UK solar deployment figures upgraded as US smashes renewables records

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has upgraded its solar deployment stats for the UK in the first half of 2016, whilst separate data for the US has revealed that renewable energy sources have set a series of domestic records for electrical generation during the same six-month period.

BEIS has increased its original Q1 forecast of deployment numbers from an initial 370MW to a new figure of 1.155GW, while the Q2 figure has also been revised upwards, from the 88MW initially estimated last month to 132MW.

However, deployment for July 2016 has been valued at just 15MW, around two-thirds down on the number of systems installed in July 2015. This lower figure signifies a turbulant period for the sector following the closure of the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme, a move the Government has attempted to ameliorate with the amended Feed-in Tariff (FiT) regime.

The news follows recent Solar Trade Association (STA) analysis showing that UK solar deployment for 2016 is expected to shrink from the 1GW UK average of the last five years to less than 300MW, with the STA placing the brunt of the blame on the shoulders of the Government.

US renewable records

Meanwhile, another new report released today (26 August) has revealed that US electrical generation from utility-scale renewables such as solar, wind and biomass increased by 14% compared to the first half of 2015. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), utility-scale electrical generation from renewable sources hit an all-time high of nearly 17% of total domestic generation.

EIA estimates that electrical generation by utility-scale wind rose by 23.5% and set a new six-month record of 6% of total generation, while distributed solar PVs expanded by 34.3% and accounted for an additional 7.8GWh.

Commenting on the US figures, renewable energy research organisation Sun Day’s campaign executive director Ken Bossong said: “Renewable energy’s share of net electrical generation for the balance of 2016 may dip a little because electrical output from wind and hydropower sources tends to be highest during the first six months of each year. Nonetheless, the data thus far is swamping EIA’s earlier forecast of just 9.5% growth by renewables in 2016.”

Green belt green light

In related renewable energy news this week, plans for a 4MW solar farm on a Nottinghamshire green belt were granted planning approval by the local authority earlier this week.

Gedling Borough Council gave the green light for construction after planning consultants NLP successfully argued on behalf of Earthworm Energy that the proposed 15,000 PV array constituted a ‘sustainable development’.

NLP senior planner James Cox said: “We are delighted to have secured planning permission for this development which will help secure a viable future for the farm on which it is housed, as well as helping the UK hit its renewable energy targets,” said James Cox, senior planner at NLP.

“Solar farms are not an uncommon in the UK Green Belt and, despite the spate of recent adverse decisions, many previous developments have been allowed on the basis of their ‘very special circumstances. The ‘very special circumstances’ test sets a high bar but by working closely with the developers, the farm owners and officers at Gedling borough council we were able to provide the necessary evidence to clear this hurdle.”

George Ogleby

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