Solar booms in the UK.

Recharge: “Last year, while Britain’s politicians and media were arguing over the merits of nuclear energy, offshore wind and fracking, large-scale PV quietly and methodically boomed.”
“The UK added about 1.45GW of PV capacity in 2013, most of it from ground-mounted arrays, according to market researcher NPD Solarbuzz. That means that when the final numbers are in, PV is likely to have topped onshore wind on annual installations for the first time in this wet and cloudy country — a major milestone for the sector.
And with another 1GW expected to go live during the first quarter of 2014 alone — as solar developers race to beat a subsidy cut planned for 1 April — the UK will soon find itself with more grid-connected PV than offshore wind, a scenario almost unimaginable a few years ago.
“It’s been a very important 12 months for the UK solar industry,” says James Armstrong, managing partner at the London-based Bluefield Solar Income Fund (BSIF), a PV investment vehicle that has spawned a number of imitators since raising £130m ($216m) on the London Stock Exchange last summer. The industry will play a far more central role in the country’s future energy mix than many people realise, Armstrong explains.
For both practical and symbolic reasons, buy-in from institutional investors is often seen as a sort of Holy Grail for renewable-energy segments.
….the “boring” reality of large PV — no moving parts; relatively consistent output relative to wind; guaranteed multi-decade project lifespans — is rapidly sinking in with pension funds, insurance companies and their ilk.
….BSIF’s model is rapidly catching on. In January alone, two more investment groups — the NextEnergy Solar Fund and Ingenious Media Holdings — announced plans to list funds in London that will compete with BSIF in buying up UK solar assets.
….Most of the projects that BSIF has acquired to date — with an average sticker price of £10m — have come from just two developers, the UK’s Solarcentury and Belgium-based Ikaros Solar.
….One major question mark for large-scale PV in the UK is how economic the sector will look after 2017, when the two current support schemes — the Renewables Obligation (RO) for large projects, and a feed-in tariff for those below 5MW — are replaced by the Contracts for Difference (CfD) regime.
….One source of help may come in the form of the EU’s current price floor on Chinese modules, which is due to expire in 2015, well before the RO concludes.
….The government has formally opened its arms to the possibility of 20GW of PV in the UK by 2020, up from less than 4GW today.”