The in-house research team at Solar Media remains the only market research organisation to be tracking the UK solar market in detail, using a bottom-up audit trail of fully-qualified projects.

During 2018, we stepped out our level of detailed coverage on the post-subsidy UK solar market, and have seen daily adjustments to the project pipeline over the past few months. In fact, just today, there was another new 30-40MW large-scale project captured in the database, well ahead of the planning application being submitted to the relevant local authority.

This article provides the top-line takeaways from our projects database, and places some caution on pipeline phasing and likelihood of build out in the near term: factors that appear lacking in other project pipelines that are too often unqualified and lack qualified timings at the individual project level.

Revealing the current UK post-subsidy pipeline stats

Nobody else is tracking this level of detail. In fact, anyone hitherto accustomed to downloading any ‘free-for-view’ government originated renewables database listings will also be in for a surprise, as these never list the critical post-application build-up prior to full planning application, nor do they uncover fully audit trails on the key stakeholders or build phasing of any projects that end up in the planning portal.

Here are the main facts to know about the UK large-scale ground-mount post-subsidy UK solar pipeline at the start of 2019:

  • The pipeline consists of 197 projects with a combined capacity of 3.343GW
  • Of these, 72 are at the pre-application stage, totalling 1.858GW
  • This leaves a total of 125 projects (1.485GW) that are in the planning portal system as full planning applications or amended/phased versions of earlier submissions
  • Of these 125 projects, 17 (86MW) are pending approval, 12 (197MW) are left over from RO/NIROC activity and will likely be mothballed by us, unless there is any planning movement in the next six months
  • Out of the 125 projects, we have identified the ones that should be considered the top priority for post-subsidy activity. 55 projects (a total of 573MW) are approved/planning-active, which means they are ‘live’. Many are going through conditional approvals or further non-material amendments, or have started site preparation. Therefore, if anyone is citing the real pipeline, perhaps we should be using this number: 573MW.

Actually, when we look across all 197 projects, we end up with a pool of 41 projects (629MW) that we regard 2019-viable. So, if anything, we are getting closer to rounding the active-pipeline to 600MW – and not the multi-GW numbers few believe anyway.

Then we have an upside for 2019: the 45 projects approved that could move forward to construction in 2019 (total 318MW) but as yet, there are no major movements.

Now, let’s look at the project size bands. Five projects are above 50MW in the whole pipeline (683MW), 10 come in at the 49.99MW point, 20 fall in the 30-49MW band (746MW), and 60 in the 10-30MW (1.144GW). The others are in the 250kW to 10MW range, but this is obviously less of a focus in the absence of subsidies.

During the past two months alone, we have added 25 new projects (total of 447MW) to the database, reflecting the strong uptick in project screening that we have seen recently.

Accessing the full list of projects

The above breakdown of stats is what people really need to know when anyone states a project pipeline number that is unqualified. Almost always in the solar industry, unqualified pipelines come from observers not fully cognisant of the local market in question and not possessing any active bottom-up database or projects.

Anyone wishing to access the full list of 197 post-subside large-scale solar farms in the UK today can subscribe to our own UK Large-Scale Solar Farms: The Post-Subsidy Prospect List, by clicking on the hyperlink here. This report is updated daily by our in-house research team and released to subscribers at the end of each month.

2019 is certain to be a year of change for the UK solar industry. For those seeking to benefit (component supply, sub-contracting, pre-build acquisition rights), the key is knowing which projects to focus on and who the key companies are to approach for new business development.

Finlay Colville is among the speakers at next week’s Solar Finance & Investment conference in London, where post-subsidy development and the UK’s solar pipeline will be discussed. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.