National treasure

Steve Pester, BRE, provides an update on The National Solar Centre (NSC) since its opening last April

The NSC has been busy on a number of fronts, as usual.

You may have already read in the media that our outdoor test site is being developed at the Eden Project, near St Austell. The plan is to get the site up and running in the first half of 2014, performing several types of test including:

– long term side-by-side module output tests
– whole system tests, including different types of inverter
– module cleaning studies and
– orientation and tilt tests.

These will be rigorously performed scientific tests and will provide an excellent source of real performance data for the UK climate.

Alongside these very practical activities, the NSC has been helping with government policy by co-chairing the Solar PV Strategy Working Group and producing reports on anti-dumping and base line costings. You may also have noticed the excellent solar road map published by DECC in October, with input from the NSC. This lays out four key principles on which to base support policy for solar projects. Paraphrased, these are:

1) Support will only be given to projects which show value-for-money carbon savings
2) Support should deliver genuine carbon reductions, contributing to the UK’s target of 15 per cent renewable energy from final consumption by 2020
3) Support should ensure that projects are sensitively sited, taking account of landscape, visual impact, heritage and local amenity and any community concerns.
4) Impacts on the grid must be assessed and addressed in any support policies.

These guiding principles should help to secure the future for PV by allaying fears and ensuring the wise use of public money.