Solar growth doubles renewable installations in South West of England

Peter Bennett
Wednesday, 18th July 2012

A new report published today shows that renewable capacity in the South West has more than doubled over the last year.

The 'Renewable Energy Progress Report' published by Regen SW, shows that renewable electricity capacity increased by 142 percent in the region, from 217MW in 2010/11 to 525MW in 2011/12. 

As the table above shows, the explosive growth was mostly driven by solar PV, which accounted for 237MW of all new renewable capacity in the South West during 2011/12. Small-scale solar dominated the installation market, representing 160MW of installed capacity, with large-scale solar parks adding a further 75MW of capacity to the area.

The report notes that the first half of 2011 saw “great interest from nation and international developers in large scale solar parks in the South West due to the feed-in tariff.” However, applications dramatically stopped in Spring 2011, when a fast-tracked FiT review dramatically slashed the applicable large scale FiT rate. The report states: “Before the change came into effect over 20 solar farms were deployed, adding 75 MW to the region’s total capacity. The number of applications for solar parks is now increasing again, as costs have dropped and projects are becoming financially viable using support from the ROCs regime. Solar parks are likely to be a major part of the 2012/2013 renewable electricity figures.”

Regen SW estimates that around 47,000 domestic solar PV arrays were installed in the South West during 2011/12 – an increase of over 1,000  percent on the same period the year before. Of those 47,000 installs, 62 percent were installed in the four months prior to April 1, 2012. The report describes the “six months of policy changes, legal challenges and confusion” as painful for the nascent solar sector. However, Regen SW believes that, despite the problems, the feed-in tariff should be viewed as a success, praising the: “Benefits of Microgeneration and the feed-in tariff, setting out the 2,000 jobs created, the energy efficiency gains and the extraordinary flowering of interest in renewable energy amongst community groups, landowners and small businesses.”

Regen SW estimates that the rapid growth in installed capacity was also matched by a steep increase in the number of green jobs within the region. The report estimates that 10,000 people are now employed in the clean-tech sector – this represents growth of 40 percent year-on-year during an unrivalled global economic recession.

Merlin Hyman, Regen SW Chief Executive, said: “This has been an exciting year for renewables – but it could be just the start. Renewable energy is the greatest economic opportunity of the decade: lead the way and we will enable great businesses to develop, flourish and sell their technologies and skills around the world.”

The report concludes by setting out five lessons that need to be taught in order to maximise the growth potential of renewables as well as associated jobs,

  1. Clear, consistent Government policy is vital: Clarity on ROCs, Electricity Market Reform and Renewable Heat Incentive over coming months will be vital
  2. Targeted strategies are needed nationally and locally to make the most of the economic opportunities from renewable energy
  3. Some elected representatives are misreading the public mood: there is a strong and consistent majority in favour of renewables
  4. We need all renewables: there is no silver-bullet technology.
  5. Communities must be more engaged in renewable energy developments

 The full ‘Renewable Energy Progress Report’ can be viewed here.

 

Cross posted from Solar Power Portal UK

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