The UK is expected to remain the largest solar PV growth market in Europe through 2016, despite the end of the ROC system in April this year, which fuelled a utility-scale ground mount rush over the last year, pushing the UK to exceed 2GW installed in 2014. 

Remarkably, the UK exceeded the 2014 figure in the first quarter of 2015 as the rush to complete projects ahead of the ROC system ending created a “gold rush,” according to Ray Noble, photovoltaic specialist at the UK’s Renewable Energy Association talking at the sold out Solar Media ‘Doing Solar Business UK’ event in Munich, ahead of the start of Intersolar Europe exhibition. 

However, the end of the ROC system for large-scale PV, replaced by more government controlled ‘CFD’ (Contract for Difference) auction style deployments is not the end of the market. 

“There is no shortage of opportunities,” said Finlay Colville, Head of Market Intelligence, Solar Media. “Despite the first CFD round being a waste of time and completely irrelevant, during the ROC boom.” 

According to Colville, so much ground mount PV was built in the first quarter of 2015 that the “grace” period for projects under the ROC system indicated around a further 45 to 50 projects were at various stages of development and could, dependent on planning approvals etc… be built in 2015. 

Yet the surprise from the former VP of Solarbuzz was the estimate that 700 to 800 sites were under scoping and screening by project developers after the first quarter of this year. 

“The amount of opportunities in the sub-five megawatt RO is incredible,” added Colville.

Although the newly elected UK government has reiterated support for PV it wants to shift installations back to the commercial and residential rooftop space. 

But an expert panel at the Doing Solar Business UK’ event as well as several speakers during the sessions had highlighted the difficulties in developing the commercial rooftop market, especially on the finance side. 

“The rooftop [market] is embarrassingly low,” noted Jerry Hamilton Energy Solutions Director, Rexel UK. “Commercial rooftop will be a smarter market on system design and product quality selection.”

However, grid capacity issues in the UK could continue to be a concern for all types of projects. 

Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of Lark Energy with over 350MW of projects in the UK built or under development believed that working closely with the DNO’s to provide solutions was still key to grid and grid connection issues, which also included the opportunity for energy storage, something Lark Energy had included in particular project. 

Although several speakers highlighted that the UK government and DECC agency were not appreciating the challenges to the sector in switching business models from ground mount to rooftop, it was clear that PV has become a ‘game changer’ in the country and cumulative installations could top 11GW by March 2016.