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Permitted Development Threshold Raised For Commercial Rooftop Solar Installations

We have been saying for quite some time that, in order to help the UK meet its renewable energy and carbon emission targets by the year 2020, the number of commercial solar panel installations will need to be encouraged. We have reported on a number of occasions about some major companies that have had solar panels installed on top of some of their business premises including the likes of Sainsbury’s – the supermarket chain.

will more and more businesses now install solar panels on their roofs?

Are we now going to see an increasing number of solar panels being installed on the roofs of business properties?

We are pleased to inform you that, late last month, it was announced that the permitted development threshold in respect of installing solar photovoltaic panels on commercial premises had been increased from 50kW to 1MW. Very roughly, the later figure would equate to an area that could cover the roof of a big warehouse. This means that, in many instances, such sizeable installations will not require planning consent.

Therefore, this will no doubt encourage an increasing number of business owners to further investigate solar panel technology as a way of reducing their energy bills. Not only will this be good news for them but there will also be a benefit to the environment as we see CO2 emissions reduce even further in the coming years. It may even mean that, for those businesses that are able to save funds, those monies could be used to further improve the business in some way. For instance, some companies may be able to take on more staff or increase stock levels to further improve their order books.

We are sure that you will agree that the above is great news for the solar power industry. Some people are quick to level criticism at the government in this country but the above is a good move on their part. Who knows, it may result in more jobs for people looking to work within the solar panel industry.

We will continue to keep you up to date with any new, interesting things within the industry.

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Government Forecasts Increase In Solar Power Capacity

Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, has forecast that solar power could be used to produce as much as not far off 4% of the electricity here in the UK by 2020. That is around 14GW of capacity with this being a considerable increase on where we were by the end of last year – 5GW.

So that the UK meets its renewable energy target it really does need large solar farms to be c onstructed

Solar farms have been making a large contribution towards the amount of solar capacity being taken up here in the UK – Image credit: Michael Mees.

A reason for the government making this prediction is that the price of solar panels has reduced significantly in recent years. However, it should be borne in mind that there has been a huge increase in the solar capacity in the first quarter of this year that may have been due to the fact that many commercial customers have been keen to purchase solar panels as subsidies are being withdrawn on solar farms above 5MW capacity as at 31st March 2015.

Therefore, it will be interesting to see what happens during the remainder of this year following the removal of these subsidies. For instance, are we going to see a major reduction in the number of solar panels being installed? Yes, subsidies for the installation of residential solar panel systems will still continue but solar farms have been making a significant contribution to increasing the overall capacity being taken up in the UK.

It will be interesting to look back in years to come and judge whether it would have been better for the government to have continued to provide subsidies to such solar farms for some time to come. After all, the government is keen to ensure that the UK achieves its renewable energy targets and carbon emission targets by 2020. It is no doubt extremely confident that these targets can still be attained even by making such a change. We shall have to wait and see.

As always, we would very much welcome the thoughts of our readers.

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UK’s Largest Solar Farm Connected

It was only back in January that we informed our readers that the largest solar farm in the UK had been built in Oxfordshire and it was known as Landmead. That had a capacity of about 45MW.

If the UK is to meet its renewable energy targets by 2020, solar farms have a big part to play

Large solar farms have an important part to play in the UK meeting its renewable energy targets.

Well, we can inform you that another solar farm has recently gone live in the UK that has an even bigger capacity. It is the Southwick Estate Solar Farm that is located near Fareham in Hampshire. This solar farm has a capacity of 48MW making it slightly bigger than Landmead. The project has been completed by Primrose Solar with the construction work being done by Solarcentury and is capable of providing enough renewable electricity to power around 14,500 average sized residential properties here in the UK.

The solar farm is surrounded by lots of hedgerows and woodland and it even has a public footpath going over it. There will be sheep allowed onto the site to graze between the ground-mounted solar panels.

There is no doubt that solar farms of this size will help this country achieve its renewable energy and carbon emission targets by 2020. We cannot just rely on hitting these targets from people having solar photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs of their homes. It will require a concerted effort by all parties.

There has been and continues to be a number of objections to solar farms but surely if they are constructed taking into account the environment and the opinions of local people the potential benefits should hopefully outweigh the pitfalls. There are a number of large solar farms now in the UK and we will presumably get to hear about a number of other projects as they come through to fruition.

We will continue to make our readers aware of such solar panel schemes as and when we hear about them. However, do feel free to let us know about any that come to your attention and we will endeavor to write about them.

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Could Solar Panels Be Installed Alongside Railway Lines?

If you travel by train either on a regular basis or to make the occasional journey and look out of the window you cannot fail to notice that there is quite a bit of space along the side of the tracks. Could some of this space be used to install solar arrays on it?

A report has been produced in which an idea has been put forward suggesting that solar arrays could be installed alongside cetain stretches of the railway lines in the UK

Is it possible that, in the next few years, we could see solar panels being installed alongside certain stretches of the railway line network in this country?

In a report by consultancy firm WSP it has been suggested just that. One benefit is that it could save Network Rail a significant sum of money – many millions of pounds each year. The electricity that these solar panels produce could be used by Network Rail with any spare power being made available elsewhere.

It has been estimated that around half of the available space could be used to install solar arrays in strategic locations along the trackside producing about 2.44 gigawatt of capacity. That is a huge amount.

Of course, there would be a huge cost in installing these panels. It has been estimated in the region of £2.9 billion. Network Rail could not fund all of this but there may be private investors who could help.

The above seems an interesting idea but not one without its challenges. It would, as already stated, involve a huge capital outlay and could no doubt be many years before this cost is covered by the potential savings/income generated. It would no doubt provide jobs for many people involved in the solar photovoltaic panel industry and that has to be a positive factor.

It should also result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions that the UK is looking to achieve over the years to come. The solar panels would not be located on the likes of green belt land so, presumably, there would be no objections in that respect.

It will be interesting to see if there are any developments in respect of the above and we will keep you updated.

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Apple Involved In Huge Solar Farm

Apple Inc is a large corporation based in California in the USA that is involved in designing and selling computer equipment. It is the Mac computer and the mobile phone known as the iPhone that the company are most well known for.

Apple that makes Macs and iPhone's is involved in a solar project in California

Apple that is well known for designing and building computers is involved in a huge solar farm project in California

Anyway, the company has announced that it is to use solar energy from a huge solar farm that has yet to be built for its buildings in California. The farm is to be called the California Flats Solar Project and will cover 2,900 acres with Apple utilising 1,300 acres of this. This is being done in partnership with First Solar that is a large business involved in the solar photovoltaic industry having been involved in the installation of in excess of 10 gigawatts of solar power.

Apparently, solar energy will be used to provide the power for Apple’s office complexes on site as well as a datacentre that it has in California. It will also provide power for 53 shops along with the Apple Campus 2 site that is presently being built.

Construction work is expected to start around the middle of this year and should be finished about 18 months after that so this really is a large project. Apple has a 25-year agreement to buy and use 130 megawatts of capacity costing around $850 million. This level of capacity would be enough to power around 60,000 homes. Apple already has a number of other solar plants with all its datacentres being powered by renewable energy.

This is excellent news for the solar panel industry globally and will go some way towards helping renewable energy and carbon emissions targets being met. Let us hope that there are other similar projects being announced by other companies either here in the UK, in Europe and the rest of the world in the coming months.

As always, we welcome your comments.

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Solar Capacity Increases Significantly

It is always pleasing to report good news. Figures produced in the last few days by the Department of Energy and Climate Change do make for good reading.

solar capacity in the uk grew significantly in 2014 in comparison to 2013

The solar panel industry increased solar capacity significantly in the UK in 2014

For any of you working within the solar industry and, indeed, for many that do not you will be pleased to hear that as at the end of 2014 solar capacity had just about reached 5GW in the UK. What is pleasing is that this figure has increased significantly from the position as at the end of 2013 when solar capacity stood at 2.8GW.

There are now in the region of 650,000 solar panel installations in the UK. That includes the likes of solar panels on the roofs of homes, ground mounted solar panels in peoples’ back-gardens, solar panels on commercial buildings and solar farms. It just goes to show that, working together, what can be achieved.

Another interesting statistic is that it has been estimated that the solar panels already installed in this country have the capacity to provide power to in the region of 1,500,000 homes in this country. Yes, there may still be a long way to go but progress would appear to being made.

It is estimated that, potentially, the solar industry could be employing as many as 50,000 people by 2030 and that, by 2020, electricity produced by solar energy could be competing with the gas industry.

We have been saying for quite some time that by everybody within the solar industry pulling together in the same direction here in the UK we will have the greatest opportunity of achieving our renewable energy and carbon emission targets by 2020. There can be no doubt that the solar panel industry is here to stay and will continue to be a major source of green energy.

As always, we would very much welcome the thoughts of our readers so feel free to leave your comments.

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Ealing Council To Install Solar Panels On More Properties

Councils around the UK are most supportive of solar panelling when it comes to installing them on many of their own office buildings and also on council homes occupied by their tenants. Such action will go a long way in helping carbon emission targets being achieved in the coming years.

Ealing Council are spending £1 million on adding solar panels to more of their council houses

Ealing Council are to install solar panels on more of their housing stock

Therefore, it is pleasing to hear that Ealing Council is continuing to add solar panels to more of its council housing stock in the locality. Apparently, they are investing an additional £1 million to do this. It will involve the installation of a further 240 solar photovoltaic panels and this will no doubt reduce the energy bills of those tenants living in the properties. This is a welcome benefit to those involved especially in the current economic climate.

By the time the installation work is completed there will be almost 600 homes in the London Borough of Ealing that will have solar panels fitted. The council estimate that the feed-in-tariff scheme and the clean energy cashback scheme will help the council recover the cost of installing the panels over a period of ten years. After that, it is expected that further money will be raised for as much as another 10 years that can be used to improve council properties.

The council are to be commended for further increasing their housing stock that will have solar panels fitted. It is expected that work will commence on this project around 1 March 2015. The residents that are chosen to receive these panels will no doubt be pleased to benefit from them.

Let us hope that councils around the country continue to add solar panels to many of their properties. As many organisations, businesses and residents as possible need to install them to help in the UK’s renewable energy program. Feel free to let us know about any interesting schemes that are or have taken place so that we can consider publishing them.

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Largest UK Solar Farm Built

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we reported on the largest solar farm being built in the world in the USA. Now we have heard of the biggest solar farm being completed here in the UK and being connected to the National Grid.

In order for the UK to meet its renewable energy and carbon emission targets many solar farms will need to be constructed

Solar farms should help the UK achieve its renewable energy target – Image credit: Michael Mees.

The solar farm is called Landmead and is located in the Oxfordshire countryside at Landmead Farm, East Hanney that is close to Abingdon. It has been developed jointly between First Solar and Belectric UK.

The 483,000 solar panels cover an extensive area of around 80 hectare. Its capacity is about 45MW and it is capable of providing sufficient power for around 14,000 domestic properties so this should go some way towards helping the UK achieve its renewable energy targets. In fact, it is estimated that in the region of 20 million kilograms of CO2 emissions will be removed from the atmosphere each year.

The ground-mounted solar panels have been constructed on grade 3 agricultural land that, apparently, is not suited for growing crops on it. The land is presently used for grazing sheep and the great thing is that the sheep will continue to carry on doing this.

Another benefit is that as the solar panels are no more than 2.2 metres high any cars driving past the solar farm will not even notice the solar panels as they are hidden behind hedges. Wildflowers are also to be planted on the site.

Back in December 2014, Foresight Solar Fund entered into a binding agreement to acquire the Landmead solar farm.

Landmead’s claim to fame could be somewhat short-lived as an even bigger solar farm is expected to be built this year in Norfolk. It is expected to have a capacity of around 49.9MW.

It will be interesting to monitor the possible development of future soar farms as there has been some opposition last year to their construction. Roof-mounted solar panels seem to be the favoured choice these days.

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Largest Solar Farm In The World Operational

It probably does not come as a surprise to you to read that the largest solar panel farm in the world is in the USA. However, what may stagger you is to hear just how big this new plant is.

The USA has built the largest solar farm in the world

Topaz Solar Farm

Located in the Carrizo Plain in California, it covers an area of around 9.5 square miles and is known as the Topaz Solar Farm. There are 9 million solar panels covering this huge expanse with a huge capacity of 550 megawatts. This level of capacity would produce enough power for about 160,000 homes. It is forecast that around 377,000 tonnes of carbon emissions will be removed from the atmosphere every year. The ground mounted solar panels only stand about 5 and a half feet of the surface of the land on which they have been placed.

Work started on building the solar farm back in 2011 and has cost in the region of £1.5 billion to build. It was not due to be completed until next year so it is pleasing to see that the work has been done ahead of schedule.

California has a target to have 33% of their electricity produced by renewable energy sources by 2020 so this new solar photovoltaic panel farm will go some way towards the state achieving that target.

However, this farm may not remain the largest for long as, in 2015, another one in the USA is due to be completed. It too is in California and is SunPower’s Solar Star with a capacity of 579 megawatts.

This just goes to show what can be achieved by countries around the world with regard to reducing carbon emissions and producing renewable energy. Let us hope that we continue to see similar projects on our planet as they can only prove beneficial.

As always, we welcome your views so do feel free to leave your comments.

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Will We See “Spray On Solar Panels” In The Future?

Over the years, we have witnessed solar panels appearing on the top of roofs around the world where they are usually ideally placed to capture the rays of the sun to achieve maximum benefit. They can also be spotted in peoples’ gardens where they are ground mounted.

scientists are researching about "spray on solar panels"

Are we likely to see “spray on solar panels”?

You can even find solar arrays in patches of countryside in various parts of the UK and we have also reported on one being constructed on a reservoir. In the main, solar photovoltaic panels are of a rigid construction. Some time ago, we also commented about an Australian building being constructed with tiles that incorporated solar panels in them.

However, this may be changing as scientists at the University of Toronto are researching the use of spraying solar cells onto surfaces that are flexible by utilizing very small light sensitive materials that are called colloidal quantum dots (CQDs). In due course, these scientists would love to see the spraying of solar cells onto your roof.

They could also be sprayed onto so many different things such as on the roof of a car to power some light bulbs. It is believed that this system would not result in any significant loss in the efficiency of these solar cells. Obviously, it would be necessary to work out how to further develop this process to make it marketable to the public.

It will be interesting to monitor how this research progresses in the coming months/years and also to find out how much a solar panel system like this costs in comparison to the traditional solar photovoltaic system.

We would welcome the views of all of you reading this post. What do you think about the above research? Do you think it possible that it could be developed to a point where it can be manufactured and go on sale to the general public?

We look forward to hearing from you.

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