Sunny Spells For Solar Power

The US solar power industry has received a significant endorsement from a top US financier who stated that the sector is moving rapidly to the point it will no longer need government support.

Speaking on Platt’s Energy Week, a specialist internet broadcast channel for the power industry, Jonathan Plowe, a managing director of Bank America Merrill Lynch underlined the declining price of solar panels as evidence of an industry take-up by consumers.

“We’re rapidly getting to the point where solar energy can survive on its own without government subsidies,”

Plowe told the programme. “One of the areas I think is most interesting in that space is distributed, or rooftop, solar.”

Plowe’s comments will be seen as a boost to an industry currently suffering adverse headlines following the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the Californian manufacturers of a revolutionary solar panel technology system, which received a £341.5m loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy in September 2009.

The collapse of Solyndra and its subsequent investigation by the FBI had led many in Washington to call for an end to central government support for the renewable energy sector including the scrapping of grants and tax incentives.

Plowe’s intervention comes at the same time as the Bank of America is set to launch two massive solar panels schemes which have provided a much needed boost to the industry.

The massive £1.6bn scheme known as Project Amp, part funded by another loan guarantee from the DoE in which the Bank of America is to provide an £0.89bn finance package for the scheme which aims to place 733 megawatts of solar panels on warehouse roofs across the US.

The second project also financed by the Bank of America called SolarStong would see solar panels appearing on military housing across the US.

While in the UK the result of Government initiatives aimed at encouraging solar panel take-up rooftops have also spawned controversy.

Many buildings have started to sprout large solar cell installations in a bid to benefit from the Government’s Feed In Tariff for schemes greater than 250 KwH, which had seen many organisations exploiting Government subsidies to install solar farms to reap the tariff.

The Government dropped the FIT from 29.3p per kWh to 8.5p on the 1st of August to deter the practice.
A move lamented by the International Director of Values for the Body Shop Paul McGreevy whose company has installed a 24 tennis court size solar panel on the roof of its headquarters.

“Whilst we understand the need to prevent commercial exploitation of the Feed In Tariffs, we are disappointed that large, self-funded scale installations like The Body Shop, entirely in keeping with the original intention of the initiative, have now reduced considerably in size, postponed or abandoned due to the increased investment.”

“We hope that the government will review again and extend the current Tariff, or at least consider different methodologies to assess the installations to make it more viable as it will be instrumental in reducing the price of solar panels, making it more affordable to more organisations and further encouraging local electricity generation.”


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