The future’s looking up for PV

Steve Pester, BRE, focuses on the newly-published Solar Strategy and why its drive towards large roof mounted systems is a sound one

Commercial rooftops are where the solar industry is now headed. That’s not to say that the domestic market will not continue to improve, but the new strategy document from DECC makes it clear where the government sees the next big push – medium to large scale systems on commercial and industrial buildings.

It is surprising that this large market has not already been tapped – there an estimated 0.25 million hectares of south facing commercial roof space in the UK. But issues of landlord-tenant contracts, non-portability of PV systems under the FiT, building design life, mechanical loading of roofs and of course that old chestnut, planning delays, have all played their part in holding the sector back.

But it makes complete sense to overcome these barriers because:

  • There are no issues with land use – commercial & industrial building roofs are not normally used for anything except keeping the rain out
  • The appearance of most buildings in this sector will not be greatly affected by the addition of PV
  • The peaks in energy supply and demand are matched in time, thus the on-site use will be high
  • High on-site use means lower electricity bills for the occupants and less peaky demand profiles for the national grid to deal with
  • With the addition of physical mechanisms to cap the export of power, it may be possible to avoid local upgrades to the grid infrastructure

Via the new strategy document, the government has announced many specific measures aimed at removing these barriers and allowing the commercial roofs market to blossom.

The BRE National Solar Centre has been privileged to be a partner in the writing of the strategy because of our ability to supply robust information to the industry and to government, for example:

  • We are collaborating with the Met Office to improve solar irradiance forecasting
  • Launched a Biodiversity Guide for solar developers at Kew Gardens on 28 April
  • We have already published a planning requirements guide for large scale solar farms
  • and we have supplied a study to DECC on jobs and growth in the UK solar sector

Whereas many countries in Europe are struggling, it is clear that the UK is now pushing ahead on solar.