A LEADING academic has said the Government's decision to cut solar subsidies will only be "a blip" for the sector in the longer term.
Sheffield Solar Farm founder Dr Alastair Buckley is gearing up to appear at Durham’s Solar Flair conference later this month, an event which is sure to be clouded by the move to slice subsidies after December 12.
Ministers estimated this week that the decision had already cost the North East more than £6m in jobs and investment, and Durham county councillor for housing Clive Robson called the cuts “devastating”.
The subsidy currently stands at 43.3p per kWh of electricity generated, but will drop next month to 21p.
Dr Buckley has been collecting data on solar panels around the country as part of his research at the Sheffield University-based solar farm.
He said: “Solar will be cost-competitive over the next 10 years regardless of the feed-in tariff. This policy change will be a blip in its growth. There will be growth in solar, but it will now be slightly delayed.
“The people who have installed solar panels are going to see it as a really good investment, and it’s a shame that more people won’t be able to do this.
“Installing panels is still a sensible thing to do if you have the money. The payback will come in a reduction in energy bills.
“This makes it even more important to get your installation right. If you decide to take the plunge it’s more crucial than ever to see that the panels are performing to expectations.
“At the moment, there’s some UK market in installing solar panels, but we also need to grow the market for associated technologies like battery storage for the energy generated.”
Dr Buckley has been collecting data from around the country from those who have installed solar panels on their buildings.
He’s keen for people in the North East to submit their data through the Sheffield Solar Farm website, and those who do will be able to log in and see how their installation is performing in relation to that of their neighbours and those in the general area.
A report on the statistics submitted is also released every month, and is available for the general public to read.
Dr Buckley believes the research has benefits in determining the speed of panel degradation and working out how to operate panels at their full potential, from installing the right type of panel for the climate to storing generated power in batteries for those less-sunny days.
He said: “The overall picture so far is that the panels are performing more or less as expected. The panels are doing what people say they should do. The randomness itself comes from the weather, as well as placement and quality of installation.
“The generation yield around the country so far doesn’t seem to follow the geography you’d expect. There are some really good performers in the North and some poor ones in the South. If the arrays had been installed at the same angle with the same amount of shading, you’d expect a gradual improvement as you go south, but it highlights the importance of shading and shoddy installation.”
Dr Buckley will be appearing at the County Durham Development Company-organised event on November 24, alongside experts such as the European Space Agency’s Dr Stephen Taylor and Bosch Solar Energy AG’s vice-president Franz Ziering.