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Solar feed-in tariffs

UK to review support for ground-mounted PV

The UK's Energy Secretary Chris Huhne opened a review of solar feed-in tariffs on Monday. The goal is to reduce surcharges for consumers.

In its press release on Monday, the UK's Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) speaks openly of a "solar farm threat." While it calls the feed-in tariffs that took effect in April 2010 "a huge success at stimulating green growth, driving innovation, creating jobs and cutting carbon," there is word that ground-mounted arrays might come under the axe. The review was originally scheduled for 2012, but the Spending Review in 2010 obligated the government to reduce the cost of feed-in tariffs by 10 percent in 2014-15. According to the DECC, the review was moved forward to "provide investment certainty."

Amazingly, Huhne states that "large-scale solar installations weren't anticipated under the FIT scheme that we inherited" even though the tariffs clearly applied to systems up to five megawatts. Investors were certainly aware of the potential of ground-mounted arrays, as I discussed in this article (PDF) from July 2010. It is also noteworthy that Huhne continues to talk about feed-in tariffs as something "we inherited" from Gordon Brown's government, as he did here in September 2010. Systems smaller than 50 kilowatts would reportedly not be affected.

Germany also recently revoked the eligibility of utility-scale, ground-mounted solar arrays on farmland for feed-in tariffs. Supporters of photovoltaics point out that such arrays are the cheapest source of photovoltaic power and provide around 15 times as much energy as biomass from the same plot. (cm)

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