The UK solar industry is experiencing significant changes after recovering from the impacts of the removal of production-based subsidies (FiTs and ROCs). This year, over 0.5GW of new solar capacity was installed and is due to exceed 1GW by the end of the year.
The focus now for the next year is on raising this installation rate and reaching the 2GW level by 2023, but indicators within the UK solar industry suggest a larger end goal: acheiving 40GW total deployment by the beginning of 2030.
One of the most positive factors in the UK solar industry today is how all areas of the market are contributing toward growth, ranging from rooftop to ground-mounted activities. In terms of creating a stable and resilient market, this variation is critical, as there will always be seasonality issues that creates temporary slowdowns in certain areas. Aside from deployments, the other positive sign relates to the proposed build-outs on the rooftop and utility-scale sites.
The rooftop market is divided into residential and non-residential (commercial and industrial). Nearly all rooftop sectors are in high growth today. The rooftop solar market in the UK moved into a new growth stage in 2022, driven by a surge in the residential market and the emergence of a large rooftop sector for the first time. The rooftop solar market is relatively risk-free in terms of deployment certainty compared to other larger utility ground solar developments. Nearly all support rooftop solar i.e. government, local councils and the collective public.
The ground-mounted solar industry in the UK
The ground-mounted industry in the UK has been the largest contributor to solar, delivering over 60% of the cumulative capacity forecast for this year. This is likely to remain the case through 2030, but there will be certain risks and challenges that need tackling. With the race to secure new solar facilities to fulfil 2030 net-zero goals and finite availability of solar modules, this new supply and demand phase is creating a battle where not all solar asset owners will succeed in getting their investments realised (achieving their target solar capacity).
All major infrastructure projects in the UK come with some element of risk. They have, and inevitably always divide public and political opinions and significant investments always split opinions. Ongoing challenges always coincide with changes to land use, new developments and any use for new energy facilities. Therefore, it’s no surprise there are more challenges to overcome when developing large-scale solar facilities. While there are several challenges in some site proposals, there are many positives at play, particularly on the smaller scale developments.
As of today there is about 9GW of approved solar farm capacity proposed for development over the next three to five years. This is critical when considering what would be required for the UK solar industry to achieve the 40GW mark by the end of the decade.