A huge expansion of solar farms across Britain this year could propel the UK into pole position in the European market, new figures have revealed.
Analysts NPD Solarbuzz yesterday released new data, showing that 124 large-scale solar farms have recently received the green light from planners in the UK, many of which are targeting completion in the next 12 months. As a result, the UK is set to become the fastest growing solar market in Europe, outstripping more mature markets such as Germany and Italy.
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The government's new solar strategy aims to build 20GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity by the end of the decade. However, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has said he would like this to be achieved mainly through installing rooftop and mid-sized ground mounted schemes, indicating that the focus for the industry should shift away from large solar farms.
However, Finlay Colville, vice-president at NPD Solarbuzz, said large scale projects were still likely to play a crucial 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.
"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," he said.
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, suggesting it too wants to see a continued role for solar farm projects.
However, with planners increasingly aware of the need for projects to be sensitively placed, it is now urging developers to consider how they could turn solar farms into biodiversity hotspots.Solarbuzz large scale solar PV pipelineThe new figures reveal 444 large scale solar farms currently in development in the UK, 124 of which have planning approval and are seeking to secure support from the Renewables Obligation before it is reduced in April 2015.
"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," added Colville. "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."