Solar PV outperforming expectations in the east

    Solar PV outperforming expectations in the East

    To bring some warmth and cheer whilst it is still cold and wet outside, Savills Energy in the East of England has been running appraisals on the solar PV systems installed during 2012 as part of a review of their national portfolio of projects they have been involved with. Here Giles Hanglin of Savills Energy in Cambridge reveals the results.

    Despite the seemingly intolerable weather in 2012 and especially the summer, that brought grey skies and clouds and with it rain and perceived low light levels, 2012 was in fact been a year when roof mounted solar PV systems outperformed our predictions.  

    Summaries produced at the end of December 2012 for the first nine months of running for all installations carried out by Savills Energy have shown an over performance of between 6% and 18% on solar electricity generated in the East of England. Many are also already over the 12 month predicted output having only been working for 9 months.  

    The over performance figures can be summarised as follows for the various areas of the East of England in terms of additional electricity created due to extra irradiance or daylight being available during the measured period of March to December 2012:

    Suffolk: 15-18%
    Norfolk: 12-15%
    Hertfordshire:  9-18%
    Cambridgeshire:  6-12%
    Essex:  8-15%
    Bedfordshire: 10%

    Shimpling Park Farm, Suffolk installed a 50KW solar PV system on their 1,200 sq metre grain store in March 2012 (view image here). Graph 1 attached illustrates the first nine months of actual performance compared to the predicted levels.

    During the summer months, when most light and therefore earning potential is available, even despite the wet grey weather we experienced in 2012 the system has outperformed itself by on average 500kWh every month during the summer. Looking at the production figures in March 2013, a year after the installation, reveals that over 48,000kwH of electricity have been produced, giving nearly an 18% over-production against what was predicted.

    The best financial returns from solar PV are where the electricity used on site can be offset by the electricity from the PV or where the electricity can be sold to tenants at a commercial rate. While the Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) have halved since their introduction, capital costs are now less than a third of what they originally were and have actually decreased more than the FiT. The overall cumulative cash position has fallen at the end of the scheme due to lower tariffs and the FiT duration being reduced from 25 to 20 years, however lower capital costs means schemes are expected to achieve a similar level of return.
    The UK government is still committed to achieving the targets as set out in the Energy Act 2008 and this requires 15% of all energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. With the UK just under 10%, there is still some way to go and the thoughts are that Europe will push the 15% target further going forward. Solar PV has been the single biggest deliverer towards this target in the past two years due to the ability to install systems without long delays from planning permission and the such like required for wind and other renewable energy systems such as Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and biomass. Rooftop solar PV installation in the main now require no planning permission and so it is a straight forward process to install a new system with the time between inception and commissioning of a project now even shorter.
    Overall the future for PV is still very positive and it is a good way for businesses to reduce electricity costs and carbon emissions as well as increase their environmental credentials. Longer term, and by 2018, buildings being let will require an EPC greater than a d/E rating and solar significantly improves a building’s ratings. BREEAM is also becoming more prevalent to those looking to let buildings and is the environmental rating of a building that is now required by the government and many larger companies taking building space on a leasehold basis. 
    The government have offered some further incentive for those wishing to install solar PV systems by allowing the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) of £250,000 on plant and machinery from 1st January 2013 for a two year period to apply to solar PV systems, which offers significant tax breaks where businesses usually struggle to spend money on plant and machinery within their business assets.