UK solar plants soar ahead of tariff cut

2011-07-28 18:50

London - British solar power capacity rose by more than 50% in the three months to June as developers scrambled to finish projects before lower government support tariffs kick in next month, energy ministry data showed on Thursday.

Installed capacity for photovoltaic plants rose by 56% to 121.6 megawatts (MW) between March and June and grew more than eighteenfold in one year.

The government went ahead last month with an early support tariff cut for solar installations bigger than 50 kilowatts (KW), saying too many large commercial plants would absorb government money destined for smaller household and community projects.

Lower tariffs will apply from August 1, leaving solar plant developers only a few days to complete large projects to still benefit from higher tariffs.

Earlier this month, two of Britain's largest solar plants were connected to the power grid in Cornwall, the country's sunniest region.

"While it's been disappointing the government has decided not to support the large-scale solar sector going forward, the solar farms developed this summer will play a critical role in the supply of green energy in the UK," said Conor McGuigan, head of planning at Lightsource Renewable Energy, which helped build a 1.4MW solar plant near Truro.

Installed capacity for anaerobic digestion (AD), a process whereby organic material is used to produce power, also jumped in the second quarter, nearly trebling to 177KW, government data showed.

Feed-in tariffs for AD will also change from August 1, but subsidies will rise instead of fall by around 2 pence per kilowatt-hour for plants up to 250KW, after the government noticed small uptake.