On 22 July, the Government launched a consultation on proposals to end support for solar PV projects of 5MW and below under the Renewables Obligation (RO) subsidy scheme from April 2016. 

More than 50 planning applications for solar farms were submitted between that announcement and the end of July, compared to 45 for the entire month of June.

For the whole of July, 83 applications for solar farms with a value of £431m were made – an 84% increase on June. 73 of those projects were under 5MW.

The recent data, compiled by construction data experts Barbour ABI for Building magazine, also found that the boom continued into August with another 69 applications submitted.

Full pipeline

The sudden surge is reminiscent of March’s solar ‘gold rush‘, when a flurry of projects greater than 5MW were built before the Renewables Obligation was closed to them.

Commenting on the new figures, Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said: “It was not surprising to see a flood of applicants trying to get projects in the planning pipeline immediately after the announcement of the Government’s solar subsidy clawbacks.”

“The Government’s stance on solar is that falling costs have made it easier for the industry to survive without subsidies, particularly with the drop in prices for wholesale electricity prices. “

“However the risk here is that diminishing subsidies could falter a growing industry, potentially putting it under major jeopardy. Up to 27,000 jobs are at risk over the coming years in solar alone, not mentioning other renewable technologies, if more subsidy cuts are on the way.”

The Government has also ended pre-accreditation for projects under the Feed-in Tariff, and could close the scheme to new applicants by next January.

The solar industry has described the flurry of cuts as “devastating” and “bordering on the absurd”.

Brad Allen

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