In the wake of the Fast Track Feed-in Tariff Review Nick Pascoe, Founder of Orta Solar explains why there may never be a better time to install a 50kW PV system in the UK.
The cost of a 50kW commercial solar photovoltaics (PV) system in the UK has now reached a price range of £100k to £130k. With the UK feed-in tariff set at 32.9p/kWh generated, I would argue that UK solar PV is currently in a bubble -- one that serves up a golden opportunity for businesses to add solar PV to their property. David Owen’s excellent blog post on the new FiT, prices and the future for solar in the UK: Part 1 only serves to underline this point. In my opinion, it is unlikely that there will ever be a better time to act, so my advice would be: fill ‘yer boots!
A commercial 50kW PV system, taking up the rooftop area approximately the size of two tennis courts and located in the middle of the UK, would typically generate between £13k and £17k in FiT income and energy bill savings annually, generating a profit of approximately £260k over 25 years. Now, when you consider that the FiT income is index-linked to the CPI as well as being Government-backed, as a business case, commercial solar PV is a now a ‘no brainer’. This point is only accentuated as electricity prices escalate.
However, as good as this all sounds, many of us in the commercial solar sector know all too well that the timescale of a client’s decision and action is one of the key threats to the likelihood of projects proceeding at all. This issue became apparent to me when developing large-scale solar parks in the UK as Managing Director of Low Carbon Solar. The eight parks that we built were associated with landowning clients who actually took decisive and prompt action to proceed, therefore cutting through solicitor and agent delays. Yet for every landowner’s project that we brought into fruition before the August 1 FiT deadline I can think of five that are now, in hindsight, bitterly disappointed that their project didn’t make it. Many of these were cancelled purely due to delays in decision and action.
The time is now
To avoid similar disappointment businesses thinking of installing ~50kW solar systems must now act quickly or risk missing out. With less than six months remaining for solar PV systems to become operational and registered on the current FiT rates, there is effectively only two months left for businesses to begin the process of adding new solar to their property portfolio.
It is important to remember that although a survey and PV system design can be done quickly, planning permission typically takes three months and an application to connect the system to the electricity network is generally a two month exercise.
New applications must be in by the end of November 2011 to have realistic chance of being installed in time.
Unfortunately making decisions quickly is not always something that Business Managers are always encouraged to do. However, we at Orta Solar are beginning to see signs that the message of the need for speed is just starting to get through. In fact, one of our clients (a global Facilities Management group) is now vigorously taking the solar message to its Local Council and wider Government sector with the headline. Likewise we are seeing individual barn or rooftop owners decide that now is the time to act -- particularly those farmers in Cornwall that are becoming more expert than the experts in solar PV!
Over the coming weeks we anticipate evaluating and planning hundreds of 50kW business solar PV systems for telecoms, transport, local council and agricultural clients in the race to be installed prior to April 2012, when the effects of the Comprehensive FiT Review will set in.
Nick Pascoe founded www.ortasolar.com with Kate Covill after successfully leading Low Carbon Solar UK Ltd. to become the UK’s largest solar PV developer. Low Carbon Solar successfully delivered 30MW of solar parks at an £80 million investment cost before the feed-in tariff cuts set in. Orta Solar now delivers multi-site 50kW solar PV installations for commercial, agricultural and corporate clients and its solar operations and maintenance division delivers professional services supporting both solar investor portfolios and individual systems owners from 20kW to 5MW+. Previously Nick was a developer of Biomass CHP in Sweden and Head of Energy of Tesco Plc.