UK Solar Market in the Lead

Large-scale solar farms are contributing significantly towards the UK’s 2020 solar goal.
Published: Tue 06 May 2014

Solar farms in the UK have seen massive growth this year. As a result, the country could find itself leading the solar market in Europe, according to new data from analysts at NPD Solarbuzz.

Fastest growing solar market

The data shows that 124 large-scale solar farms have recently received the go-ahead from planners in the UK-many of which are ear-marked for completion within the next 12 months. As a result, the UK is set to become the fastest growing solar market in Europe, even outstripping more mature markets such as Germany and Italy.

New figures reveal that 444 large scale solar farms are currently in development in the UK, 124 of which have planning approval and are seeking to secure support from the Renewables Obligation.

The UK government's new solar strategy aims to build 20GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity by the end of the decade.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker says that the focus should be placed on the development of rooftop and mid-sized ground mounted installations instead of large solar farms.

The same shift in focus is occurring in the US. Commercial building mount applications, smaller than 100 kilowatts, are expected to grow by 40% year over year, according to NPD Solarbuzz findings. Further, large-scale commercial projects are expected to jump by almost 70% during the same period. These projections are double and triple, respectively, the growth rate of ground-mounted systems, which have conventionally been the biggest segment in the industry. [Read Engerati:US Commercial-Scale Solar Market Set for Huge Growth.]

The shift is occurring because state incentive policies are more supportive of distributed generation and installers are finding it is easier to find potential customers for these systems rather than the larger centralized installations that ground-mounted systems tend to encompass.

Large-scale solar farms are big contributors

Despite this change in strategy, Finlay Colville, vice-president at NPD Solarbuzz, believes that large scale projects will continue to play a major role in achieving the 20GW goal by 2020. According to the new figures, of the 325 solar farms installed already in the UK, 60 of them are larger than 10MW in capacity.

Mr Colville expands: "While reaching the long-term goal is expected to involve a blend of rooftop and ground-mounted systems, solar PV farms above 10MW will provide the dominant contribution in 2014.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has said it would like to quadruple the solar farm capacity in the UK to 10GW by the end of this decade, up from around 2.5GW currently. This clearly suggests that the association also wants to see solar farm projects continue to grow.

Says Mr Colville: "With the UK projected to be the largest solar PV market in Europe in 2014, global component suppliers and project developers need to quickly understand the dynamics of the UK solar PV industry. Aligning with suitable partners and choosing the most attractive PV projects in the pipeline will ultimately determine the winners and losers over the next 12 months."