Sharp Solar today officially announced the opening of its new Renewable Energy Academy in Wrexham, launched to reach out to building and home maintenance professionals across the UK. The Academy aims to train those interested in entering into the solar panel installation market, which is expected to be worth £500 million a year by 2015.

The module manufacturer, which recently expanded its production lines and announced 300 new jobs at its factory located in Wrexham, is the first solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer to integrate its training academy with its production facilities. Sharp expects that the factory will train 25 to 50 people a month, giving electricians, roofers, building contractors and heating engineers the chance to change career and move into the renewable energy sector.

Speaking at the launch of Mr. Igarashi, CEO at Sharp Manufacturing UK said:  “We’re experiencing an exponential rise in UK solar installations, so to meet that demand we’re looking for the UK’s top tradespeople to sign-up for the Sharp Renewable Energy Academy.  Here they can learn comprehensive, high-quality solar installation skills and gain a valuable advantage over other installers in the growing renewable energy industry.” 

Sharp recently commissioned research into UK homeowners’ views of solar PV, the results of which showed that 56% of homeowners would install solar panels on their home, while only 86% would only trust an accredited installer to do the job. Surprisingly, the research found that 62% were aware of the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme, with 48% more likely to install solar as a result of the incentive. These numbers mirror Sharp’s increased UK sales, as well as the demand for qualified installers, leading the manufacturer to opening the Academy.

UK Member of Parliament for Wrexham and Shadow Business Minister, Ian Lucas MP said: “I am delighted to be here at the launch of the Sharp Renewable Energy Academy. In Wrexham, we are very proud to be the hub of Sharp’s European solar production. The opening of the Academy, following the recent announcement of the doubling of the plant’s capacity, is tremendous news. Wrexham is the base for cutting-edge innovation and skills and we are grateful for Sharp’s continuing investment in our town and people.”

The Academy offers a range of training courses from a one day awareness course to a full five day solar PV installation training programme. The courses include both classroom discussion and hands-on installation experience on simulated rooftops located both inside the Academy worktop and outside the factory. As well as receiving step-by-step tutoring, the Academy also provides relevant technical manuals to serve as effective in-field references.

In line with official opening of the Academy, Sharp Solar also launched an installer competition, offering one Wrexham local and five nationwide professional tradespeople the chance to win a free place on an Academy course.  To enter, applicants must explain in 100 words why they deserve a free place at the Sharp Renewable Energy Academy.

However, although the news is a positive step for the UK solar market, the launch was overshadowed by Government’s recent decision to begin a review of the feed-in tariff scheme for systems over 50kW.

“The news that the Government is considering lowering large scale solar projects to 50kW is startling. While we expected and had discussed the potential of an early review with changes being implemented in April 2012, this announcement is extremely worrying and would stop solar investment in its tracks.

A limit of 50KW for solar projects is incredibly low and while it would certainly negate solar fields, this level does not even allow for small size community or social housing installations, which goes against the original intention of the feed-in tariff.

We fully understand the Governments concern and support a review on large free field installations, but feel the reconsideration at this level would be disastrous for the industry at a time when it has just started to gain momentum and we have seen real investment and job creation,” said Andrew Lee, Head of International Sales, Sharp Solar.