Cover image: A rooftop solar installation using Q.PEAK DUO panels from Q CELLS. Image: Q.
Adaptable, affordable and readily available, solar PV is changing the UK’s renewable energy landscape, one panel at a time – and solar power is still able to do much more to galvanize the fight against climate change, writes Ian Clover of Q CELLS in the first of a two-part feature for Solar Power Portal.
Twenty years is a long time in the renewable energy industry. The solar panels of the year 2000/2001 may not have looked too much like the modules that come off the production lines today, but they are very different in terms of performance, power, efficiency and, most importantly, price.
Two decades ago PV deployment was low everywhere, certainly in the UK. The technology was just too new and too expensive to shine. Today, however, more than 1.2 million UK homes have solar panels installed on their rooftops, and glimpsing from the motorway a hilly field covered with a blanket of glittering PV modules is fairly easy to do when the you go through most parts of England and Wales. Solar is here and has been a detectable – if not still key – ingredient in the UK’s energy cocktail for more than five years.
When we talk about the renewable transition of the UK energy grid, wind power perhaps rightly dominates the conversation, given its prominence, both on and offshore, in the country’s energy pyramid. The cumulative figures for solar are slightly lower than for wind – 14 GW vs. 23 GW respectively – but the growth potential of PV can be considered much greater given that it can be integrated into daily life at all scales. – from the tiny roof network to massive ground installations.
Over the past 20 years, leading solar companies such as Q CELLS have worked tirelessly to develop the technology: increasing efficiency through ingenious engineering, improving performance and reliability with careful professionalism, and reducing costs. through aggressive marketing and lobbying governments around the world. It’s never a âjob doneâ for a company like Q CELLS, which not only spawned many aspects of the modern solar industry 20 years ago, but has also thrived and adapted within it. space as solar has become a popular global product.
The next chapter for Q CELLS and the renewable energy industry as a whole holds great promise for accelerated change. If things look different today compared to 20 years ago, we can’t imagine what things will look like 20 years from now. But we can at least try to visualize what the future holds.
Can the world give up carbon?
Global carbon emissions decreased by 6% in 2020, according to BP. Clearly, this historic fall occurred against the backdrop of the COVID lockdown, which has caused untold disruption in the lives of people and businesses. It was not a sustainable situation, but it demonstrates how much disruption is needed if the world is to wean itself off from fossil fuels.
The biggest challenge of the next decade is not only to match, but to exceed the reduction in CO2 emissions of 2020, without unduly disrupting people’s homes and working lives. A post-pandemic world may be hard to imagine right now, but when (if) the restrictions are finally and irrevocably lifted, there can be no rushed back to the old ways. The wheel has turned.
Other data from BP’s annual report reveals a few other notable trends. Energy consumption fell 4.5% in 2020 compared to 2019. Crude oil demand fell 9.7%, while green power capacity increased to a record 358 TWh. Wind and solar combined increased by 238 GW, according to the IEA. For the wind, it is a doubling of capacity; for solar, growth of 50% over one year. We can confidently lay the ‘blame’ for the reduction in global energy use and crude oil consumption at the feet of COVID, but the growth in wind and solar would most likely have happened anyway. , pandemic or no pandemic. It is most encouraging.
How the UK is taking shape
With 14 GW of solar power and 23 GW of wind power, the UK can be proud of its growth in renewable energy – at least so far. Perpetuating, and even accelerating, this growth is a major challenge, which many innovative SMEs and government-supported initiatives are tackling head on by exploring the country’s capacity to further diversify its energy mix.
For example, energy storage in the UK is skyrocketing, with a large-scale battery storage pipeline exceeding 20GW this summer, spread across 800 different projects / sites. The UK Battery Storage Project Database from Solar Media Market Research shows a huge increase in submitted capacity for the second quarter of 2021, mainly due to projects over 30 MW, as well as a growing trend towards co-located solar storage sites. Q CELLS has already entered this market in Europe, with its success at Portuguese auctions last year, the company adding 315 MW of solar storage projects to its growing Iberian pipeline. This success was a demonstration of the company’s ambition to actively and creatively embrace as many renewable energy opportunities on the continent as possible.
For photovoltaics in particular, Solar Energy UK – Britain’s leading photovoltaic association – has urged the government to increase support for solar if the country is to meet its target of 40 GW of solar by 2030. This is the figure required to support the UK’s goal of net zero by 2030, calculated by the Climate Change Committee.
Solar Energy UK stresses that solar photovoltaic must remain eligible for the biennial CfD tenders, having seen solar withdrawn from these support mechanisms in the past. The current installation rate would allow the UK to reach 29 GW of cumulative PV by the end of the decade, which would be 11 GW below the proposed target. Much remains to be done to boost the use of solar energy in the UK.
A recent survey of UK businesses by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that small business owners are dismayed and angry that an investment in a solar system leads to the possibility of an increase in their corporate tax rate. This is a particularly exasperating situation given the historically low prices of solar components today and the easy availability of financing for such systems.
In Germany, Q CELLS offers electricity subcontracting and solar energy rental services, both aimed at helping small businesses reap the benefits of solar energy at no upfront cost. With solar leasing, Q CELLS will install a solar system on the roof of a business and then lease it to the business (with Q CELLS directly marketing any excess electricity generated) – all for free. Alternatively, companies can opt for an electricity contract, whereby Q CELLS installs, owns and operates a rooftop solar photovoltaic system and sells electricity to the company at attractive, below-market rates.
Ross Kent, UK Sales Manager for Q CELLS, said: âQ CELLS has enjoyed encouraging success in the energy retail sector in Germany, thanks to the company’s unique position as as a specialist in solar energy of German origin, supported by the international bankability of Hanwha. Group, and driven by the ambition to become one of the world’s leading suppliers of total energy solutions. The success model we used in Germany will be rolled out to other European markets over the next few years, and we see great synergies between this business model and the UK market – which is still very receptive to innovative green solutions that benefit greatly to the customer. “
The second part of this feature is due to be released to Solar Power Portal next week.