Large scale commecial photovoltaics farms and the feed in tariff scheme

There has been much discussion recently about the feed in tariff system of supporting renewable energy in the UK. For those who aren't aware, feed in tariffs are a way of supporting renewable energy in the UK. They are used to support a wide variety of technologies, but on a smaller scale than those projects which are supported by ROCs. When installing new renewable energy equipment which qualifies for feed in tariffs (FiTs) there is a guarantee of a fixed price per unit of electricity for 20 years, which is above the market price of electricity. One technology covered by FiTs is solar energy, and the FiTs for solar photovoltaics (PV) are massively above the market price of electricity. A limit was put on the size of such schemes which can qualify for this assistance at 5MW.

The level of the FiTs has proven to be a good investment. So much so that companies will pay to install solar panels on the roofs of householders and businesses. However, many companies have realised that the FiTs are set at a good level, and as a result hundreds, if not thousands, of PV plants are planned for the UK, in particular the south, most at or near 5MW. This has driven concerns that the pot of money will quickly be depleted, preventing home owners from benefiting. Furthermore, there are issues over tax payers supporting private companies from the UK and abroad to make profits in times of national belt tightening and so there are rumours that the government may change the FiT scheme to prevent such solar 'farms'.

The problem with preventing solar farms taking part in the FiT scheme is it will most likely vastly reduce the UK PV market. This has two main issues. Firstly there are issues surrounding less electricity coming from renewable energy which impacts on carbon emissions, energy security etc. Secondly, the PV industry is booming in the UK and employing many people, with prospects to employ many more in the future (just look at Germany where now hundreds of thousands work in the solar industry). For all the talk of attracting wind turbine manufacturing to the UK, the largest renewable energy factory in the UK is Sharp's solar PV plant in Wrexham, Wales which employs 900 and has announced plans to grow by a further 300 due to increased demand for solar PV. Of course, there are jobs in the manufacturing of the product, but there are also many jobs in the development, construction and operation phases of projects.

So what do I think should be done about this little issue the government has got itself in to. Well, you can probably tell I am a fan of renewable energy (hence this blog!), but I am also pragmatic enough to realise the country hasn't got unlimited supplies of money. As a result, I would recommend reducing the FiTs offered to large scale solar farms, whilst keeping them constant for other projects. If reduced to the correct level, it will not destroy the solar farm business, but will reduce it so that only the best possible sites are chosen. I have no figures, but my intuition would be that 100 50kW schemes probably result in more employment in the UK than a single 5MW scheme, and so from a purely economic point of view this is where I believe the money should be concentrated. Furthermore, by keeping FiTs constant for domestic properties, this will ensure the scheme continues to have the support of the voters (as well as possibly increasing support for wider renewable energy).

As always I hope you enjoy this article and feel free to comment!

8 comments:

  1. Nuclear Energy

    Every energy source accessible to the human species is created – either directly or indirectly – through nuclear reactions powering the sun and stars. Every atom of our planet – from the fissionable atoms of uranium and plutonium, to the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms of our bodies, comprise the end products of nuclear processes. The numerous chemical, physical and nuclear quanta of energy transiently packaged within coal, oil, gas, wood, food, geothermal, hydrothermal, hydroelectric, wind, wave, electromagnetic, heat, solar, uranium, plutonium, hydrogen, neutrons and protons, are all sourced ultimately from fundamental nuclear reactions occurring deep within the sun and stars. No energy source is renewable in nature, only degradable, degrading inexorably with time as a cascading decay of energy states from protons through to coal. This inescapable degradation is enshrined as physical law: the second law of thermodynamics.

    In common with other stars, the sun steadily releases its nuclear energy as gamma radiation, deep within its central core, and primarily through the proton-proton reaction, the same nuclear reaction that powers the hydrogen bomb. In this simple reaction, four hydrogen nuclei fuse together to make one helium nucleus, releasing in the process 26.73 MeV (or 1.02 x 10^-22 ton oil equivalent) of energy in the form of gamma rays. Streaming out from the sun’s central core at some 10^38 per second, the gamma ray photons are continually absorbed and re-emitted as less energetic photons, eventually reaching the surface of the sun and escaping into surrounding space primarily as photons of visible light, along with sizable amounts of every form of electromagnetic and nuclear radiation.

    It is this lethal flux of radiation that has irradiated the naked Earth for 4.5 billion years now. It is this radiation which powers, supports, initiates and drives (through genetic mutation) the numerous processes of biochemical diversification we call life. It is this radiation which directly and indirectly, creates, supports and controls the so-called biosphere of life-tolerant conditions on Earth, conditions that nourish, support, protect, evolve and eventually extinguish each species of life on this planet.

    Energy is radiation. Radiation is energy. The ultimate source of both is nuclear. It is that simple in nature. Humanity’s only problem comes with the politics of energy, a vastly more complicated and intractable question altogether. A question it seems, which dare not be stated in four hundred words, far less solved.

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  2. We seem to be stuck in a situation where the Government is cutting the feed in tariff due to a drained budget, but home owners feel no incentive to buy solar if the investment opportunity is no longer good enough.

    With the feed in tariff already cut in half, this has seen off many free solar panel companies that were taking full advantage of the payments. However, with the new tariff of 21p it is still possible to make your money back within 6 - 7 years and still receive payments for the next 25 years.

    If you would like to see an actual example of how much a person with a solar system on their roof is earning, visit: http://www.pvsolarenergyuk.co.uk/the-benefits-of-a-photovoltaic-system/customer-generation

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  3. My personal take it is the UK government once again imbalancing the scales to favor massive private enterprise that already has the monopoly on the energy market. The decrease in the feed in tarrifs was only a sign of things to come, now unclean fossil fuel energy is offered by providers at twice the price per unit than that of clean energy fed back into the grid by citizens. A sad day.



    solar pv mid wales

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  4. Blogs are good for every one where we get lots of information for any topics nice job keep it up !!!and Time for finding new energy sources has come indeed.....
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  5. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.solar panels for schools

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