Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 58

This issue covers:

REA’s annual review of UK solar sector

The UK solar market must “unlock” deployment on commercial buildings if the technology is to continue its cost-reduction path to a subsidy-free future, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has claimed.

Hailing solar PV’s record for exceeding expectations, the REA’s Annual Renewable Energy View report highlights the uncertain future the technology faces in the UK given the government’s subsidy reset which has seen the Renewables Obligation and feed-in tariff closed and cut respectively.

With solar all but excluded from future Contracts for Difference rounds, the REA has stressed that for solar to continue to reduce its installation costs it must unlock deployment on buildings in the commercial sector.

The report has also sized the UK solar market, stating that the number of those employed across the whole UK solar supply chain reached a high in 2014/15 of 16,880. This comes despite a gradual reduction in the number of active companies, falling from 2,200 in 2011/12 to 2,005 last year.

Sector turnover rose to just below £2.5 billion last year (£2,477 million), however it is widely expected that this – and employment numbers – will fall as the industry continues to contract in the face of falling subsidies. Full details here

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Growth in US renewables

US renewable energy sources set a series of records for domestic electrical generation during the first quarter of 2016.

The US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) latest, "Electric Power Monthly" report shows net electrical generation from non-hydro renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased by 22.9% compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Within the figures electrical generation from utility-scale solar thermal and photovoltaics increased by 31.4% to 6,690 thousand megawatt-hours and comprised 0.69% of total electrical output. The EIA also estimates that distributed solar photovoltaics (e.g., rooftop solar systems) expanded by 35.2% and accounted for an additional 3,146 thousand megawatt-hours.

Combined, utility-scale and distributed solar accounted for over one percent (1.01%) of total generation, compared to 0.72% a year earlier.

Overall, the main source of renewable energy generation continues to be wind, which grew 32.8% to set a new record of 6.23% of total generation. Details at www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/

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China’s aims to reduce solar PV costs

Declining costs in China’s solar industry could allow the government to reduce prices offered to solar PV developers by more than a third by 2020 and see PV plants competitive with coal within a decade.

A Bloomberg report in Renewable Energy World said it should be possible to allow prices to be cut to 0.5 yuan (U.S. 8 cents) a kilowatt-hour in four years. This year developers got at least 0.8 yuan a kilowatt-hour for photovoltaic power generated for approved projects.

China surpassed Germany last year as the nation with the most installed solar-power capacity, in the process making renewable energy more competitive by driving down costs. Solar power in China soared more than seven fold since 2012 as the country has sought to boost use of solar panels to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of renewable power.

In addition, it is reported that reductions in construction costs have already prompted a cut in the preferential rates provided to developers.

However, china’s National Energy Administration says moves to reduce costs will only occur if the government eliminates “abnormal costs” on developers such as idle solar power capacity and delays of subsidies for renewable power plants.

It says that rapid installations have left grids struggling to absorb the influx of renewable power plants, reducing profits of developers. About 52 percent of solar power sat unused in the first quarter in China’s north western region of Xinjiang, marking the highest idle rate in the nation, according to data from, the NEA, which said Gansu province has the second-highest amount of idle capacity.

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Global solar growth aims spreads to Armenia

Another indication of the global growth of solar PV comes with new legislation being passed in Armenia to promote the development of solar PV.

The Armenian Parliament has approved measures that are intended to provide new impetus for the development of solar energy in private and industrial segments of the Armenian economy.

According to the forecasts of the Armenian Fund for Renewable Energy and Energy Saving, by 2020 the country should produce up to 8 percent of all consumed energy from alternative resources. This total should be achieved with the commissioning of solar plants with a total capacity of up to 50 MW, with the amount of investment close to US$ 80 million.

Armenia’s Energy Ministry said that the potential capacity of the country in terms of solar power production is 3,000 MW, which is enough to not only meet domestic demand, but also provide the whole Caucasus region with energy. Full details of the story are here

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Saudi Arabia revives its solar PV ambitions

Saudi Arabia is seeking to revive its solar-power program, scaling back more ambitious targets it set four years ago.

Reports say the kingdom plans to install 9.5 GW of renewable energy under its Vision 2030 program, about a quarter of the previous goal. The new target is about 14 percent of the country’s current generating capacity and is achievable because of a plunge in the cost of solar PV, government officials said.

“Solar should be the fundamental solution for Saudi Arabia,” Ibrahim Babelli, the country’s deputy minister for economy and planning, told reporters at a conference in Dubai.

The goals reflect work by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to overhaul the economy of Saudi Arabia, selling off a stake in the state owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to diversify away from fossil fuels as a primary revenue source. The desert kingdom relies on oil and natural gas for almost all of its power generation, sapping what it earns from crude it could export.

 

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 56

 

This issue covers:

Rooftop solar PV fires in Australia

News reports in Australia have continued to highlight the fire risks associated with faulty rooftop solar PV electrical installations. In the latest case, Fire and Emergency Services in Queensland were called to two house fires caused by solar panels.

One of the fires was contained to a small area and extinguished, but an earlier fire in a separate property took an hour to get under control, causing damage to the roof.

The Electrical Safety Office said while the solar panels themselves were safe, problems and fire hazards occurred when the panels were installed incorrectly.

"Electricians and builders should be aware that photovoltaic (PV) solar panels must be installed in accordance with the Australian Standards for buildings and the Building Code of Australia.

"Incorrectly installed, PV solar panels can place stress on electrical wiring or be at risk of becoming dislodged, leading to serious safety risks.

"Before installation, the correct location on the building should be chosen to site the panels based on manufacturer's instructions, the wind load, the environment surrounding the building and the structure of the building." Read the full news report here

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‘50 States of Solar’ overview of US industry

An interesting overview of the US solar industry is provided in a report from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center and Meister Consultants Group. Their 2015 Policy Review, 50 States of Solar, provides key stakeholders in the solar PV industry with an overview of trends in relevant policy and regulation.

This special year-end version of the report highlights the key trends and major actions of the 2015 calendar year, providing insights and analysis on the solar policy environment. Overall, the report describes how new PV systems are being installed in the USA at a rate of one every two minutes. The only states that did not take significant actions related to solar policy in 2015 were Alabama, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Included in the report is an analysis of solar PV industry issues such as significant state and utility net-metering or community solar laws, important legislative efforts, and utility proposed rate changes.

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Anticipated solar PV slowdown in Europe

If it wasn’t for the UK, Europe’s solar power market would have flat-lined last year, according to new industry figures that reveal the world’s biggest market for the technology is struggling to retain its scale.

According to the report, European solar grew by 15 percent last year, mainly because the UK market grew by about half. “Without the enormous growth in the U.K., the European solar market would have remained roughly at the 2014 level,” the report said.

However, with the recent ending of UK subsidies for solar farms, trade group Solar Power Europe warns that the European solar market will start contracting next year as a result. Already, it is reported that outside of the UK the industry has been in decline in recent years as Germany, Italy and Spain have removed subsidies and shifted to market-based support mechanisms for renewables.

The UK will install 2,000 MW to 2,500 MW in 2016 because many projects will remain eligible for a grace period for the subsidy. Overall the European market is likely to contract slightly in 2016 to about 7,000 MW, or by 7 GW, he said.

“We will see a very large reduction in growth in the rate of installation in the UK in 2017 to about half a gigawatt,” said James Watson, chief executive of Solar Power Europe. “2017 is a wild card because Turkey has set a target to have 5 GW by 2022, so could be installing as much as 1.5 GW a year in 2017.” Read the full article here

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O&M diversification is a realistic opportunity

Maintaining diversity in their solar PV installation businesses is the challenge facing UK solar contractors.

This is the view of Michael Middlemast, renewables development manager at Seaward, who says that for most installers, with a ready-made customer base, a wealth of transferable skills and the necessary know how, the barrier to entry into the secondary operations and maintenance (O&M) market is paper thin.

Michael makes the point that when solar systems were installed, owners were promised that they would last for 25 years, so the challenge for the sector is to get out there and make sure that they do so.

For example, the introduction of PV Health Checks for customers, using modern PV test equipment to compile reports of essential checks and inspections on installed solar systems, not only assesses the power efficiency of arrays, but can lead to suggestions for improved performance and upselling opportunities for other services and support.

In this way, he argues, rather than relying on subsidy to drive growth, effective operations and maintenance support can empower PV operators of all sizes to properly manage their solar investment and their energy use.

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Solar PV impact on traditional US power generation

The proliferation of solar power in the USA is starting to have a significant impact on traditional power generation suppliers.

According to a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar PV rooftops could generate 1,432 Terrawatt hours (TWh) per year, or 39% of US electricity sales, a ratio that will increase further as solar module performance improves over time.

The new report shows that small building rooftops could accommodate as many as 731 GW of solar PV capacity and produce 926 TWh per year. Medium and large buildings have a total installed solar PV capacity potential of 386 GW and an annual power generation potential of 506 TWh.

On the same theme, a Bloomberg report in Renewable Energy World says that rooftop solar is casting a $2 billion shadow over power generators across the eastern USA. With the number of houses with solar panels set to break through the one million figure soon, power grid managers serving the eastern USA plan to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional plants by about 1,400 MW, starting in 2019, according to industry consultant ICF International Inc. That’s enough electricity to power about 780,000 households.

The result could be as much as $2 billion in lost revenue for generators that are already facing lower demand, tight environmental regulation and depressed prices. Power producers including NRG Energy Inc. warn that the growing reliance on solar may curtail investment in conventional power plants, threatening the reliability of the US electricity system.

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Solar could help meet London’s green challenge

The next mayor of London should set the capital a target of deploying 750MW of solar by 2025, a new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) says.

The ‘London: Global green city’ report has outlined a series of challenges they will face if the capital is to meet ambitious climate and carbon reduction goals. For example, London must almost completely decarbonise by the middle of the century as part of the global effort to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero beyond 2050, as set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change concluded in December 2015.

The report claims that there is potential for London to deploy as much as 9GW of solar – enough to meet a fifth of its energy demand – but cites Department of Energy and Climate Change figures from December 2015 demonstrating that just 54MW has been installed, equivalent to less than 1% of demand.

IPPR argues that the next mayor should look to maximise solar deployment across the Greater London Authority estate, including the 5,700 acres of land and trackside space belonging to Transport for London, and ensure that mapping tools are made available to assess street-by-street potential for solar, which is then fed into planning decisions.

Free solar PV webinars

Our Seaward Business Development Manager for Renewables, Michael Middlemast, is holding a series of free webinars throughout May and June and you're invited to join him.

Topics that will be covered include:

  • Maintaining diversity in your PV installation business
  • The benefits of IV curve tracing
  • An introduction to Seaward Solar diagnostic tools

Click here to find out more information and to register.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 55

 

This issue covers:

UK breaks 10GW installation threshold

News reports in the UK say that total solar PV capacity installed in the country has broken through the 10GW barrier.

Solar Power Portal reports that during the first six weeks of Q1 2016 the volume of new solar installations totalled 340MW, adding to the cumulative solar PV in the UK at the end of 2015 of 9.66GW.

The drive was the result of a number of different factors, with drastic cuts to feed in tariffs leading to a spike in small rooftop installations to 15 January 2016.

In addition, pre-accreditation of stand-alone ROO-FiTs, driven by Renewable Obligation (RO) uncertainty from 22 July 2015, coupled with the ability to share grid connections with community based projects also had an impact, along with the build-out of under 1.3 ROCs for 4.99MW ground-mount farms

The news of the UK’s growth came just a week after European industry body SolarPower Europe claimed that the UK would continue to be the largest solar market in Europe in 2016 having also topped the tables in the previous year. Full story here

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Boom year for US Solar predicted

A report from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) 2016 highlights the continuing growth impact of solar energy in the United States. In releasing data on planned additions to the US power grid this year, the forecast is that solar will be the number one form of new electricity generation capacity, ahead of coal, oil, hydro, nuclear, wind and even natural gas.

The EIA anticipates that a further 26 gigawatts (GW) of utility scale electricity generation will come online in 2016, with utility solar energy topping the list at 9.5 GW, natural gas at 8.0 GW, wind at 6.8 GW, and the balance of new generation (7% of total) from nuclear, hydro and oil.

Interestingly, the forecast is for utility scale solar only, and does not include residential or commercial installations. Last year saw 8.4GW of distributed solar installed in the USA (compared to 3.1GW of utility scale); and it is thought likely that the figure is also likely to continue to grow. This would mean that the actual solar capacity installed next year may be double the EIA's estimates.

In the EIA forecast, California will see the most installations, with 3.9GW of capacity, followed by North Carolina (1.1GW), Nevada (0.9GW), Texas (0.7GW), and Georgia (0.7GW).

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Solar slowdown in Brazil

The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais has put a planned auction for solar power on hold indefinitely because the region lacks enough transmission lines.

The auction had been set for August, and without adequate power-transmission infrastructure, solar farms that won contracts in the event might not be able to deliver electricity to the grid, according to Guilherme Augusto Duarte de Faria, superintendent of the state’s Economic Development Secretary.

The decision is described as a setback for Brazil’s emerging solar industry. The country had about 59 MW of solar capacity in operation last year, less than 1 percent of the total supply, and the government is seeking to boost that figure as part of an effort to diversify its energy mix.

The Minas Gerais auction had been expected to sell contracts for as much as 200 MW of solar capacity. Full story here

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China's solar PV outlook

A recent article on Renewable Energy World looked at developing trends in China’s solar PV industry. It was reported that the country’s solar PV industry has been in recovery mode since 2013, but more recently, as the capacity utilisation rate of PV firms has improved, the sector continues to grow and new technologies have been developed, while the PV makers have seen their margins improve.

China’s newly added installed capacity in 2015 is estimated at 16.5 GW, the highest worldwide for another year in a row, while the country’s total installed PV capacity is expected to exceed 43 GW, surpassing Germany’s to become the world leader.

Looking into 2016, the sector is expected to maintain growth, thanks to favourable policies and increasing market demand. The full article is available here

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Solar incentive comes under scrutiny in the USA

An interesting report from Reuters describes how two US states have come to very different conclusions on a controversial solar PV incentive that is seen as essential to the industry's growth.

In California, regulators voted in January to preserve so-called net metering, which requires utilities to purchase surplus power generated by customers with rooftop solar panels. But neighbouring Nevada scrapped the policy - prompting some solar companies to exit the state.

The decisions foreshadow an intensifying national debate over public support that the rooftop solar industry says it can't live without.

More than 25 of the 40 US states with net metering policies are reconsidering them, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.

Opponents raise fairness concerns and argue that the industry no longer needs generous incentives, citing its rapid growth and solar panel prices that have fallen about 40 percent in five years.

Solar supporters counter that the costs of the traditional grid should fall with the rise of solar because utilities will eventually need fewer power plants and transmission lines. Net metering, solar companies argue, fairly compensates owners for energy they feed back into the grid - so it should be a permanent policy, not a temporary boost to get the industry going.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 54

 

This issue covers:

Healthy project pipeline for future global solar

The global solar PV pipeline now exceeds 200 GW, according to new figures released by market research consultants IHS.

In the latest edition of its Solar Deal Tracker, it is reported that the global solar PV pipeline has now exceeded 200 GW, thanks in large part to the extension of the US Investment Tax Credit. The US leads with the most amount of projects in its PV pipeline, and together with China and Brazil, make up 110 GW, or half of the current global PV pipeline.

“A large share of the planned projects is still immature, with developers scouting for tenders and other opportunities to sign power-purchase agreements,” said Josefin Berg Senior Analyst for IHS Technology. “The previous panic to complete project phases ahead of schedule has reverted to a development pipeline responding to demand and contract fulfilment.”

The US had a bumper 2015, unsurprisingly, given most investors and developers assumed that the US Congress would not extend the valuable Investment Tax Credit. According to IHS, 16 GW of new projects entered the US solar PV pipeline in 2015, while at the same time, 10 GW of tracked projects exited the pipeline, i.e., were installed or entered construction.

On the flipside, the UK has seen its pipeline of pre-construction projects decrease by more than 4 GW in 2015 as many developers await the expiration of the Renewables Obligation Certificates scheme in April. Full report is here

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Installers guide to solar PV energy storage

The UK’s BRE National Solar Centre has published a series of new guides on solar storage systems, one of which has been aimed specifically at installers.

The guide has been published to help installers select and fit battery storage systems so they operate properly with domestic solar installations, with storage set to become an increasingly viable investment for consumers.

The publication, ‘Batteries with Solar Power - A Technical Guide to the use of Energy Storage with Grid-Connected Solar Photovoltaic Systems’ includes information on the technical requirements of domestic or small commercial battery systems.

It includes guidance on different battery types, DC and AC coupling, appropriate sizing and design requirements as well as information on charging profiles and maintenance.

Jonny Williams, director at BRE National Solar Centre, said: “These guides explain how the systems work and how to choose the right system for the right application. Ultimately battery storage for PV will help people and businesses get the best return on their investments so making the right decisions is crucial.” Copies of the installer’s guide are available from www.brebookshop.com

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Positive outlook for solar PV in USA is confirmed

The guide outlook for solar in the USA was also reflected in a new study by Bloomberg Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

With investment in solar on the rise, the report says that cumulative solar PV capacity in the USA has now reached 28 GW, of which 7.3 GW was installed in 2015, as part of overall growth in renewable power generation of 16GW.

Overall, cumulative renewable capacity is said to stand at 221 GW, with hydro and pumped storage representing the lion’s share at 102 GW, with wind in second place and solar in third.

However, solar PV holds the record for the fastest growing renewable energy type, averaging 60% growth annually since 2008. Of its overall capacity, 17 GW comes from utility-scale projects and 11 GW from distributed systems. This year it is forecast that a further 16GW of solar will be installed.

For a full review of the report visit here

 

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India breaks through the 5GW solar PV mark

The installed capacity of solar power in India has crossed 5 GW milestone. With newly installed capacity of nearly 1.4GW in the last financial year, the country’s cumulative installed capacity is now 5.13 GW – and more projects are in development.

Rajasthan state leads the way with 1,264 MW of installed solar power, followed by Gujarat (1024 MW), Madhya Pradesh (679 MW), Tamil Nadu (419 MW), Maharashtra (379 MW) and Andhra Pradesh (357 MW).

The Indian Government has set the ambitious target of generating 100 GW of solar power by the year 2021-22 under its National Solar Mission. It is envisaged this will be achieved by the addition of a further 60 GW of ground mounted grid-connected solar power and 40 GW through roof-top grid installations.

The country’s Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has a number of schemes and financial support projects in progress to meet its objectives, with the aim of adding a further 2GW this year and 12GW next year. The full report is here

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UK large scale solar to be excluded from CfDs

It has been reported in the UK that there are no plans for large-scale solar to be handed future contracts under the government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism.

The announcement came from energy secretary Amber Rudd, who noted that, subject to planning permission, the industry had said that solar could be developed without the need for subsidies.

“We don’t have plans at the moment for a large-scale solar contract. What we have found is that large-scale ground-mounted solar have confirmed to us that they do not need any subsidy and that they can continue, subject to planning permission, because costs of fallen to such a great degree they can continue without any form of contract,” the secretary of state said.

Solar Power Portal reported that the confirmation will come as a significant blow for large-scale projects left stranded by the premature closure of the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme and developers with any interest in the CfD process, which was originally designed to replace the RO.

The government has previously stated its intent to launch a possible three CfD rounds over the course of this parliament but it has not been made clear which technologies would be able to apply.

At the same time as the latest news, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) also appeared to have upgraded its 2020 solar forecast again, this time to 13GW.

This would appear to be a significant upgrade on the previous forecast of 12GW, issued just three months ago and would mean that DECC’s solar forecasts for 2020 have increased by more than 36% in the space of six months.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 53

 

This issue covers:

China moves to top of solar PV capacity league

China's continued rollout of solar PV panels has taken it to first place in the global solar race, ahead of previous world leader Germany.

Installed solar capacity stood at 43GW by the end of 2015, according to China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) figures, with around 15GW new capacity installed during 2015.

China's National Energy Administration (NEA) predicts that the country's PV power capacity will hit 150GW by 2020, the agency reported.

Meanwhile, Germany's solar capacity now stands at around 40GW, according to data from the Federal Network Agency and Fraunhofer ISE.

The new Chinese figures match estimates released on Monday by industry body PV Market Alliance, which also showed Japan had recorded around 10GW of new installations - up from 9GW in 2014.

Elsewhere in the world, new solar capacity in the US grew from around 6GW in 2014 to 9.8GW in 2015 - a rise of more than 50 per cent, the PV Market Alliance said.

The European solar market also took a turn for the better: after three years of declining installations, new capacity rose from 7GW in 2014 to around 8.5GW in 2015, according to PV Market Alliance. The UK and Germany continued to, drive the market, installing 4GW and 1.4GW respectively. Full details of the news report are here

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UK solar still a good investment says STA

With UK homeowners facing new and reduced feed-in tariffs, the Solar Trade Association says that solar remains a good investment for the average household.

The reduced solar FIT for UK residential customers came into effect in mid-January, with any homeowner deciding to install a rooftop solar array receiving a rate of 4.39p/kWh for their system when the scheme is 'unpaused' on February 8.

Despite this 64% cut on the previous rate for systems of 4kW and under, solar in the UK can still represent a good investment for householders, says the Solar Trade Association (STA).

According to the STA, the new FIT rate will deliver a tax-free return of investment of around 5% provided homeowners install a competitively priced solar array. Compared to savings accounts – bedeviled by record low interest rates – solar represents an attractive investment that could be paid off fully in 13 years through intelligent use of their system.

"Let’s be clear, solar is still a good investment for householders and an essential investment for the planet," said STA CEO Paul Barwell. "Costs have come down so fast that solar is much more affordable today than five years ago – around half the price of a new car.

“There has never been a greater need to go solar because acting on climate change is more urgent than ever. Solar will save on your energy bills, and potentially add value to your home." Full details here

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China continues green energy roll out

China's ambitious renewables energy rollout pushed the global renewables industry past its latest milestone last year, as global installed capacity hit a record 913.5GW, according to new data released this week by research firm GlobalData.

The country installed more biopower, small hydropower and onshore wind than any other in 2015, and retained its title as the leading installer of solar power for the second year running, said Ankit Mathur, GlobalData's Practice Head for Power.

"China became the largest consumer of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in 2014, overtaking both Japan and the US," he explained in a statement. "China's annual solar PV installations have grown rapidly over the past few years, from 500MW in 2010, to 10.6GW in 2014, and an estimated 18.43GW in 2015."

As part of its emissions reductions strategy, China plans to have installed 150GW of solar PV capacity by 2020 further cementing its position as the world's largest renewables market.

Mathur added that China was closely followed in the solar race by Japan and the US, with both countries adding an estimated 8.2GW each of solar power in 2015. More at www.energy.globaldata.com

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EU extends import trade duties to Malaysia and Taiwan

The European Commission (EC) has announced further import duties on solar panel imports from Asia.

Following an investigation launched in 2015 into whether Chinese manufacturers had been circumventing European anti-dumping duties by shipping product via Malaysia and Taiwan, the EC has found that some companies were involved in this practice.

As a result, anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of 53.4% and 11.5% respectively have been imposed on PV modules from Malaysian and Taiwanese firms found to have been enabling Chinese sources to circumvent other duties.

In addition, import duty payments on modules found to have been non-compliant with EU trade requirements will be backdated to May 2015 when the investigation was launched. European solar PV importers will be invoiced for the funds, regardless of whether or not they were aware that the products they purchased were in fact of Chinese origin.

A full news report on the new EU trade measures is available here.

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US ITC extension for solar PV projects

The USA has announced an extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) – the main driver of solar growth in the United States.

The unexpected decision to implement a five year extension will relieve the US solar industry of the pressure to complete its residential and commercial solar power project in 2016. Under the terms of the recent proposal, the ITC will be extended from December 31st, 2016 and will instead be stepped down from 30% to 10% until 2024.

PV projects that start construction by 2019 will receive the current 30% ITC, while projects that begin construction in 2020 and 2021 will receive 26% and 22% respectively. All projects must be completed by 2024 to obtain these elevated ITC rates.

For residential PV systems, a similar tax credit phase-out applies until December 31st, 2021, after which the tax credit scheme ends.

According to GTM Research, the ITC extension will foster a $40 billion in incremental investment in solar between 2016 and 2020. Full details are provided here.

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 52

 

This issue covers:

New Global Solar Council created

A number of national and regional solar industry associations have joined to form the Global Solar Council (GSC) to cooperate on promoting the solar power sector at an international level, share best practices and accelerate global market developments.

The announcement was made at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.

According to the GSC, solar power is already one of the cheapest forms of electricity globally, and prices continue to decline fast. The levelised cost of solar electricity is 80% lower than it was during the COP15 conference in 2009. The group says that solar could be a 10% share of global power generation by 2030 as compared with less than 1% today, given the right market conditions.

The principal members of the organization are national and regional solar associations from both established and emerging markets, including China, Europe, India, the Middle East, Australia, South America and the USA. The group hopes to establish its secretariat and legal entity in the USA and headquarters in China. Membership is open to any association active in solar power.

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UK solar PV outpaces rest of Europe

Market consultancy Solar Intelligence predicts that the UK will comfortably remain the leading European market for new solar PV installations during the calendar year 2016.

The analysis service says that, in the rush to complete installations under the 1.3 ROC fiscal period, almost all leading module suppliers are now sold out until 31 March 2016, with new inverter and mounting suppliers rushing to get new business from a more diverse range of developers and chosen EPCs.

This extends to most UK-established EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) contractors, many of whom have a finite bandwidth and are forced to find new sub-contractors when taking on extra work at short notice. The vast quantity of sub-5MW sites is also allowing sub-contractors to step up to lead-EPC roles.

Solar Intelligence also says that the market is not simply vibrant for solar farms deployment, but also across all other segments, in particular residential and the small to mid-size commercial rooftops.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), UK solar PV generation reached almost 3.2TWh in Q2 2015 according to the following a period of substantial growth in the sector. The 3,191GWh generated between April and June was three times that of the previous quarter and shows generation has more than doubled when compared to 2014 Q2.

Backed by this situation, it is forecast that the UK will be some distance ahead of any other European market in 2015 accounting for about 40-50% of European solar installations this calendar year.

Going forward, the UK will also be the largest solar market in Europe for 2016, with more capacity installed in Q1 2016 than what any other European market will install during the whole year. Full news report here

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Turkey has new solar PV ambitions

Turkey has announced a series of new subsidies to support renewable energy equipment production, as it raises its renewable energy targets.

A report says that Turkey needs to make investments of around $130 billion in the sector to meet its increasing energy demands by 2023. Some $33 billion of this amount will be invested in the hydro power sector and $30 billion in wind and solar power technologies

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said state incentives for renewable energy equipment manufacturing would also be supported through VAT exemptions, other tax exemptions, and non-rate subsidies.

The Government says that existing and planned solar power projects will enable the country to meet some 5 percent of its electricity needs from solar power.

Some parts of the Central Anatolian province of Niğde (Turkey) have been announced as a specialized energy industrial zone after the first site of this kind in another Central Anatolian province, Konya. Full details here

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New IET Code of Practice for Solar PV

A new Code of Practice setting out the requirements for the design, specification, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the UK is available from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

The IET Code of Practice for the Grid Connected Solar Photovoltaic Systems has been published following widespread consultation. It provides solar PV system designers and installers with the information required to ensure that a solar PV system is designed, installed, operated and maintained to comply with relevant UK and international standards and good practice recommendations.

The Code of Practice updates UK industry practice to ensure safe, effective and fit-for-purpose installation of solar PV systems at all scales of application. Topics such as system earthing, fault alarms, fusing, connectors and fire detection, have been reviewed in detail, with key changes supporting good practice within the UK as well as aligning with international standards where relevant.

Import tariffs extended on panels from China

The European Commission (EC) has extended its import tariffs and price controls on solar panels from China. The expiry review means that the import tariffs could remain in place for several more years, and possibly, until 2020.

The EC says it will undertake two expiry reviews into anti-dumping and countervailing measures as well as an interim review as to whether cells should remain subject to the tariffs.

The UK Solar Trade Association has expressed disappointment with the move, which it says will continue to artificially inflate the price of solar unnecessarily. However, the European Union can now, as part of its proceedings, officially consider whether the import duties are doing the European solar industry more harm than good, which the Solar Trade Association hopes will help bring the tariffs to an end.

"These price controls on imports of Chinese solar panels need to be dropped," says Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association. "Europe is currently paying far more than it should for its solar - and that applies both to our homeowners and our governments."

EV100 EV charge point tester

Christmas opening hours

We would like to make you aware as early as possible about our reduced working hours over December and January.

The UK office
Seaward Group’s Christmas party is taking place today, 18th of December. Staff will only be available until approximately 11.30am. Seaward officially break up for Christmas at 12:30pm on Thursday, 24th of December, and do not return until Monday, 4th of January.

The US office
Our US office will close at 1pm on the 24th December and will reopen from 28th to 30th December then close from the 31st December until the 4th January.

Season's Greetings to everyone.

Free solar PV installation industry white paper

Our new free white paper looks at the role of effective commissioning and periodic testing in ensuring that solar PV system installations remain safe and continue to operate at optimum performance.

The special document looks at the ever increasing installation of both roof top and ground mounted solar PV installations across the world and the dangers associated with any failure to properly test and evaluate systems before they are brought into service.

The briefing note considers the role of formal installation standards and the implications of safety, fitness for purpose and fire risk considerations.

Also included are details of the existing IEC 62446 standard that sets out the testing, information and customer documentation required for solar PV installations and how it can be used to establish best practice procedures for the initial and periodic electrical inspection and testing required by systems.

The paper concludes with a review of solar PV testing technology and its role in ensuring solar PV system safety and energy generation performance. The white paper is available as a free download at www.seawardsolar.com/PVWhitepaper

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 51

 

This issue covers:

Free solar PV installation industry white paper

Our new free white paper looks at the role of effective commissioning and periodic testing in ensuring that solar PV system installations remain safe and continue to operate at optimum performance.

The special document looks at the ever increasing installation of both roof top and ground mounted solar PV installations across the world and the dangers associated with any failure to properly test and evaluate systems before they are brought into service.

The briefing note considers the role of formal installation standards and the implications of safety, fitness for purpose and fire risk considerations.

Also included are details of the existing IEC 62446 standard that sets out the testing, information and customer documentation required for solar PV installations and how it can be used to establish best practice procedures for the initial and periodic electrical inspection and testing required by systems.

The paper concludes with a review of solar PV testing technology and its role in ensuring solar PV system safety and energy generation performance. The white paper is available as a free download at www.seawardsolar.com/PVWhitepaper

UK MCS introduces new fire prevention standards

The UK’s Microgeneration Certification Scheme has announced that new fire prevention standards outlined in issue two of MCS 012 are to come into force from May 2016.

Solar PV and thermal installations will have to comply with the regulations, which relate to the resistance to spread fire between roofs of different houses.

The new standard comes after the MCS said it had recorded “radically different” responses by PV modules in fire tests, with some modules experiencing failures such as shattering of the glass coversheet and the burning of sealant material. Such failures would result in a lower fire classification.

MCS 012 also dictates that when an in-roof kit relies on a fire performance classification, it can only be applied when the kit is installed with the family or families of modules that it has previously been tested with. If not, the installed system would not be granted a classification.

The standard is to be developed in the future and the MCS has commissioned further research into the fire performance of solar panels, which it said will allow manufacturers to test and declare for each family of modules. The full MCS update on its 012 standard can be read here.

Calibrationhouse banner

Confusion over UK solar PV figures

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is forecasting minimal growth for the sector over the next five years.

Earlier this year, DECC placed UK solar capacity at 9.55GW by 2021, equivalent to roughly 9.1TWh of generation or 2.8% of the UK’s total.

However, with the department also recently saying that total solar capacity had now reached around 8.2GW, DECC’s forecast has been met with concern, meaning just over 1.3GW of new solar PV capacity being added to the grid over the next five years – little more than half what was added in Q1 2015 alone.

However, market analyst, Solar Intelligence, claims that UK solar is already about to breach the 9GW barrier, saying that if DECC’s 2020/21 forecasts are to be believed then the government is estimating just 550MW of new solar installed in the UK over the next five years.

Finlay Colville, head of intelligence at Solar Intelligence, said “It is highly unlikely this forecast from DECC will come true, and is likely to be met by the end of the current fiscal year, ending 31 March 2016, some five years earlier than DECC's current estimate.

“Once again, it flags the problem policy makers are having in both keeping up to date with a rapidly moving sector, and also in forecasting future deployment levels.”

Full report at www.solarpowerportal.co.uk

PV150 PV Testing Kit

North East USA has potential for commercial solar says report

The Northeast isn’t the sunniest region of the USA but nonetheless represents an enormous investment opportunity for mid-scale commercial solar, according to a new report from Wiser Capital.

The report calculates that there are more than 274,000 buildings fit to host mid-scale commercial solar in the Northeast. Assuming a system size of 350 kilowatts, the assessment finds there are more than 94,700 megawatts of potential solar installations. This untapped market translates to an investment opportunity worth approximately $67.5 billion.

Based on available roof space, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were found to represent the largest opportunity for medium-sized solar projects - making up roughly 30 percent, 19 percent and 17 percent of the market opportunity, respectively.

But roof space alone doesn’t make for a robust solar market. The report found that New York and Massachusetts have the most viable markets because of their particular cost and incentive structures.

In Massachusetts, the attractiveness of solar is helped by the state’s strong Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market and its considerably lower escalator rates for a solar PPA over historical utility cost increases. New York doesn’t have an SREC market, but solar projects do qualify for a three-year performance-based incentive.

“Many people assume that sunny states like Texas or Florida are automatically good markets for solar, but that’s simply not the case,” said Nathan Homan, executive director of Wiser Capital. “Adequate sun for solar electricity exists across the USA. The Northeast is a prime market for solar due to available commercial roof space, higher-than-average utility rates and regional incentives.”

Further details on the report are available here

Case Study: Elm EV Adopts New Test Technology

One of the UK’s leading EV charging infrastructure companies has become one of the first to utilise new test technology for fast and efficient fault finding and maintenance of charging installations.

Elm Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions has equipped its service and maintenance team with the new EV100 test instrumentation developed by Seaward for comprehensive validation testing and fault finding on all types of AC electric vehicle charging equipment.

Elm EV is a leading independent electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) company and has been responsible for over 2,000 charging point installations for private and public sector clients throughout the UK.

As well as installing and commissioning new EV charging equipment, Elm operates a team of engineers that provides maintenance and service packages, as well as fault finding diagnosis and equipment repairs to ensure that charge points remain fully functional.

When connected to the charging point, the handheld EV100 carries out all of the tests to ensure that EVSE operates correctly and safely at the time of installation and as part of any ongoing periodic maintenance schedules, in accordance with IEC 61851.

Read the full case study here

Watch a short video about the EV100

EV100 EV charge point tester

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 50

 

This issue covers:

Strong growth in global PV module market predicted

A period of strong growth in the global photovoltaic (PV) module industry is expected, thanks to a new wave of capacity expansions, a relatively stable pricing environment and increasing demand from several established regional markets.

The latest market report from analysts at HIS Inc. forecasts that growth will continue into 2016, when module shipments will exceed 2015 shipments by 10 %.

It is forecast that stable pricing and increased shipments will enable global 2016 PV module revenue to hit $41.9 billion, exceeding the previous record set in 2010 by 4%. PV module shipments in the fourth quarter of 2015 are expected to rise 29%, year over year, reaching 18.7 gigawatts (GW) in the quarter.

However, the USA PV market is forecast to experience a significant decline in 2017, following the reduction of the federal investment tax credit (ITC). This tax-credit reduction will contribute to a fall in global demand for PV modules, and PV module prices are forecast to decline by 9 percent.

“This year and next year will mark a climax in the recovery of the solar PV sector, after a period of intense price reductions and margin compression, when average gross margins fell into the mid-single digits or lower,” IHS said. Further details in a news report here

New EV charge point tester video

Last month we launched our EV100 EV charge point tester, an all-in-one test and diagnostic tool, designed to ensure that all types of AC electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) are operating correctly and safely, in accordance with IEC 61851, both at the time of installation and as part of an ongoing periodic maintenance regime.

Since the launch we have created a short video which gives an overview of what the EV100 EV charge point tester can do.

EV100 EV charge point tester

Free solar PV installation industry white paper

We've produced a new free white paper that looks at the role of effective commissioning and periodic testing in ensuring that solar PV system installations remain safe and continue to operate at optimum performance.

The special document looks at the ever increasing installation of both roof top and ground mounted solar PV installations across the world and the dangers associated with any failure to properly test and evaluate systems before they are brought into service.

The briefing note considers the role of formal installation standards and the implications of safety, fitness for purpose and fire risk considerations.

Also included are details of the existing IEC 62446 standard that sets out the testing, information and customer documentation required for solar PV installations and how it can be used to establish best practice procedures for the initial and periodic electrical inspection and testing required by systems.

The paper concludes with a review of solar PV testing technology and its role in ensuring solar PV system safety and energy generation performance. The PV white paper is available as a free download at www.seawardsolar.com/PVWhitepaper

IEA expresses UK concerns

The International Energy Agency has echoed UK solar industry concerns regarding a lack of certainty on a renewables support policy, warning of a detrimental effect on deployment.

In its Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2015, the IEA scaled back its expectations for additional renewable net capacity to 2020, considering that the uncertain policy environment would pose a significant challenge for deployment.

The report warns that the proposals to reduce the small-scale feed-in tariff by as much as 87% as of January 1st would “slow deployment going forward” and that this was not being helped by government steps to limit further support through the RO scheme due to a lack of available funding through the Levy Control Framework.

“Enhanced deployment in the United Kingdom would require rapid clarification of future support for new onshore wind and solar PV… [and] an increased pace and scale of auctions and the funding pots available for different technologies could help spur greater renewable deployment, particularly in wind, bioenergy and solar PV,” the report states.

“Nevertheless, given current signals from the government, the upside in 2020 is highly uncertain versus the main case,” it concludes.

PV150 PV Testing Kit

 

Australia leads world in rooftop solar PV installation

The Energy Supply Association of Australia has published a report that shows that with a national average of 15% penetration, the country leads the way in terms of global residential rooftop solar.

Energy Supply Association CEO Matthew Warren, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said. “Most other countries are in low single digits, so we're kind of pioneering the experiment of rooftop solar and the world is watching.”

The ENS report showed that Belgium has the second highest rate, with 7%. However, while Belgium may be in second place with regard to percentage roof top penetration, the market size is far smaller than Australia’s. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts Belgium to install some 65 MW of PV in 2015, while Australia should push over 1 GW.

In terms of installed PV capacity per capita Germany leads the way with 0.47kW per capita (PC), followed by Italy (31kW/PC), and Belgium (0.28kW/PC). Australia (0.19kW/PC) comes in sixth place.

Where Australia falls behind in the global solar rankings is in the large scale sector. Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) figures anticipate that Australia’s large scale capacity will total less than 300 MW by year’s end.

“It's one of those peculiarities,” said Warren. “We've seen almost no utility scale in Australia, whereas countries like Germany and the USA have predominantly utility scale solar, and that's been because of the way our renewable energy target has been designed. So it's tended to bias us towards lowest-cost renewable generation like wind at the expense of slightly higher-cost utility scale like solar” Read the full news report in PV magazine.

Overseas growth wins export award for Seaward

Seaward’s growing success in international T&M instrumentation markets, including solar PV, has been recognised with a prestigious business award.

In the 2015 Insider Made in the North East awards to acknowledge the top performing manufacturing businesses in the region, Seaward was rewarded with first place in the export category.

While the company continues to perform strongly in UK markets, the award was made in response to the company’s expanding overseas focus.

Export sales now account for around 50% of the company’s turnover and grew by 20% in the last year. Andrew Upton, Seaward Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to have received this award and it reflects highly on the efforts and commitment of everyone involved in the business.

“We’ve always had a strong overseas market presence and the much improved performance in the last few years reflects our success in adopting a much more strategic approach to our export business.”

The Insider judges were particularly impressed with the fact that increased exports have led to an increase in the Seaward workforce, as well as the overseas expansion of operations with offices now established in Florida and Malaysia.

Made in the North East Award

Come see us at Elex Sandown

Seaward will be exhibiting at the Elex Show on 5-6th November at Sandown Park, Surrey.

Visit our stand A10 and get hands-on with the Seaward range including the new Apollo 400 PAT tester, the new EV100 EV charge point tester, the PrimeTest 250+, Installation Testing equipment, and the Solar PV testing range.

Seaward Export Growth Recognised With Award Win

Seaward’s growing success in international T&M instrumentation markets has been recognised with a prestigious business award.

In the 2015 Insider Made in the North East awards to acknowledge the top performing manufacturing businesses in the region, the Seaward Group was rewarded with first place in the export category.

While the company continues to perform strongly in UK markets, the award was made in response to the company’s expanding overseas focus.

Export sales now account for around 50% of the company’s turnover and grew by 20% in the last year.

Andrew Upton, Seaward managing director, said: “We are delighted to have received this award and it reflects highly on the efforts and commitment of everyone involved in the business.

“We’ve always had a strong overseas market presence and the much improved performance in the last few years reflects our success in adopting a much more strategic approach to our export business.

“We are delighted that this is now bringing results and our focus will be to grow the business even further in the coming years.”

The Insider judges were particularly impressed with the fact that increased exports have led to an increase in the Seaward workforce, as well as the overseas expansion of operations with offices now established in Florida and Malaysia.

The County Durham-based Seaward Group is a market leading manufacturer of advanced electronic test and measurement instruments for a wide range of technical applications in the electrical safety, utilities, electronics manufacturing, electromedical and renewables sectors.

Made in the North East Award

Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 49

 

This issue covers:

New Seaward tester provides quick & easy diagnosis of EV charging point problems

The growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids puts even more emphasis on the ability of the power charging infrastructure to operate effectively and safely at all times.

To meet this need, a new easy to use specialist test and diagnostic tool has been introduced that is capable of carrying out comprehensive validation and fault finding on all types of AC electric vehicle charging and supply equipment (EVSE).

The Seaward hand held EV100 tester carries out all of the tests to ensure that EVSE operates correctly and safely at the time of installation and as part of any ongoing periodic maintenance schedules, in accordance with IEC 61851.

As well as carrying out basic field tests, more detailed diagnostic data from the charge point is retained in the unit and can be transferred to a mobile Android app using NFC wireless communications. This comprehensive technical data can then be quickly sent to a specialist engineer or head office location for full remote fault diagnosis and records management purposes.

The lightweight and handheld EV100 simulates all of the commonly used charging cable ratings to quickly and easily verify the correct response from the EVSE.

An extensive set of tests and measurements are automatically carried out and displayed at the press of a button, including output voltage, maximum available charging current, earth loop impedance and RCD trip time. Insulation tests are also carried out on the EV charging cable to verify safety for users.

Importantly the new tester can confirm the presence of correct mains supply and earthing connections on single or three phase systems without the need for additional equipment or the dismantling of the charging point to access internal conductors.

For diagnostic testing, the dedicated EV100 tester also simulates a number of vehicle faults and measures the EVSE response, including disconnection time and the amplitude, frequency and duty cycle of the PWM signal.

The comprehensive simulation, test and diagnostic functions of the new EV100 means EVSE maintenance checks and fault finding can be undertaken quickly and cost effectively – helping to ensure that EV charging points remain operational and fit for purpose at all times.

More at www.seaward.co.uk/EV100

EV100 EV charge point tester

 

Top 20 US solar cities

A combination of federal, state, and local initiatives, coupled with an expanding solar sector, has enabled the USA to experience continuous growth in its adoption of solar as a viable and economically feasible energy source.

By the end of 2014, the country had a cumulative total of some 20,500 MW of solar electric capacity, enough to power about 4 million average US homes with solar, more than three times the capacity of just a few years ago.

The latest edition of Shining Cities: Harnessing the Benefits of Solar Energy in America, includes a listing of the top solar cities in the US by overall solar capacity, as well as on a per capita basis (watts installed per person).

According to Shining Cities, 20 US cities account for 6.5% of all solar PV capacity in the country based on figures that include the combined rooftop and utility-scale solar installation capacity inside the city limits, using just 0.1% of the land area in the US.

At the top of the list is Los Angeles (170 MW installed), followed by San Diego (149 MW), and Phoenix (115 MW). The next city, Indianapolis, is not usually associated with PV hotspots, but had 107 MW of installed solar capacity at the end of 2014, which earned it the number four spot on the list.

For the full listing see here

We’re at Solar Energy UK

The Seaward Solar range of electrical safety, performance measurement and O&M test equipment for solar PV systems will be on show at stand J44F at the Solar Energy UK show, held at the NEC, Birmingham, on 13-15th October.

Among the products on display will be the new EV100 EV charge point tester, multifunction solar PV installation testers, advanced irradiance meters, power analysis tools and certification software.

The Solarlink Test Kit includes all the test and datalogging capabilities needed to measure the electrical safety and performance of installed PV systems in line with MCS MIS 3002 and IEC 62446.

The kit combines the comprehensive electrical commissioning test capabilities of the PV150 solar installation handheld tester with the advanced Solar Survey 200R multifunction PV survey meter.

View all of our Solar products here

Watch a short video about the PV150

PV150 PV Testing Kit

UK government proposes tariff cuts

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is proposing to cut the feed-in tariff (FiT ) rates for solar PV installations by as much as 87%.

Publishing the outcome of the long-awaited feed-in tariff review, the government is proposing deep cuts to all bands from 1 January 2016.

In addition to the cuts to the tariff rate, DECC is also looking to enforce default degression each quarter which would see FiT support for some scales of solar end on 1 January 2019.

DECC is also proposing to change the indexation of the feed-in tariff scheme, moving it away from retail price index (RPI) to consumer price index (CPI). The department argues that CPI is a more appropriate way of compensating investors for inflation.

The government has also noted a number of concerns about the structure of the export tariff under the FiT, most notably the gap between the export tariff and market prices for FiT installations.

DECC has outlined a number of proposed changes such as removing the export tariff for >50kW projects, lowering the export tariff and annually reviewing the export tariff. However, it does not intend to make any changes to the export tariff yet and is seeking feedback on its proposals first.

The full story is here

System integration to slash solar PV prices

New solar PV market analysis predicts that Global solar PV system prices will decrease by 40% by 2020. The PV Balance of Systems 2015 report: Technology Trends and Markets in the U.S. and Abroad, says that average global solar PV system installed costs will fall from $2.16 per watt in 2014 to $1.24 per watt by 2020.

The research claims that, although costs will continue to vary by region and market segment, a combination of balance-of-system innovations will drive cost reductions across the board and ultimately fuel the global solar market to move well past 100 gigawatts by 2020.

PV balance of systems (BOS), are all non-module costs including hardware costs and soft costs consisting of operations and services. These costs have come down tremendously by between 39% and 64% between 2007 and 2014, depending on market segment and geography.

The source of the report, GTM Research, says that PV system integration will be the primary push toward more economically competitive solar. Further details are available here.

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