Kerry Burns, founder and director, West of England Solar City Region talks to Solar Power Portal about the UK solar markets incredible rise and the challenges that still remain.

What’s the single biggest challenge the UK solar industry is currently facing?

As an industry, we need to continue to make the positive case for what we can achieve for the UK market and businesses in all sectors. The solar industry does not make enough coordinated positive PR for itself to its target markets to reduce hostility and misperceptions. As a result, end users are still not as aware of the effect solar PV can have on the bottom line as they should be!

As founder and director of the West of England Solar City Region, that among other things is aiming to deploy 1GW of solar by 2020, what’s surprised you most during your work on the project?

There’s a lack of real knowledge about different options for finance and implementation out in the marketplace. Also surprising was the perception of solar as being an ‘if we can afford it after everything else’ option for consumers, businesses and residents rather than the central cost reduction activity it should be considered as and is!

What business critical advice would you give to someone considering replicating the project?

I’d say you need to be prepared to spend a lot of spare time working to get things moving. Also, don’t underestimate the motivation that will be required to progress and move forward and don’t expect any funding pot to be sympathetic to the solar cause. We are often still perceived as sitting on the gravy train of feed-in tariffs by funding bodies and this can be difficult at times

You’ve been in this industry a while now! What excites you about the future of solar?

The UK market has moved a huge amount since I got involved in my first project over fifteen years ago in 1997. It is unrecognisable against that background. The pace of change of the UK market is still increasing and the opportunity this represents for businesses operating here is startling. We have merely scratched the surface of potential deployment and this in itself is hugely exciting. Also, new technologies are constantly appearing – solar is beginning to feel more like part of the Silicon Valley tech-wave with each passing month.

Tweet us your prediction for the UK solar market for 2015/16 in 140 characters only!

Solar rooftops will become business as usual, as solar PV continues to position itself as a serious, proven demand reduction tool.

You’re speaking at the Planners’ Workshop on Tuesday 28 April. What are you most looking forward to about Large-Scale Solar UK 2015?

Taking the pulse of positivity from key players in the UK market!

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at Large-Scale Solar UK 2015?

I’m really looking forward to hearing about grid infrastructure, storage and capacity issues and how we are moving towards solutions on Day 2 of the conference (30 April). I’m also keen to hear the opinion from the keynote speaker Nick Boyle, and the real-estate companies such as Savills on Day 1 (29 April) who are talking about overcoming barriers in the rooftop market.

What’s your favourite thing about Bristol?     

Bristol has always been a green city; it’s what drew me here in the first place! It isn’t afraid to innovate or try new things as other cities often are. Although it doesn’t rave about it, Bristol is the UK centre of green industry and second only to London in terms of financial and legal services. The city is very human-oriented and has a great quality of life. 

Kerry Burns will be speaking at the Large-Scale Solar UK conference in Bristol, 28-30 April.