Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker today officially opened the BRE's National Solar Centre in St Austell, Cornwall.
The centre is aiming to become a focal point for research and best practice information for the UK's solar industry.
At the opening ceremony, Barker said: “The new National Solar Centre will play a fundamental role in driving forward the solar industry here in the UK. Not only will work carried out by the centre help to cut costs, improve efficiency and drive forward innovation in this sector, it will also help position the UK as a top destination for global investment in this exciting technology.
“The coalition government has finally put solar firmly on the map. Solar has a key part to play in our energy mix, and later this year we will be launching the UK’s first ever government solar strategy, to capitalise on growth so far and explore ways to take it even further. The centre couldn’t come at a better or more important time.”
The opening of the centre marks a watershed moment for the UK solar industry which has weathered a number of storms over the last 18 months. Despite a series of catastrophic changes to solar policy which rocked the sector to its core, UK solar continued to perform strongly thereby forcing its way into the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s reckoning.
The NSC estimates that the current UK solar market is worth £1.5 billion, rising to £21.4 billion by 2020. The new centre hopes to help drive the industry’s development so that the sector is fully able to realise its potential.
Barry Marsh, who has been involved in the solar industry since 1988, has been appointed as the NSC’s director. Commenting on his appointment, Marsh said: “I am delighted to be appointed at such a critical time in the industry, and look forward to working with our Founding Partners, industry stakeholders, and supporters.”
Commenting on the launch of the NSC, Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury – one of the centre’s founding members, said: “Back in 1998, our engineers worked with the National Grid on some of the first ever connections in this country. Now we are installing parks in excess of 10MW. As the industry matures, we are pleased to partner with the National Solar Centre and to contribute to this centre of excellence.”
One of the centre’s first tasks is to work on the development of future standards in order to raise the quality of PV installations. As a result, the centre has partnered with Cornwall Council to develop a planning guidance document for the installation of solar parks in the UK.
The NSC will also focus on a number of other areas, including: “due diligence consultancy and testing for new build installations; fault finding, verification and optimisation for existing systems; product development for building-integrated PV and other integrated approaches; direct support for Cornish small and medium enterprises and encouragement for inward investment to create a cluster of solar PV companies on the site.”
Speaking at the Large Scale Solar Conference event in Truro, Greg Barker told the gathered audience that there is now an “astonishing 2.5GW of solar in the UK” – a fact that confirms solar’s entrance into the mainstream. On the role of the NSC, Barker added: “The Coalition government has finally put solar firmly on the map. Solar has a key part to play in our energy mix, and later this year we will be launching the UK’s first-ever government solar strategy, to capitalise on growth so far and explore ways to take it even further. The Centre couldn’t come at a better or more important time.”