UK leaps to third in world for large-scale solar
The UK now boasts the third largest utility-scale solar capacity in the world after a flurry of first quarter installations.
New figures from market analysts Wiki-Solar show that the UK added 1.5GW of utility-scale capacity, leapfrogging Germany and India for the third spot.
“Developers and contractors pulled out all the stops to finish projects ahead of the 31st March deadline, when solar power stations over 5MW became ineligible for the Renewables Obligation incentive mechanism,” said the Wiki-Solar report.
Utility-scale refers to systems above 4MW.
Leading the ‘solar gold rush’ was UK developer Lightsource RE, which now holds some 700MWAC of utility-scale solar capacity, and climbed into the world’s top 10 solar generators in 2014 .
Commenting on Wiki-Solar’s findings, Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle said: “The UK has an extremely competitive ground-mount solar market and we are delighted to be amongst those at the forefront – we installed more than 300MWp in March alone. I still believe there is huge untapped potential.”
His optimism is shared by the UK-based Renewable Energy Association (REA), who recently claimed that prices would continue to fall in the UK solar industry even if all subsidies were removed.
“Nothing will stop solar now – even if a new Government came in and said we are going to stop all subsidies tomorrow, the solar industry would continue on,” said the REA’s senior advisor for solar Ray Noble.
Wiki-Solar analyst Philip Wolfe was slightly less bullish, prediciting growth to slow in the short term as developers refocus their activities on smaller projects below the utility-scale threshold.
“Having said that,” he added. “We may yet understating the current figures.”
“When the UK energy regulator catches up with the backlog of station registrations, we may find that even more projects have been connected than are currently shown in our database as having been commissioned.”
Wiki-Solar’s March report painted a rosy picture of global solar growth, with 14.2GW of utility-scale capacity added in 2014, doubling the record of 7.4GW set the previous year. Total capacity reached 35.9GW, with Europe, Asia, and North America having relatively equal shares.