Treasury within which solar technology was allowed to participate” is primarily responsible for the milestone achievement, adding that “without support from the Treasury, there would have been no solar PV industry in the UK.”

Earlier this year NPD Solarbuzz upgraded their market predictions for UK solar PV, now “forecasting 2.5 GW of new solar PV in the UK during 2014, having previously put the figure at 2.27 GW when forecasting the market a couple of months back”. Not long after, NPD Solarbuzz released another report which predicted that the UK would be the largest solar PV market in Europe this year, with over 120 large-scale projects already approved, many of which would be completed by the end of the year.

The time of the incentives may be at a close, however, especially in light of such productivity. Colville closed his blog post with five bullet points summing up where the UK solar PV industry now sits.

  1. The 5GW of installed PV capacity can’t be erased. It is simply the combination of incentives available in the day, and the ability of an industry to be highly competent.
  2. The long-term impact of 5GW of solar PV in 2014 on the Treasury also can’t be erased. Sites are grandfathered and government-backed. Money has to come from somewhere.
  3. 5GW means the UK is the most important solar PV market in Europe this year, and at the start of next year. This helps in all types of inward-related investment and support.
  4. There is a massive amount of Chinese-supplied modules in the 5GW mix. Almost every one of these companies has a Beijing-backed downstream focus, with a credit line that allows immediate play in any hot PV markets outside of China.
  5. The 5GW capacity in the UK has allowed Lightsource to get to an economy of scale that creates the potential to heavily influence what happens in the forthcoming CfD auction.

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