The state of play

Steve Pester, BRE, appraises the health of the solar sector a year on from the much-heralded publication of the Solar Strategy

In April 2014, the government published the second part of its Solar Strategy, which aimed to shift the emphasis from large ground mounted installations (which have sometimes been a subject of concern due to siting) but to encourage a breaking down of barriers for the non-domestic rooftop sector. This sector consists of not merely commercial roofs, but also public buildings. For example, figures from BRE indicate that there are approximately 10 million square meters’ of roof space available on National Health Service properties alone.

The proposed policy changes include allowing non-domestic system owners to take their PV system with them if they move premises and a relaxation of planning consent for roof-mounted systems up to 1MW. However, even before these changes take effect, exemplar systems are starting to appear up and down the country. For example, at Ecobuild this year Marks & Spencer and Jaguar-Land Rover presented impressive roof-top systems on their own premises, each in the region of 6MW.

The government too is setting an example with its pledge to install 1GW of PV on its own estate, starting around now. The BRE National Solar Centre  has been working with the Institute of Engineering Technology to produce a new Code of Practice (CoP) for installers. To be published April/May, this guide is aimed at raising the quality of installations. It is to be applied to the government estate projects and is likely to start being specified for larger installations in general.

The domestic sector continues with strong growth at an estimated 3000 installations per week. With this level of activity, maintaining high standards of design and workmanship is critical to the success of solar in the UK, so the CoP will be applicable to all scales of PV. The NSC will be offering training on the CoP starting this summer.