Climate Minister: ‘Solar is coming of age’


Greg Barker urges industry to beef up marketing efforts to get the message out

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has predicted the coming years will see a surge in solar installations as the cost of the technology continues to fall and businesses and households realise solar panels offer an effective means of reducing energy bills and carbon emissions.

But he warned the technology will only realise its full potential if the industry and government step up efforts to “get the message out there that solar is now on a firm footing to build deployment and a ‘go-to’ solution for energy generation”.

Speaking at the official launch of BRE’s new National Solar Centre, Barker acknowledged the sector had faced a turbulent 18 months as a result of the government’s controversial reforms to feed-in tariffs (FiT) and admitted the changes had “difficult consequences” – the government is still facing legal action over its handling of the cuts to the incentives with a handful of solar firms seeking damages.

However, he insisted the government had “no choice” but to reform a scheme that was on track to significantly exceed its budget and had now delivered a stable policy framework that could “bring about a solar energy revolution in the UK”.

“Despite all the adverse publicity these changes generated, one fact remains true – solar is still a great deal,” he told an audience of solar industry executives. “There’s been much disinformation out there on how solar is now just uneconomic and unaffordable.

“The opposite is true. Unit costs have fallen dramatically. And it’s worth underlining – the rates of return under the new bands actually remain broadly similar to those when the FiTs scheme was first launched in 2010. Together, we need to get that extremely positive message out to the wider public.”

Barker also predicted that with 1.8GW of solar capacity now installed and the technology included in the government’s Renewables Roadmap for the first time it has the potential to deliver over 20GW of capacity by 2020.

“Thanks to dramatically falling costs, costs that will… and must, fall further, solar PV will play a critical role in helping the UK meet its vital renewable energy targets,” he said. “And we in the coalition government are absolutely committed to working with you to make that happen… We have the ability – and more importantly, the ambition – to see a 10-fold increase in solar power by 2020.”

He added that there were signs the market was picking up after a slow second half of 2012, with 1,500 installations totalling 5MW of capacity installed last week.

But he admitted that the industry had “a long way to go” to meet the 20GW target and as a result would have to embrace innovative new technologies, such as those expected to be developed at the National Solar Centre, at the same time as stepping up efforts to promote the technology.

“The sector needs real champions; champions with the vision, the ambition and the resources to lead the charge on the next stage of the solar power revolution,” he said.

Barker also highlighted the potential for solar companies to take advantage of the government’s Green Deal energy efficiency scheme, which will launch on January 28th and offers both households and businesses the opportunity to install energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at no upfront cost.

Good Energy swoops in to buy RWE’s Doncaster wind farm


Independent energy supplier pays £3m for project due to be completed this year

By Jessica Shankleman

11 Jan 2013

Good Energy is set to almost double its wind farm portfolio, after buying the rights to a planned 8.2MW wind farm at Hampole, near Doncaster.

The independent green energy supplier confirmed today that it purchased the site for £3m from RWE npower Renewables.

The site already has planning permission for four turbines and Good Energy now intends to complete the project by the end of this year, nearly doubling the amount of green electricity the company generates to 20,000 MWh a year.

The move comes just days after Good Energy launched a “local tariff“, which offers a discounted rate to customers living near its existing wind farm in Delabole, Cornwall.

People living within two kilometres of the wind farm can now benefit from a 20 per cent discount on tariffs from Good Energy, and those near the new Hampole wind farm will also be able to take advantage of the scheme once the development is completed.

Juliet Davenport, chief executive of Good Energy, said the acquisition would play a role in meeting the company’s target of developing 110MW of new capacity by 2016.

The Delabole wind farm in Cornwall has a capacity of 9.2MW, so the new project will increase Good Energy’s portfolio to 17.4MW, while additional capacity is in the pipeline through a planned wind farm in Turriff, Aberdeenshire.

“Acquiring sites like this one, that have already received planning permission, brings a welcome balance to the portfolio so that we can have this site in development in 2013,” she said.

“We also plan to bring online some of the sites we are currently developing from scratch in 2014/2015. With that in mind, we are pleased to have reached this agreement.”

She addded that Good Energy was keen to speak to the local community about how the wind farm could help drive investment in the area.

Trinity College solar scheme passes planning examination

Conservation groups ‘concerned’ as Cambridge city officials approve proposal for panels on Grade I listed building

By BusinessGreen staff

11 Jan 2013

A solar system proposed for the roof of the historic Trinity College has been given the go-ahead by Cambridge city planners.

The world-renowned college had included details of the proposed installation as part of plans for an ambitious renovation of accommodation and offices at the 200-year-old, Grade I listed New Court site.

Insulation work will also be carried out and a ground source heat pump installed alongside the solar array if the plans are subsequently approved by the government, which makes final planning decisions on changes to listed buildings.

When completed, the project could cut the historic building’s carbon emissions by 88 per cent, slashing the Trinity’s energy bills in the process and providing a new revenue stream through the feed-in tariff incentive scheme.

Trinity College said the work needs to be undertaken to meet modern fire safety and environmental standards.

However, elements of the plan have been opposed by conservation groups, including English Heritage and Cambridge Past, Present and Future, who argue the building’s character would be altered by fitting the two rows of panels.

The plans have been altered to make the panels less visible, but English Heritage said it “remained concerned” about the proposals.

“We believe that the building’s performance can be greatly improved without the harmful installation of double glazing and the unnecessary lining of the external walls of the building,” it said.