Subsidies for large-scale solar power installations are to be cut drastically, in a move that ministers said would preserve funds for households to put up panels, but industry warned would mean a slower uptake of renewable power.
The government said its long-awaited review of feed-in tariffs for renewable energy would divert funds from field-sized solar power plants to panels on house roofs.
But the renewable energy industry and green campaigners said the change of heart would mean community schemes, put forward by housing associations, schools and hospitals, would not go ahead.
Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association, said the move would cripple the UK’s fledgling solar panel industry. “Crushing solar makes zero economic sense for UK plc because it will lose us major manufacturing opportunities, jobs and global competitiveness,” he said. “It also risks locking us in to more expensive energy options in future. It is inexplicable that the Treasury can be allowed to damage energy and industrial policy by taking decisions without taking into account the bigger picture.”
The reform, trailed in February but delayed by a consultation that was recently completed, will favour domestic and other small-scale installations of solar power, of up to 50kw – typically enough to cover several houses, or about two tennis courts according to the government, but not enough for some of the community-scale installations some developers had planned, which would cover fields.
KALAMAULA, Molokai – Sunlight will be providing the power needed to run lights, electronics and air conditioning at the Nature Conservancy’s office on Molokai beginning Wednesday, the environmental organization announced.
Rising Sun Solar of Maui installed the office’s 8.88-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof of the building in the Molokai Industrial Park on the hot and sunny leeward side.
“We were able to basically cover all of our energy needs and put a cap on our energy costs into the future,” said Suzanne Case, the conservancy’s Hawaii executive director. “It’s good for Hawaii both economically and in terms of sustainability.”
Tapping into sun power will help with the organization’s energy costs on Molokai, which has some of the highest electrical rates in the nation, according to Matias Besasso, a partner with Rising Sun Solar.
“Not only can it reduce costs, but it can lead to job creation and greater energy independence and self-sufficiency for Molokai’s people,” he said.
The conservancy’s Molokai director, Ed Misaki, said the solar energy system has been planned for three years.
“Going green is one of our big goals,” he said.
The federal government has awarded $2.1 million to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to build energy storage systems that can be used to increase the capacity of electric utilities to accept more renewable energy.
DBEDT said it will allocate $1.2 million of the total to Maui Electric Co. and $900,000 to Hawaii Electric Light Co. on the Big Island. The funding will be used to build energy storage systems that would help smooth out the ebbs and flows of electricity to the grid from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Interconnection costs will be paid by the utilities.
Battery technology is the primary method for storing electricity generated by renewable sources, but other options are available, including compressed air, pumped hydro, and flywheels.
A 1.21 megawatt solar power farm that will feed electricity into the Kauai electrical grid is on track to be completed by the end of this year, according the company developing the project.
The photovoltaic system being built in Kapaa for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative would be about the same size as the La Ola Solar Farm on Lanai, which is currently the state’s largest.
The solar farm will help the KIUC as it does its part to meet the state’s objective to generate more of its electricity from renewable sources. KIUC announced last week that it plans to break ground next year on a 3-megawatt photovoltaic system in Koloa on the southern side of the island.
The Kapaa solar project is being developed by REC Solar, which has installed smaller systems across the state, including ones at three Costco stores, a Longs Drug Store, Kauai Community College and Tony Auto Group.