Decc shines new light on solar PV

7th May 2014

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Ellis Mckinnon

Around 250,000 hectares of south-facing roofs on commercial buildings in the UK could soon be producing electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels under government plans to boost onsite energy generation and move away from large solar farms

According to energy minister Greg Barker, the government’s latest solar PV strategy, which supports the roadmap published in October, “clears the way for widespread use of mid-scale solar by using space on top of factories, supermarkets, warehouses, car parks and other commercial and industrial buildings”.

Barker confirmed that solar panels would be installed on the roofs of more public buildings. He said the government aims to install 1GW of PV generating capacity on its land and buildings, with funding already in place to install the first 500MW. The commitment to produce energy from public buildings includes an initiative to install PV panels at up to 24,000 schools in England and Wales.

One measure to encourage companies and organisations to use their buildings to generate electricity is the extension of permitted development rights in England for building-mounted solar PV to rooftop systems up to 1MW. Decc said it was working on this with the communities and local government department and expected to consult on the proposals in the summer.

The energy department is also examining whether it needs to amend the financial incentives available for solar PV – the renewables obligation and the feed-in tariff (FIT) – and whether businesses that move to a new site should be able to take with them their existing PV installations and retain eligibility for FITs.

In addition, Decc plans to work with the retail and finance sectors to determine how best to support solar PV on leased buildings, and is exploring with the green investment bank how firms can access its funding to install panels on roofs.

Decc’s announcement follows confirmation from Jaguar Land Rover that it had completed installing the UK’s largest rooftop solar panel array at its new engine production factory in Staffordshire. More than 21,000 PV panels, with a capacity of 5.8MW, have been fixed to the roof of the plant. Generating capacity is set to increase to more than 6.3MW by 2015.

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