More than 1,000 delegates had already arrived by 9:30am today, with 13,000 expected to attend the UK’s biggest solar trade show over the next week. Image: Solar Media.

Welcome to Solar Power Portal’s coverage of Solar & Storage Live 2022, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham over 18-20 October. Our editorial team will be reporting live from the event, bringing you all the insight, news and views from the show floor.

‘China will do the same for electrolysers [as] it did for PV tech’ says Solar Energy UK

“China will do the same thing for electrolysers and green hydrogen [as] it did for PV solar technology,” said Gareth Simkins, senior communications adviser at Solar Energy UK.

Electrolysis is the primary method in producing green hydrogen. By supplying renewable energy to the technology, it is able to create a clean energy carrier that can power several industries.

Several industries and sectors are currently exploring the use of green hydrogen as a means to drive decarbonisation ahead of net zero goals. Transportation, industrial processes and heating have all been cited as possible uses of the technology.

However, to Simkins there is one outright, winning use for hydrogen.

“For glass production, ceramics for example, hydrogen will be the answer here. Hydrogen will be the main game for high temperature industrial processes,” Simkins said.

Despite government backing, utilising hydrogen for heating has its critics.

“Hydrogen being used in boilers is just not going to happen, it is not viable. There will be homes that blow up because of hydrogen’s use in homes as we currently see this with natural gas. The media will pick up on this and it will be a disaster,” Simkins added.

Solar developers need to take a ‘co-ordinated and consistent approach’ to NSIPs

Solar developers need to take a “co-ordinated and consistent approach” to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

This is according to Sam Cranston, director if Energy Infrastructure at Copper Consultancy, speaking as part of the NSIP Projects Forum- Opportunities and Risks panel at Solar & Storage Live 2022.

Taking such an approach could help tackle a number of challenges that arise when looking to develop the mega projects, including negative perceptions.

While solar is broadly very popular amongst the public – with over 80% stating they would be happy to have a ground-mount solar in their area – there remains concerns at a local level for NSIPs.

Given the general popularity and the availability of investment of solar, it is “frustrating to see government drag their heals” when it comes to the technology, as it can create uncertainty, added Carly Vince, senior director at Quod.

Asked by the panel chair Julian Boswall, partner at Burges Salmon about the key advice she’d give to developers eying solar NSIPs, Kirsty Lodge, principal planner Enso Energy suggested that companies “try not to run before you can walk” as the process is a long one, and planning it required to avoid stumbling blocks down the line.

‘There is nothing smart about the UK’s energy grid’ says JBM Solar

“There is nothing smart about the current energy grid. Making the grid smarter needs to be in the conversation,” said Greg Triantafyllidis, technical director of JBM Solar.

Creating a smarter energy grid in the UK can come with multiple benefits. It can improve energy security and help deliver net zero by 2050 at a lower cost to the consumer.

Due to the potential in creating a smart energy grid, the UK Government has launched a feasibility study to explore the creation of a “digital spine” for the energy system.

Digitalisation of assets could prove to be crucial in achieving net zero in the UK. This could be achieved via the proposed “digital spine” which is able to facilitate efficient system operation, improve access to new markets and support development of new services for a smart and flexible energy system.

Northern Ireland’s first smart grid project sees 55% average savings per property. The Electric Storage Company disclosed that Northern Ireland’s first smart grid, based in Coleraine, saved a combined total of £27,000 in energy costs.

Combining solar panels and battery storage technology, Project Girona successfully saved businesses, homeowners, tenants, and local community groups an average of 55% in electricity costs, the company said.

This showcases the potential of utilising a smart grid to achieve net zero emissions and create renewable assets that are efficient.

‘93% of solar planning applications are successful’ says CEO of the Irish Solar Energy Association

“93% of solar planning applications are successful in Ireland,” said Conall Bolger, CEO of the Irish Solar Energy Association.

This represents the success of the Irish solar industry and its growing popularity as a renewable generation resource.

A number of solar developers have taken interest in the sector and have scaled investment over the past couple of years. One of these developers is Shannon Energy who in 2021 received an investment from Danish solar PV business Obton to scale its solar portfolio.

This brings its portfolio and pipeline of projects to a total value of €750 million (£649 million), with Obton also increasing its ambition to reach 1GW of capacity in Ireland by 2026.

“Our partnership with Shannon Energy has successfully facilitated our investment in the Irish market and we look forward to continuing to expand the role of solar as part of the Irish government’s ambitious objective of having 70% renewable energy by 2030,” Anders Marcus, CEO of Obton, said at the time.

Alongside this, it had been previously reported that strong solar growth could end up saving €21 (£18) per citizen annually, according to a report from international advisory firm, AFRY.

It modelled three scenarios with different levels of solar and wind, to establish the most effective way of meeting the government’s target of 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

Within these, the highest solar scenario saw a total €106 million (£91.5 million) annual saving, as there are significant benefits from a diversified portfolio of generation assets.

Qcells was displaying its wares at Solar & Storage Live 2022, including its Q.PEAK DUO M-G11+ module series. Image: SPP

Qcells seeing mounting demand for UK solar as energy crisis bites

While Qcells is experiencing strong demand for its clean energy solutions in the UK given the ongoing energy crisis, demand throughout the year has been strong regardless and is a significant tailwind for the company’s operations.

This is according to Ian Clover, Qcell’s communications manager who spoke with Solar Power Portal at the Solar & Storage Live 2022 tradeshow in Birmingham.

Clover said the company’s sale department was having its busiest ever year and that its UK operations were being buoyed by its highly bankable products, born from stable backing from its South Korea headquarters, as well as high quality German design.

Qcells was showcasing both its Q.HOME CORE energy storage solutions (ESS) and its Q.PEAK DUO module range at the show. Its ESS offering is available in both DC-couple and AC-coupled, with the former a hybrid inverter for new rooftop systems and the latter for existing residential installs. It still has some capacity until the end of the year but in Q1 2023, more availability is expected to come online.

Qcells was also displaying its Q.PEAK DUO M-G11+ series at the event. This 108 cell range is manufactured using larger 182mm wafers to deliver a power output of 380W – 410W. Qcells said its Q.ANTUM DUO Z Technology with zero gap cell layout, meant the module range breaks the 21% efficiency barrier, delivering a maximum module efficiency of 21.4%. 

“The Q.PEAK DUO M-G11 is the perfect residential rooftop solar module for UK homeowners,” the company said.

Clover also told this site how its new n-type module range would be available in the UK “imminently” and that the company was also pouring funding into perovskite research and development, with the nascent technology holding the potential for higher conversion efficiencies.

The company currently has 13GW of module production capacity globally, with 3.1GW of this in the US.

Solar can play key role in tackling ‘fossil fuel dictatorship’

Europe and the wider world is currently experiencing “fossil fuel dictatorship and terrorism”, but renewables offer a solution.

This is according to Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska, co-founder and CEO of the Ukrainian Sustainable Fund, speaking as part of The Impact of War and the Energy Price Crisis on the UK Solar Decade panel at Solar & Storage Live 2022 in Birmingham.

Katser-Buchkovska pointed to recent attacks on energy assets in Ukraine by Russian forces, with 30% having been hit, as an example of “fossil fuel dictatorship and terrorism”.

The current war and its impact on the energy crisis has pushed the UK Government and those across the EU and beyond to transition to renewables faster, as decentralised energy assets offer greater security.

“This is actually a chance for the market to be more vocal in replacing fossil fuels,” said Katser-Buchkovska, suggesting this could be the beginning of major change in the energy markets across Europe and other regions .

Policy support has been announced to help achieve this already. In the UK, the British Energy Security Strategy set out a target for a fivefold increase in solar, for example.

According to Kevin McCann, head of distributed generation at Solar Energy UK, this is a target that is very achievable. He said the solar sector is “ready and willing to deploy an immense amount of capital” as well as residential solar surging forwards.

However, there is still a “massive problem with the grid” he continued, as well as concern around the stability of the fiscal and governmental environments.

Simon Evans, senior policy editor at Carbon Brief, highlighted at the beginning of the session that as the war in Ukraine strains the energy sector across the continent, solar can tick many of the key boxes needed to tackle this crisis.

It is “domestic, cheap and at the same time cuts emissions,” and must play a role as the UK and Europe push for secure, green power.  

‘A clear out of projects is needed in the connectivity queue’ says UK Power Networks

“There is a need to clear out projects in the connectivity queue that are unlikely to be built so that more viable projects are able to come online faster,” Sotiris Georgiopoulos, head of smart grid developments at UK Power Networks said.

The energy system has been plagued with long queues for connection. This has become more of an issue as the UK steps up its renewable generation capacity up and down the country in order to achieve net zero by 2050.

Connectivity requests have also surged in 2022. Earlier this month, a new update from National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) said the number of grid connection applications had quadrupled in the past four years.

This prompted National Grid ESO to tackle connection management via a new initiative revealed in September 2022. The new approach aims to remove stalled projects from the transmission entry capacity (TEC) register to allow new projects to be connected to the national electricity transmission network quicker.

“We’re here to help build a system of the future that is clean, reliable and fair. We realise that to deliver net zero, we need to free up space on the connections register so that new low carbon projects can connect much more quickly,” said Julian Leslie, ESO head of networks, National Grid ESO as the initiative was revealed.

Georgiopoulos also explained that the government must intervene to create policy structures that both boost the sector and increase investor confidence.

“The UK Government needs to establish a master plan or strategy to establish a road map and provide policy certainty, something which has been sorely missing,” he said.

330GW of generation waiting to be connected, says ENA

“At transmission [level] there is currently 330GW of generation waiting in a queue to connect to a transmission grid,” said Randolph Brazier, director of innovation and electricity systems at Energy Network Association (ENA).

This figure showcases the difficulties facing the UK transmission grid and the need to improve connections to provide the much-needed energy generation required amid the energy crisis.

The need to do so has been amplified with the Great British energy system seeing its highest ever available wind generation in the week commencing 3 October, peaking at 17.6GW of potential wind energy generated in the evening of 5 October.

Despite this, due to constraints on the transmission network, only 14.1GW was able to be used whilst the rest of the renewable energy was turned down. Wind generation achieved an impressive feat having accounted for 41% over the course of the week.

Although renewable generation continues to scale, a multitude of crises has meant there is a lot less money to invest in the sector.

“We are in a situation where there is a lot less money for investment so we need to think about how we can do this in an affordable way,” said Jeremy Yapp, head of flexible energy systems at BEAMA.

This comes at a time in which the UK Government has been called upon to invest and regulate efficiently in order to reduce the cost of energy amid the wholesale price crisis.

According to the Ten Principles for Policymaking in the Energy Transition: Lessons from experience report, new principles for policymaking can unlock faster and cheaper technology growth, from green hydrogen to net zero steel, to cut emissions and boost economies.

Ignore the politics, focus on strong growth and market trends for UK solar, says Chris Hewett

Don’t get disheartened or distracted by the current state of UK political discourse on solar PV. Instead, focus on the strong underlying growth trends of the industry, high public support for UK solar and continued developments in PV technology.

Those comments were issued by Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK, during his opening remarks to the Solar & Storage Live 2022 trade show, held this week at the NEC in Birmingham.

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