Solar power and feed-in tariffs

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A sunny day after the endless wet of August got me thinking about solar power.

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Solar Energy System - Jeremy Levine Design on Flickr

In April 2010 the government introduced a feed-in tariff (FiT) to encourage low carbon electricity generation, particularly by organisations not traditionally associated with electricity generation. In effect the government was paying a generous fixed price for electricity being fed into the grid from small-scale renewables projects.

– Anaerobic digestion
– Hydro
– Micro-CHP
– Solar PV
– Wind

In February 2011 the government announced it wanted to reduce the incentives for large solar farms, although by targetting installations over 50kW in size this included larger rooftop installations on public and private buildings, as well larger field sites.

A reduction in the feed-in tariff from around 41 pence/kWh down to 19 pence/kWh (or less) for schemes completed after the 1st August 2011 has now been implemented.

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One of the implications of this change was to concentrate the minds of contractors and make sure planned schemes were operational by deadline day.

These included four large projects in the south-west:
– Trefullock: 22,000 solar panels generating 5MW
– Benbole: 7100 panels
– Hawton Farm: 18,000 panels generating 5MW
– Langage: 21,200 panels generating 5MW

It’s the scale of these projects that may have influenced the government into an apparent volte-face in policy.

Chris Huhne (Secretary of State or Energy and Climate Change) argued that the FiT scheme was never intended to cover large-scale installation on green field sites (although others claim the exact opposite).

Some back-of-an-envelope maths based on the Trefullock scheme (19 hectares providing renewable energy for 4500 people). Given that the UK population is 61.8m then, if 19ha of solar PV serves 4500 people, it would take 253,000ha to serve the entire population. This is approx 1/10 of the UK’s entire land area – the south-west might disappear under photovoltaic panels.

And the Treasury in the Comprehensive Spending Review wanted to cap the amount of money energy companies had to pay to the FiT scheme at £960m over four years. Larger schemes threatened this budget.

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Some commentators view this shift as a sensible recalibrating of solar FiT.

Our Solar Future is very concerned and argues that clean, green solar power can provide up to a third of the UK’s electricity needs if supported properly.

And George Monbiot, a noted environmentalist, says solar power is a chimera for the UK.

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Sandtoft PV modules

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Rheinzink PV roofing

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Sandtoft solar roof tiles

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Rheinzink QUICK STEP® PV roofing

Solar power on ESI.info.

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2 Responses to “Solar power and feed-in tariffs”

  1. Biomass: a sustainable source of power? What do you think? « Environmental Engineering Says:

    […] now available in the UK for the use and development of biomass as an energy source, ranging from Feed-in Tariffs for small-scale generators of renewable electricity, to The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) launched […]

  2. Roofing Edmonton Alberta Says:

    Roofing Edmonton Alberta…

    […]Solar power and feed-in tariffs « ESI.info Building Design[…]…

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