News and views

Steve Pester, BRE, discusses PV-related issues and news

With the recent large price drops of PV modules hitting profit margins for manufacturers, distributors and installers, the small scale PV sector is once again in challenging times. Megawatt scale systems are currently supported by Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), but these are now under review. Whilst the price reductions may be good news for end users, the supply chain has to turn over approximately twice as much business to make the same level of profit compared with a couple of years ago – a difficult (and for some, impossible) task in a regime of reducing feed-in tariffs.

Without wishing to preach to the converted, I think it is worth remembering the advantages of PV over other forms of energy generation; it is deployable in almost any location, avoids transmission losses, generates power without emissions of CO2 or other harmful waste products or pollutants, does not deplete finite natural resources, is silent in operation, has the potential to improve security of supply, is recyclable at end-of-life and the fuel is free and abundant. Is there another energy source that can match that profile? With costs reducing, the widespread deployment of PV will become a reality sometime soon – exactly when that will be depends on the will and ambition of governments. 

Some nuggets of good news:
It was reported recently thatAustraliahas reached grid parity (I assume this applies to the sunnier parts of the continent) – a great step forward and a good market to watch to see how things now develop.

The new MCS PV standard for installers (MIS 3002 issue 3) and its associated installer guide will soon be released (no, this time, I think it really will happen). The long gestation period – over two years – reflects the fact that difficult subjects have been tackled and resolved within the working group. The standard relies heavily upon an updated version of the installer’s guide, which has new sections on calculation methodologies for wind loading and energy yield, earthing and RCD requirements, amongst others. This new guide will make a serious contribution to improving the quality and safety of installations in theUK– good news for the whole industry.

We at BRE are helping to connect the PV industry with mainstream architecture by running our annual Building-Integrated PV conference at the Royal Institute of British Architects, Londonon 17October – come and find out about leading edge PV-integrated building components! Details at: www.bre.co.uk/bipv3  .