UK solar farm market tops European league table in 2013

Jessica Shankleman

New figures reveal UK installed 443MW of utility scale solar last year as PwC predicts up to 2GW could be constructed this year

Britain emerged as the fastest growing market for utility scale solar farms in Europe last year, as it began to catch up with other European countries such as Germany and Spain that are now putting the brakes on development.

According to the latest figures from analyst Wiki-Solar, the world has now installed more than 21GW of solar schemes that have a capacity of more than 4MW, with the United States leading the market, followed by China, and then Germany.

The UK was branded the fastest growing market in the EU, after adding 443MW of capacity last year, bringing the total installed to 647MW across 112 projects.

Germany installed 194MW of capacity last year, bringing its total to 3.4GW, while Spain installed just 29MW, after adding only two new solar arrays last year. However, the country already hosts 1.7GW of capacity, making it one of the largest solar markets in Europe.

The United States emerged as the fastest growing market in the world, adding 2.7GW of new capacity, while China installed 1.6GW. India was the third fastest growing market in the world, installing 666MW, which bumps it up to the fifth largest solar market.

As well as being the fastest growing market in Europe, the UK was named the fourth fastest growing market in the world, followed by Romania, which added 214MW of new capacity.

Daniel Guttmann, director, of Renewables & Cleantech at PWC, told BusinessGreen he was unsurprised by the UK's impressive growth rate, as it started at a low baseline and is now competing with several leading countries in Europe that have recently reduced feed-in tariff incentives for new installations.

Guttmann's own analysis reveals that the UK market could grow to by up to 2GW this year.

Using government data and a lower threshold of 2MW to define "utility scale" solar, he estimates there is currently 700MW of operational solar farms in the UK.

The government's planning data reveals there is currently around 1.7GW of further solar farms already in construction, and another 1.3GW in the planning pipeline.

Solar farm developers are rushing to meet a 31 March deadline to complete their projects in order to secure the current feed-in tariff rate, before the support is reduced from 1 April.

"I don't think all of this will be built out," said Guttman, referring to the current development pipeline. "Inevitably some of it will fall by the wayside, but in all I think we can expect 1.5GW to 2GW to be constructed in the UK over the next 12 months.

Most of the new large scale solar capacity is constructed in fields, but the government is expected to launch a new solar strategy in the spring that aims to encourage more development on industrial rooftops such as supermarket and warehouses.

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