This week the Solar Power Portal team headed out across London to take part in the 2012 Ecobuild exhibition, which ran from Tuesday to Thursday at the ExCel Centre. And, after trekking back and forth for three days in a row, we managed to find out how those working in the UK solar industry are getting on in the wake of recent policy alterations and to gauge a feeling for where we are heading in 2012.

In between our live coverage of the show (which hopefully you’ve been able to follow on the brand new version of the website) we took the opportunity to meet with the industry we write about on a daily basis. It was really great to talk to so many of you, and to hear your thoughts on where the UK solar market is headed.

I’m sure those of you who made it to the show are having a well-deserved rest today, yet for those of our readers who can still feel their legs, we’ve put together a quick round-up of the main pieces of news to come out of Ecobuild 2012:

Energy management and monitoring

One of the most prominent themes of this year’s show was energy management, and how to make the most of the renewable energy you are generating. The reason behind this increased interest is most likely a combination of increased energy bills, the introduction of new EPC requirements from April 1 and the upcoming Green Deal.

Many companies were exhibiting energy management products – some which we were familiar with and some we weren’t. 

Alongside its module and mounting product range Azur Solar this year showcased its new Azur Independa battery storage and energy management system. Visiting the Azur stand I had a quick chat with the company to find out that it was also actively looking for reseller partners and dealers in the UK for its new Azur Independa system. The product, which is already available in the German market, allows customers to become almost independent from conventional energy sources and rising prices by storing additional solar energy for use outside of sunlight hours.

The product also manages the energy generated ensuring the customer gets the most from every kilowatt by deciding whether it’s best to use the energy, store it or feed it back to the grid. The Azur Independa will be introduced to UK customers in 2013.

I also caught up with Greenologic, which was exhibiting its IntellyLogic and IntellyPower systems, which help with the management of your energy at home as well as Energeno, which was exhibiting its Wattson Professional, designed to enable installers to provide a value-added maintenance package to customers through a cloud-enabled remote service.

The return of large-scale solar

Many companies were also talking about plans for large-scale solar in 2012 and beyond, with new possibilities under the Renewables Obligation Certification scheme (ROCs). I had a chat with REC Solar, Canadian Solar, Q-Cells and many others who all agreed that if the component prices decline in line with expectations, and energy bills continue to increase, then there will be much opportunity for ground-mount solar.

This marks an exciting time, as there is no size limit under the ROCs, and rumours of 30MW or even 40MW parks are beginning to emerge.

Inverter updates

And, with the large-scale ground mount solar market expected to pick up this year under the Renewables Obligation, Power-One has launched a 1.5MW utility grade liquid-cooled ULTRA production inverter.
The AURORA ULTRA offers power conversion efficiencies of up to 98.7 percent over a wide input voltage range. Four high-speed MPPT channels optimise energy harvesting across a wide array of operating conditions. The new system also features an IP65 enclosure with passive liquid cooling, which allows segregating the active parts of the unit in a watertight and pollution-free chamber, further improving the system long-term immunity against aggressive agents in the harshest environments. This also extends the maintenance cycle and reduces the costs of maintenance.

The company was also exhibiting its smaller inverters, from 250-watt micro-inverters and mid-sized string inverters right through to the megawatt plus version.

Enecsys was also exhibiting its range of micro-inverters, firmly committing to the UK solar market, while Fronius launched its Energy Management Relay.

MCS 012

Since the number of solar installations has gone through the roof in the UK, there has been an increased number of roofing issues including cracks and leaks. The problem has been closely associated with solar PV mounting fixings leading to the introduction of MCS 012, which adds additional requirements for MCS-certified solar PV (and solar thermal) systems, in particular their mounting kits.  

Among its other offerings, Redland this week launched its new fixing hook for solar photovoltaic panels, which is compliant with DECC’s new MCS 012 guidelines.

The additional MCS 012 requirements relate specifically to weatherproofing and security against wind uplift as well as external fire resistance.

In other news

Overall, the atmosphere at Ecobuild 2012 was far more positive than the year before. In 2011 the large-scale feed-in tariff cuts were on the horizon and many were wondering whether they would still be working in the UK come this year. Yet, now that the feed-in tariff fiasco has reached a conclusion many are looking forward to working in the UK solar industry in 2012, especially now there is opportunity under the Renewables Obligation.

Of course the above is only a selection of what occurred at this year’s Ecobuild exhibition, and in the coming weeks we’ll be publishing a series of announcements uncovered at the show.

If you’ve got something you would like to share with us please email it through to [email protected]