It was perhaps to be expected. Announce a mid-term policy review with potentially show-stopping timelines, and there will always be a near-term rush to exploit short-term business options.

Such was the shock of the May 2014 DECC announcement that many greenfield project developers were left with no option but to focus on maximising what they do best – finding new sites for solar farms in the UK, and develop a portfolio that could be pitched to project developers and investors ready to take the gamble on financing and completing projects before it is too late.

The graphic attached pretty much sums up what has been a solar farm screening summer bonanza. But, it does seem, at last, that the focus has shifted to build, not find. Given there is now just five months left under 1.4 ROCs, one could be excused for diverting manpower to the very real issue of site completion and interconnection; or at least starting the process.

Figure 1: New solar farm capacity at the scoping stage (pre-planning public consultation or screening opinion request) reached record levels in the UK during May to July 2014, with the dip in September 2014 overlapping with the real start in build out under 1.4 ROCs. Source: NPD Solarbuzz UK Deal Tracker report, October 2014.

During May, June and July, additions to the NPD Solarbuzz UK Deal Tracker were running at fever pitch. Almost 1.5GW of potential new solar farm sites were being added during each of these months, creating a challenging environment for anyone seeking to acquire or supply to potential opportunities. Knowing which sites to line up in portfolios has never been more difficult.

One can barely imagine then what the tally of HOTs (Heads of Terms) amounted to during this period. It is unlikely we will ever really know the answer to this question.

The big dip appears to have occurred during September 2014. It is no coincidence that September marked the unofficial kick-off in terms of build activity ahead of April 2015. We lost track at NPD Solarbuzz of the discussions we had with suppliers during July and August, where the overwhelming consensus was one of ‘when’ in terms of real action on the ground.

But the big start phase of build has not happened right now. We are still looking at a few sites here and there. This is certainly going to impact where full year deployment gets to, and how much higher we go than the 2GW reached a few days ago. More on this shortly…

Finally, on the application side, there is another story to tell in terms of approvals and rejections. Given the amount of projects that ended up as full applications, it is not that surprising that announcements are coming out now every day on the sites that got approved and rejected.

But the new trend being observed relates to Resubmissions. For several greenfield developers, the modus-operandi now appears to be Resubmission, not Appeal. This is perhaps understandable. Put an appeal in now, and there is no chance of any site build before 31 March 2014. Put in a Resubmission (maybe the only change is scaling back the acreage), and who knows, maybe it gets through second time?

Either way, it could be that the May to July 2014 will never be repeated in the UK – or at the very least, for several years.