All through this week, we have been featuring on Solar Power Portal a series of blogs and articles summarising exactly what was deployed in the UK for the 3-month period from 1 January 2016 to 31 March 2016, Q1 2016.

Today, I will focus on the leading companies that made a key impact on adding to deployment levels in the UK, discussing the role each played in the rush towards the 31 March 2016 deadline. On Friday this week, the full market data for Q1 2016 will be provided and segmented fully.

Purely listed in alphabetical order, here is the group of companies chosen to capture the main events of the quarter.


In the three months to 31 March 2016, the most prolific company in terms of acquiring and building out sites was Anesco. Indeed, if prizes were on offer to the most creative and commercially astute company operating in the UK solar space, few would have disputed Anesco winning them.

With primary market acquisitions galore, the ability to embrace the community solar culture, and in its in-house efficiency for discharging planning conditions, Anesco operated almost in a zone of its own in Q1 2016, most notably in being able to turn a distressed 50MW site into nine separate 5MW plots. The company built out 5 of these sites during March 2016, and then followed this up by completing the remaining 4 during April 2016.

Another milestone for the company was selling off a package of 50MW of recently completed sites (all owned and mostly built out during the quarter) to an asset owner that had previously not made any solar asset purchases until 2016, and no guesses also, keeping the news completely out of the mainstream press!


BayWa once again saw strong activity in the first quarter of the year, with approximately 100MW of solar farm builds on sites that the company had acquired as shovel-ready from developers in the UK.

In contrast to many of the other EPCs active in the UK, and indeed many of the sites done during Q1 2016, BayWa’s role was somewhat unique in the company focusing purely on 2014-grandfathered sites that could be built out above the nominal 5MW threshold that was the norm in the UK.


While a range of asset owners was busy acquiring secondary assets, or sites built some time back that had come on the market (in particular Foresight), Bluefield’s role in Q1 2016 was different, as the leading company in terms of buying sites that were actually built in the same quarter.

The only other example of this was Anesco’s large portfolio sell-off, as discussed above.

British Solar Renewables

During Q1 2016, British Solar Renewables succeeded in constructing the largest single site in the UK, over 72MW in size, eclipsing the previous largest site done 12 months earlier, and again built by the same company.

In fact, this was not the only >50MW site that British Solar Renewables constructed during the quarter, as the company also acquired and built a 60MW site. This now means that the four largest single site builds in the UK to date (all over 50MW) have been constructed by British Solar Renewables, and go a long way to the company’s high ranking position in the recent Top-20 EPC features on Solar Power Portal.

Typically, most of the large sites in the UK have been kept below 50MW, owing to the requirement of having to get planning approval from the National Grid.

Canadian Solar

Of all the Chinese-based module manufacturers that have been active in the UK market acquiring sites in the past few years (also including Trina Solar, ReneSola, and Hanwha Q CELLS) few have been as successful in a single quarter as Canadian Solar was in the UK during Q1 2016.

Indeed, looking at Canadian Solar’s play in the downstream market globally for project acquisitions, or for pure-play EPC work outside the UK, the company has a pipeline of projects that is way above any of its Silicon Module Super League peers.

This is confirmed also through the strong revenue contribution the company has, something still the envy of many other legacy module suppliers that have tried to emulate the company’s strategy as a means of having a diversified revenue stream outside of third-party module sales.

With a mandate to buy sites in the UK, in particular during 2015, the company was very successful in seeing many of these taken through to completion during Q1 2016. Expect no slowdown by the company here during the remaining ROC months to April 2017.

Elgin Energy

Many of the established pure-play developers saw considerable success in Q1 2016, such as INRG Solar Hive Energy, Kronos and OST Energy, but perhaps the one that stood out, in terms of number of sites developed (that were bought and built out in the quarter) was Elgin Energy.

Almost all Elgin’s sites that would be realised in the quarter were grandfathered under the May 2014 conditions and well above 5MW in size, and were sold to a wide range of EPC/owners.

But perhaps Elgin’s greatest achievement in Q1 2016 was seeing Scotland’s largest solar farm come to fruition, with the company perhaps having been the most active in trying to unlock solar farm activity in Scotland going back to 2011.

g2 Energy

The first quarter each year is known to be the busiest for all the Independent Connection Providers (or ICPs), with connection date being one of the most critical aspects of all site completions.

Today, there is a much larger number of ICPs active in the solar industry in the UK, compared to a few years ago when solar farms were new and only a few ICPs were responsible for all sites connected each year.

While others such as Dragon, DNO Consulting and Green Frog were kept busy, the number of sites done by g2 Energy was well above its competitors in the space, making g2 Energy once again one of the most important players in the industry as sites rushed towards the ROC banding deadline.


As we discussed recently in a blog on Solar Power Portal, Huawei burst onto the scene in the UK during FY’16, installing more inverter capacity than any of its competition. Indeed, much of this was accomplished in Q1 2016, with the company supplying approximately one-third of all solar farm capacity done in the three months to 31 March.

Along with another Chinese inverter supplier, Sungrow, that also saw strong activity in Q1 2016, Huawei’s entrance in the UK has gone a long way to shifting inverter deployment for large scale solar farms from the traditional central inverter to string inverters.

Lark Energy

Like many other companies featured in our blog here, Lark Energy is almost always a key contributor to UK solar activity, with developments in Q1 2016 being no different.

Lark was one of the few companies to build out a number of sites for which the company was fully engaged in from legacy site screening, planning application, condition discharging, EPC-build and short-term SPV-ownership post-build.

As an example of a UK-company focusing on keeping things simple and in-house, Lark was certainly the leading light of Q1 2016, and resisted the temptation of straying away from its core competences or in taking on projects for which there was deemed too high a risk on seeing through to completion.

Like Elgin Energy discussed above, Lark also played a role in the Scotland solar farm revolution of Q1 2016, having invested in regional planning resources north of the border several years ago. The sites in Scotland done by Lark in the quarter will go a long way to justifying this strategic gamble several years back.


No quarter in the UK for solar would be complete without discussing the role of Lightsource, still the largest owner of sites, but seeing much more competition in the market compared to a few years ago.

The role of Lightsource in Q1 2016 was very different to previous first-quarter rushes, and in many respects, the company’s business model followed a more predictable and systematic process.

In years gone by, the company had been heavily involved in acquiring sites from other developers, to bolster its capacity developed in-house, and had brought in the funds and resources (including sub-contractors) to add as much capacity as possible.

As a result, solar farm capacity added each Q1 by Lightsource could range anywhere from 20 to 40% of the total UK market.

In the first quarter this year, almost all of the sites that the company had built were in-house developed, fulfilling the company’s strategic shift back in 2012 to expand in-house planning resources. As a company operating above-board and in a highly transparent mode with regards discharging planning applications, none touches the documentation levels enacted by its planners to each LPA.

More than 20 sites were completed for Lightsource in Q1 2016, with the EPC contracts spread across its three favoured EPC suppliers today.

Ironically however, the one large site done for Lightsource during the quarter was developed by a different company, reminding us of the company’s flexibility in quickly grabbing opportunities to add sites if available on the market. Of interest also was the fact that the company, for what we think is the first time, sold off shovel-ready capacity, presumably however more a reflection on the sheer volume of sites that its in-house planners had accumulated in the 12-18 months leading up to the first quarter rush this year.


As discussed in detail during our recent countdown of the Top 20 EPCs in the UK, Solarcentury is currently the clear number one in terms of solar capacity built in the UK. This covers not simply the megawatts done on solar farms, but also across the whole of the country (adding together rooftop and ground-mount).

The first quarter of 2016 was particularly strong for Solarcentury, building out over 100MW through a combination of in-house and third-party developed sites.

The range of sites done was also commendable with some large builds above 30MW in size, a mix of sub-5MW ROC and community projects, and doing EPC work stemming from in-house planned sites or as a pure-play EPC contractor.


Having been threatening to make a big splash in the UK solar industry for some time, Q1 2016 marked the arrival of Solarplicity, and in no uncertain terms either.

With financial backing, aggressive goals, and the ability to develop, build and own, Solarplicity was involved in over 10 separate solar farm build-outs in the quarter, as a precursor in fact to the company being one of the leading lights in the industry during the current fiscal year period to 31 March 2017.

The speed of build also was among the fastest seen in the sector, with many of the sites seeing ground-breaking and site-connection done in well under two months.

United Utilities

During the past 12-18 months, the role of the water companies in the UK in adding solar PV to their sites has been almost a hidden secret, outside of the EPCs and component suppliers each organization has chosen to work with, or indeed the established planners each aligned with to basically walk them through the LPA approval stages.

While Severn Trent Water, Anglian Water and Scottish Water (to name just three) have each been busy adding solar PV here and there, none has come anywhere close to the scale of solar PV added by United Utilities. To date, the company has added more than 20 solar PV installations, with many in the 1-5MW range, a great number of which were done in the three months leading up to the end of March.

More selective in its choice of EPCs, and component suppliers, United Utilities provided business in the UK to companies that would likely not have benefited from the three-month rush to end March.

Vogt Solar

While perhaps operating in a more stealth-like mode than in the past, Vogt Solar still managed to build out more than 10 sites during the quarter, retaining its leading status as one of the most active EPCs in the UK.

Again a blend of in-house and third-party developed sites, Vogt Solar retained a model of owning SPVs through the build process, but compared to previous years, has been less active in the secondary markets in flipping owned assets to its historic favoured portfolio owners.