National centre heralds bright future for UK solar

18 February 2013
By Mark Venables
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Solar panels at the Eden Project in Cornwall

Solar panels at the Eden Project in Cornwall

A new National Solar Centre will begin operation In April in St Austell, Cornwall, managed by BRE.

It will support the government’s goal of increasing UK photovoltaic (PV) generation capacity from its current 1.8GW base up to a potential 20GW by 2020.

“We have a real opportunity here to drive the uptake of solar PV,” said BRE director Nick Tune. “The sector has seen a dramatic reduction in installed costs by up to 50 per cent from 2010-2012.”

The Centre will provide industry led research, analysis, testing and training that should help make solar competitive with other low-carbon electricity sources. There are particular opportunities in developing building-integrated PV products and the interaction of PV with commercial buildings. “We will also look at issues around smart grids, storage, power output prediction and more – all critical factors for improving the long term performance of the technology and creating confidence in its future,” Tune said.

The initiative is supported by Cornwall Council and has funding from the EU.

Speaking at the centre’s launch even, Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “Solar is an exciting and rapidly growing clean, green source of power and has a valuable part to play in the UK’s energy mix. The new Cornwall-based National Solar Centre will help drive down costs, improve efficiency, catalyse growth, spur innovation and develop expertise on the ground. We have seen dramatic reductions in costs of the technology over the past year and that’s why we have made changes to our incentives under Feed-in-Tariffs and the Renewables Obligation, to help put this industry on a more sustainable footing and ensure solar continues to thrive in the future.”

St Austell was chosen as the location for the Centre because the majority of the UK’s solar PV installations are in south-west England. Cornwall itself has the most sunshine hours of any county in the UK and offers a supportive infrastructure and business environment.

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