A bright idea

Steve Pester
In his regular column, Steve Pester asks, so what’s this new National Solar Centre?

Given the rapid expansion of the market brought about by the initial feed-in tariff rates, it’s no surprise that the quality of PV installations out there is pretty variable. In the non-domestic sector, there are not even any quality standards in place (above 50kW). However, the situation is still evolving and, we think, by and large, improving.

A key initiative to help raise standards and drive down costs is the setting up of the BRE National Solar Centre (NSC) – a joint initiative by BRE and Cornwall Council, launched by energy minister Greg Barker in London on 16 Jan, and due to open its doors in April this year. The NSC is to be a centre of solar excellence, based in Cornwall but acting nationally, providing trusted and independent information for the solar and construction industries and other interested parties. Its remit is to conduct research, analysis, testing, due diligence for projects and training, thereby assisting the uptake of solar energy in the UK. It will focus initially on solar PV.

One of the NSC’s first jobs will be to write a code of practice for larger PV installations, in conjunction with some of the centre’s supporters. Another of its functions is to collect data from PV installations across the UK and to analyse this to produce reliable performance figures, coupled with location and installation details, in order to inform industry and investors.

With the feed-in tariff rates now reduced to a sustainable level, factors of innovation, quality, longevity of systems, training and due diligence are beginning again to be seen as more significant than the race for fast profits.

The NSC will be funded partly by the European Regional Development Fund, but also needs match funding from interested parties in order to be effective at supporting the UK industry. Further details on the NSC can be found at www.bre.co.uk/nsc .