Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 43

This issue covers:

PV150 PV Testing Kit

UK CfD support for five solar projects

The UK’s first contracts for difference (CfD) auction for the funding of new renewable energy projects included approval for five solar projects.

The five projects will have a total capacity of just under 72MW, with two schemes scheduled for this year and the other three due to come on stream in 2016/17.

The auction system was introduced after it was announced that solar projects over 5MW in size will no longer be eligible for the Renewable Obligation scheme from April this year, leaving the CfDs as the only available support mechanism.

The new competitive auction scheme divides renewable energy technologies into two pools – established and less established – with onshore wind and solar PV bidding for the same budget.

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, announced his disappointment at the decision. He said: "The soon-to-be-cheapest and most popular renewable – solar power – has lost out in a complex auction that really suits big players.

“We are expecting a considerable drop in the solar market this year. It's really important that changes are made to the next round of CfD auctioning in October to ensure SMEs can compete – and that energy policy generally takes better care of the UK solar industry. We're not asking for special treatment, just a more level playing field."

The switch to a competitive system for renewable energy support has been praised by the European Commission, which has expressed a desire to see all member states continue down this route. This week Germany opened bidding in its own renewable energy auction that allocated 150MW for solar.

Solar PV investigation ordered in Australia

Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt has ordered an enquiry into the quality of rooftop solar system installations.

The move came after reports of rooftop solar PV panels failing long before their intended lifetime and concerns being expressed over the quality of components and products used in some installations.

In response the minister has asked the Clean Energy Council (CEC) to carry out investigations into the claims. In a letter to both the CEC and the Australian Solar Council, he stated that ‘the poor installation of substandard solar PV has the potential to lead to fires with risks to property and human life’.

On the same matter, in an earlier survey by consumer watchdog Choice, while more than 80% of solar owners were reported as being satisfied with their purchase, it was reported that a quarter of owners had problems with their systems and 32% had problems with their installer. Story details here

10 reasons to test solar PV systems...

The safe operation of solar PV installations under both normal and fault conditions is an essential consideration at the system design stage to ensure that proper energy outputs and safety levels are achieved.

Once in operation, it is important to ensure that the long term performance of the system is not compromised by sub-standard installation or poor maintenance. In this respect, there are some key solar PV system features that rely on adequate and appropriate electrical testing and inspection being undertaken on a regular basis.

We have developed a special infographic to highlight 10 reasons why electrical testing and inspection of solar PV installations is a fundamental requirement for system safety and performance.

Seaward Solar infographic - The importance of testing PV installationsclick image to enlarge

For the full article visit www.seawardsolar.com/blog

Utility scale solar shows global surge

The total installed capacity of utility-scale solar jumped 65% in 2014, according to figures from Wiki-Solar.org.

The website, which tracks the worldwide installation of solar installations of over 5MW, claims that there was a total of 35.9GW of utility-scale solar capacity at the end of 2014, a 14.2GW jump from 2013.

Wiki-Solar states that capacity is fairly evenly split across the three leading continents: Asia, Europe and North America.

However, 2014 marked the first year since 2011 that the European market for utility-scale solar experienced growth following declines in 2012 and 2013. Within Europe, the growth was spearheaded by the UK where the rush to install large scale projects ahead of the regulatory switch from ROCs to CfDs had a significant impact.

The report also predicts that rush to beat the renewable obligation deadline of 31 March will see the UK overtake India or possibly even Germany to become the world’s third or fourth largest utility-scale solar market.

Philip Wolfe, founder of Wiki-Solar, said: “Only the USA, China and India can claim consistent longer-term growth,” adding that Chile, Japan and Canada also looked “relatively stable” and could become sustainable markets.

‘Banner’ year for solar PV in USA

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association have released their US Solar Market Insight, 2014 Year-in-Review report.

The report says that 2014 was “another banner year” for the US solar PV industry with 6,021 MW of new capacity installed. Installations were 30% up on 2013’s figures, bringing the country’s cumulative PV total to 18.3 GW of solar PV, with another 2.2 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP).

Over 600,000 homes and businesses in the USA are now running on-site solar, with nearly 200,000 of these being completed in 2014, and six states are each home to more than 500 MW of operating solar capacity.

The report highlights three fundamental drivers behind solar’s continued growth in the US. These are, falling costs, downstream innovation and expansion, and stable policy and regulation.

Going forward the report identifies several themes that will determine future growth. These include potential residential rate structure revisions and whether or not commercial solar will make a comeback in the face of residential solar’s immense success.

Another factor will be whether or not the enormous utility-scale solar pipeline comes to fruition, with more than 14 GW of utility-scale solar projects in the USA expected to be completed in 2015–2016. Full details here

Hannover 2015

Visit us at Hannover Messe next month

Seaward will be exhibiting at the Hannover Messe Trade Show on 13-17th April 2015 in Hannover, Germany.

For an opportunity to get hands on with the Seaward range of electrical safety and production line test equipment, visit the company display in Hall 12, Stand C20.

Full details over on the events page, www.seaward.co.uk/events