A new BRE National Solar Centre in St Austell, Cornwall will help industry and Government deliver on the solar PV opportunities set out in DECC’s recent 2012 Renewables Roadmap Update where the UK’s capacity is being steered for growth from its current 1.4GW base up to a potential 20GW by 2020.
With funding from the EU and support from Cornwall Council and DECC, the BRE National Solar Centre will drive innovation, cost reduction and increased confidence in the marketplace through knowledge generation. It will engage with organisations outside the traditional scope of the industry to ensure that PV is better understood as a technology so its potential can be realised. A particular focus will be the construction industry which must improve its understanding of how to integrate PV products better with buildings.
BRE Director Nick Tune who developed the idea for the Centre said ‘We have a real opportunity here to drive the uptake of solar PV. The sector has seen a dramatic reduction in installed costs by up to 50% between 2010-2012. The Centre will help the sector deliver further reductions so solar PV can become competitive with other low-carbon electricity sources. There are significant opportunities to support the development of 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.’
The BRE National Solar Centre will provide:
- Analysis, data collection and publications to create a full and authoritative knowledge base for the industry
- An observatory for best practice, both in the UK and internationally
- Support for the development of future standards to increase quality of PV installations
- Support for UK solar industries in a worldwide market
- Due diligence consultancy and testing for new build installations
- Fault finding, verification and optimisation for existing systems
- Product development for building-integrated PV and other integrated approaches
- Direct support for Cornish small and medium enterprises
- Encouragement for inward investment to create a cluster of solar PV companies on the site.
Speaking at the launch of the BRE National Solar Centre, 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 Certificates, to help put this industry on a more sustainable footing and ensure solar continues to thrive in the future’.
The St Austell location for the Centre was chosen because the majority of the UK’s solar PV installations are focussed in South West England with a total of 55,577 installations in the region. Cornwall itself offers the most sunshine hours of any county in the UK combined with an infrastructure and business environment specifically designed to help push the industry forward.
Councillor Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for Economy and Regeneration said ‘The Centre will be a great asset for St Austell and Cornwall. The location has the potential to become an extensive national hub for solar innovation as there is an opportunity to cluster solar companies at the site where the BRE National Solar Centre is based. It serves to underline the growing momentum behind the UK’s solar industry and highlights Cornwall’s lead role.’
The BRE National Solar Centre will open in April 2013.