Lightsource Renewable Energy has announced the connection of 23 new sites in December, totaling more than 100MW of new capacity. This is a solid performance for expanding the renewable energy infrastructure.
Of the 23 solar farms, 14 were connected via the feed-in tariff (FIT), which is due to be drastically scaled back in February, while the remaining nine solar farms were eligible for the Renewable Obligations Certificate (ROC), which will end on March 31.
About this performance mark, Lightsource CEO Nick Boyle said, “Despite the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the industry in recent months, we’ve seen a great many successes in 2015 and this latest round of connections is a great way for us to end the year.”
In response to recent government changes to the solar subsidy mechanism, Lightsource intends to install and connect its first non-subsidy sites in 2016.
According to company press information, “The Lightsource private-wire Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) will see large-scale solar sites “hard-wired” directly into large electricity users – comfortably beating the retail price that they are paying for electricity.” Boyle said: “Whilst we are still taking stock of the recent government announcements concerning solar subsidies, we have big plans for 2016 and expect it to be another busy year.”
He added that the UK solar industry has made significant strides in adapting to a non-subsidy business environment. “During the FiT and ROC regimes, we have worked hard to drive down costs and built a solid base of knowledge and expertise, which has prepared us for developing our first large-scale sites free of government support. However, it’s a great shame that the cuts to FIT will mean that domestic and commercial & industrial rooftop solar will not be able to enjoy the same success.”
Boyle’s words may seem like a melancholy plea for the “good-old times.” Critics, however, have long argued against developing a business model based on government support. Lightsource’s December performance may well spell an end to the strong growth of the UK solar industry and a clear call for new beginnings.
More Lightsource work ahead
Lightsource has confirmed plans to soon connect 14 additional ground-mounted solar farms, adding a further 92 MW of solar PV capacity to the U.K. grid. This work is anticipated prior to changes in subsidy policy take place. Once completed, Lightsource’s total U.K. solar portfolio will stand at 1.3 GW.
Following the April 1st date, Lightsource will install its first non-subsidy solar farms in 2016 using the private-wire PPA. This work involves that will large-scale solar sites “hard-wired” directly into large electricity users. Lightsource executives believe this merchant power mechanism will enable the company to distribute solar electricity directly from the site at a retail price below current electricity rates.
Uncertainties remain, however, over how the UK solar industry will perform in 2016.
A report released by EnAppSys revealed that solar PV electricity generation in the UK has surpassed hydropower for the first time ever, adding 7.1 TWh of electricity to the national grid in 2015. This amount is above official government projections for solar, which had calculated that such levels would not be reached until 2020, at the earliest.
Glenn Meyers is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers is editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.