Is The Gold Rush Over For Solar Parks?

The solar farm gold rush could be over before it begins because of the Governments proposed plans to change the ‘Feed in Tariffs’, or otherwise know as a subsidy. This change in stance by the Government on the tariffs has been on the cards for a while as not long after the General Election the newly formed Government said it would be looking into this area. I do think the Government is right on this, because the feed in tariffs are rather generous, especially in the current climate of massive cuts in funding and services.

I have blogged about the sudden explosion of proposed solar parks, and how I personally feel Cornwall is being used to make vast profits at the expense of the countryside. Do any of the proposed parks give the people of Cornwall cheaper electricity, or a community benefit? I welcome initiatives to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and the reduction of the carbon it produces. But, I do struggle at these plans when they are only viable by large subsidies.

The Government is proposing that you will only get the generous feed in tariff if your project is no more than 50kw. This is a change from the original cut off point of 5MW. This is a vast reduction (100 fold) and will really make a difference because only a household type project could be eligible for the tariff. I expect Cornwall Council’s Cabinet are rather miffed on this change as they authorised the spending of £14 million into solar energy parks (Click HERE for that blog) and will no doubt be rather nervous to see how much money of that £14 million could be gone.

A glimmer of hope, or should I say a ray of sunshine is still there, as the proposals are subject to the Government conducting a ‘fast track’ (their words) consultation period of six weeks. But, if the Government continues with the new proposals, then these would come into effect on the 1st August 2011.

It could also leave the Strategic Planning Committee with very short Agenda’s because for the next two months only solar parks were being brought forward and I doubt any company will bring forward a plan if there is not a chance of the lucrative tariff.

Update:

Today I received the updated figures for the feed in tariff and these proposed tariffs have been dramatically reduced.

–       19p/kWh for 50kW to 150kW
–       15p/kWh for 150kW to 250kW
–       8.5p/kWh for 250kW to 5MW and stand-alone installations

These compare with the tariffs that would otherwise apply from 1 April of:

–       32.9p/kWh for 10kw to 100kw

–       30.7/kWh for 100kw to 5MW and stand-alone installations

Such changes are in line with amendments made to similar schemes in Europe where in Germany, France and Spain tariffs for PV have been reduced sharply over the past year.

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