UK solar industry installs massive 1.1GW in first quarter of 2014

The UK solar PV industry has just completed a record-busting quarter, by some margin, having installed 1085MW during the three-month period from 1 January to 31 March 2014.

In fact, new PV installed in the UK has come to life from 1 October 2013, after the uncertainty brought about by the anti-dumping case was brought to a conclusion. Since then, the ground-mount segment has sky-rocketed.

But for the time being, the numbers and projects tell the story. So let’s talk through what’s happened at the project level. Five graphics are shown in this blog, with the graphics obtained from the latest information in the NPD Solarbuzz UK Deal Tracker that now contains details on over 1,160 projects in the UK above 250kW in size.

In the six-month period (covering Q4 2013 and Q1 2014), the UK added 1.54GW of new solar PV capacity (covering all segments including residential, commercial rooftops and ground-mount).

Figure 1 shows how dominant the ground-mount segment has become in the last six months. Almost 80% of PV capacity was installed on the ground, providing supporting data for the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s push to open up the (commercial) rooftop segment (more on this at the end of this blog).

UK solar industry installs massive 1.1 GW in first quarter of 2014 Figure 1

Figure 1: In the six months to 31 March 2014, the UK installed 1.54GW, dominated by the ground-mount segment.

The breakdown of the 1.2GW of ground-mount solar (above 250kW in size) over the past six months is shown in Figure 2. There were 131 projects installed during Q4 2013 and Q1 2014, with 50 projects above 10MW: another confirmation of just how much economy-of-scale under ROCs has benefited the industry, and how the 5MW/FiT days seem like another world.

UK solar industry installs massive 1.1 GW in first quarter of 2014 Figure 2

Figure 2: Over 130 large-scale (>250kW) ground-mounted projects were completed during Q4’13 and Q1’14, with an increasing trend to system sizes above 10MW.

Projects in the 20-50MW range accounted for 22% of all ground-mount capacity. In fact, almost 70% of the ground-mount capacity in the six-month period came from projects above 10MW in size. See Figure 3.

UK solar industry installs massive 1.1 GW in first quarter of 2014 Figure 3

Figure 3: Almost 70% of large-scale ground-mount capacity during Q3’13 and Q4’14 was provided by PV projects above 10MW in size, reflecting the economy-of-scale benefits under the ROC scheme.

Figure 4 now shows the split of the 1.2GW ground-mount PV of the past six months. The South West remains the largest region (37% of new capacity), but the East of England accounted for about 26%. While there remains talk of moving to the north, it is clear to see that it is very much more of the same for the time being, in terms of the north-south divide in the UK.

UK solar industry installs massive 1.1 GW in first quarter of 2014 Figure 4

Figure 4: The south of England, covered by the South East and South West regions, accounted for 57% of new large-scale ground-mount capacity in the six-months to 31 March 2014.

As of 31 March 2014, the UK now has 4.46GW of cumulative PV installed. In terms of capacity, there is now 47% installed on the ground, with just under half coming from the residential and small rooftop (<100kW) segments. The cumulative UK solar pie chart is shown in Figure 5, clearly showing the opportunity still lurking from the large rooftop segment.

UK solar industry installs massive 1.1 GW in first quarter of 2014 Figure 5

Figure 5: The UK has now installed 4.46GW of solar PV capacity, at 31 March 2014, with the ground-mount segment soon to become the largest contributor.

With the future of onshore wind looking increasingly at risk, a new Solar Strategy released from DECC, a likely reduction in Chinese module pricing in Europe, and a whopping project pipeline growing under 1.4 ROCs, it begs the question: can it get any better for the UK solar PV industry?