Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 37

This issue covers:

School Fires Highlight Rooftop Solar PV Safety Risks

Although still comparatively rare, another reminder of the potential fire hazards that can be associated with some rooftop PV systems was provided recently in the UK.

The incident concerned news of a rooftop fire at a primary school in Nottinghamshire that damaged two classrooms. The blaze was reported to be the third such incident of its type involving solar PV panels installed as part of British Gas's Generation Green project, which gives schools free equipment in return for a Government green subsidy payment.

Of course these are not the first rooftop fires to be linked with solar PV installations in the UK and elsewhere similar incidents have also been highlighted in the USA, France, Germany and Australia in recent years.

At present there is no reason to believe that the fire risks associated with PVs are greater than those associated with any other electrical equipment, but all these situations highlight the importance of ensuring the safety and quality of all PV installations.

As well as requiring fire and rescue services to formulate appropriate operational guidance for dealing with fires involving PV systems, these incidents also continue to emphasise the need for PV systems to be correctly designed, consist of properly tested components that are competently installed, and which are regularly tested and maintained – as this advisory article explains.


Slipping Investor Interest in UK renewables 

Falling interest in the UK renewables sector and China leapfrogging the USA as the most attractive country for investors are the topline findings of the latest renewable energy country attractiveness index produced by Ernst & Young.

The latest report says that investor interest in UK renewables has fallen to its lowest level in five years, with the country slipping down the quarterly rankings for the third successive time to seventh place – its lowest since December 2009.

Chief among the sector’s concerns is the proposal to remove support for solar over 5MW from the renewable obligation scheme in March 2015.

Ben Warren, environmental finance leader at Ernst & Young, said: “The booming UK solar sector, one of only six markets globally to surpass the 5GW installed capacity, was caught by surprise by the government’s consultation in May. Legal challenges and investor petitions have been launched in response, urging the government to give the sector more time and greater policy stability to compete with conventional fuels.”

China leapfrogged the US to become the most attractive country to invest in renewables followed by Germany and Japan. Australia also fell, from ninth to ten, as the government continued its reform of renewable energy support and financing. More details here


Central America New Solar PV Hotspot

Central America is on course to install a total of 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in a six-year period to 2018, according to a new ‘emerging PV’ market report from IHS Technology.

This year, total PV capacity for the six countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama is forecast to reach 22 megawatts (MW), up from 6 MW last year.

A gigantic leap is then expected to take place in 2015 when PV capacity bounds up to 243 MW – and considerable further growth is then expected to take place in the following three years with aggregate PV capacity from 2016-18 accounting for a massive 81 percent of the six-year projected total.

Overall, the region's current PV pipeline of planned utility-scale projects amounts to 1.3 GW, of which half of the projects have signed power purchase agreements (PPA) on the back of enhanced policy support for solar renewable energy.

The pipeline is expected to grow now that a couple of tenders have ignited the market, and developers are testing the waters to access new project opportunities. Further details at


Solar PV Continues to Grow in the USA

According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, all new electrical generating capacity put into service in the USA in July came from renewable energy sources.

The new power addition comprised 379 megawatts (MW) of wind, 21 MW of solar, and 5 MW of hydropower.

For the first seven months of 2014, renewables have accounted for more than half (53.8%) of the 4,758 MW of new US electrical capacity that has come on line with solar (25.8%) and wind (25.1%) each accounting for more than a quarter of the total. In addition, biomass provided 1.8%, geothermal 0.7%, and hydropower 0.4%.

As for the balance, natural gas accounted for 45.9% while a small fraction (0.3%) came from oil and "other" combined. There has been no new electrical generating capacity from either coal or nuclear thus far in 2014.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.3% of total installed operating generating capacity in the USA - water - 8.57%, wind - 5.26%, biomass - 1.37%, solar - 0.75%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%.


NFU Advice for UK Farmers on Solar PV

Solar farms are helping develop a new generation of farms that produce both food and energy, according to guidance published jointly by the National Farmers Union (NFU), the National Solar Centre (NSC) and the Solar Trade Association (STA).

The document, Agricultural Good Practice Guidance for Solar Farms, is intended to demonstrate best practice for coupling solar farms with conventional agriculture.

The NFU notes that solar farms are particularly suitable for free-range chickens and other poultry, but are ideally suited to the fattening of young ‘hill-bred’ lambs.

Guy Smith, vice president of the NFU, explained why the construction of a solar farm does not mean that agricultural production has to stop. He said: “It is clear that renewable energy can support profitable farming, underpinning traditional agricultural production with additional returns that make businesses more resilient.

“This guidance document shows how solar farms can indeed be multifunctional, simultaneously meeting food and energy needs as well as enhancing biodiversity."

The guidance calculates that 95% of a solar farm site is still accessible to vegetation growth and agricultural use. The NFU notes that the solar farms do not require any reduction in stocking densities – having no effect on agricultural production. Full story at

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