Friday, 25 November 2011

Letter to DECC re. FiTS cuts (25/11/11)

We sent this to the DECC today; whether or not anyone else will agree with us, or it will serve any purpose, fails to be seen at the moment.

"We are a wholesaler of solar PV equipment and have therefore been working hard to get through this difficult time. We are very closely associated with a German importer who has, obviously, gone through the period of recalibration following the German cut to their FiTS equivalent some time ago. We actually support the FiTS cut and believe that the industry will emerge stronger, more flexible and significantly more knowledgeable, and that the industry will remain profitable, albeit a little smaller. This is exactly what happened in Germany and those who remained after the FiTS were companies offering a far better level of client-side service.

However, we would like to suggest that the problem in the UK with overly high ROI figures in the 8-12% range has been greatly exacerbated by the EIS funds out of the City and, in particular, by those investing in the “rent a roof” programmes. Unfortunately, the DECC proposed reduction in FiTS is carte blanche and therefore does not discriminate between householders and ‘non-householders’. We strongly believe that the programme should have been set up originally to discriminate between the two, giving a higher tariff to those installing on their own property and those installing on a 3rd party property. This would have been, and still would be, a very simple legislative definition to include in the revised FiTS, rightly rewarding those who should have been rewarded in the first place. The “rent a roof” contingent would still be able to enjoy 4-6% ROI (a fairly ‘safe bet’ in investment terms).

We believe that a discriminatory approach would significantly reduce the negative impact that the current FiTS revision will have, whilst at the same time significantly reducing the national cost of the programme and realigning it with the intentions from which it was born."

Yours faithfully,

Martyn Judd 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mono- or poly-crystalline PV: Which is best?

By Robin Whitlock, Freelance Environmental Journalist

The three most recognised forms of solar PV are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film (amorphous). Of these three the first two form 93% of solar PV sales worldwide. Undoubtedly the most efficient is the first form, monocrystalline. It is called such because the crystals in the solar module are cut from a single continuous piece of silica crystal derived from molten sand. This is delivered in the form of a long cylinder shape which is then cut into circular wafers which can either be maintained as circular cells or cut into other shapes. Usually the cells are cut into a hexagonal shape in order to make them fit into the module in a tight formation thus allowing for maximum coverage and eliminating unnecessary space. The cells have a uniform colour, dark blue, because they are cut from the same piece of crystal.

Polycrystalline PV differs from monocrystalline in that instead of being cut from a single piece of crystal the silicon is melted and poured into a mould. Very often the silicon used is the remnants from manufacture of monocrystalline. The silicon from the mould takes the form of a square block which is again cut into wafers. Polycrystalline is cheap to produce and therefore cost-effective, but it is less efficient than monocrystalline PV. Poly panels therefore tend to be larger than mono for the same power output. An important consideration therefore is space. You can use poly effectively if you have lots of space on your roof or if you wish to use them as part of a ground-based array. It should be mentioned, however, that poly is generally more resistant to the long-term effects of heat than mono, so polycrystalline panels are often used in hotter countries.

Monocrystalline PV tends to be the most expensive of the two forms, but it is also the most efficient at between 13 to 17%, although some panels now can exceed 21%. The reason why PV is so expensive is precisely because it has to be refined from sand in order to achieve PV-grade silica. It is also a material that is high in demand because it is used for other electronic applications as well, notably the base material for computer chips and so on. Monocrystalline panels usually come with a 25 year power output guarantee. Monocrystalline PV panels are fast becoming the most used type of panel in the world.



RB Grant

Air and Water

Sunday, 6 November 2011

FiTS cuts lead to panic buying of solar panels and systems

The government's surprise announcement of the 50% cut to the Feed in Tariffs as of 12th December this year has led to huge demand and panic buying of wholesale solar panels, inverters and mounting systems. Wholesalers and dealers saw unprecedented demand last week and stocks of all products, especially inverters and mounting hardware, are running worryingly low.

With such high demand, some sales teams have been forced to ignore ringing telephones to keep up with processing so many orders, warehouses began to empty and many installers have been left with installation contracts, but with nothing to install. Unfortunately, the unscrupulous elements of the solar industry have also surfaced, with some wholesalers increasing prices by up to 100%!

In response to this significant demand, we at Cleversolar have made stocks of trade solar equipment from our facilities in Europe available to the UK solar industry. Unlike some we have not increased our prices!

Friday, 4 November 2011

New trade services from Cleversolar

In response to the recent FiTS announcement from the DECC, we have launched our new trade customer support programme, allowing installers to benefit from our EU stock-holding and distribution of MCS listed solar PV panels and inverters. For more, visit

UK solar industry fuming about DECC FiTS cut!

By Robin Whitlock, Freelance Environmental Journalist

As is widely known by now, the DECC are intending to cut the FiTS rate from 43p per kWh for systems up to 4 kW to 21p per kWh. A similar cut is intended for systems over 4 kW.

The announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Monday of a cut in the rate of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTS) of over 50% to take effect from 12th December this year has incurred the wrath of a UK solar industry concerned about the effect on smaller solar businesses and on jobs. In fact, several reports suggest that solar firms and environmental groups are actively considering taking legal action on this issue. One of the main issues that has infuriated solar businesses and environmentalists alike is the speed with which the government has introduced the cut. They argue that the December 12th deadline pre-empts the consultation and the outcome of the review, not due until next year. At least one legal firm in the UK, Eversheds, argues that the cuts should be administered in a manner that does not affect contracts and orders already in place, as is the case at present. Consequently many across the industry are predicting that the rate cut will effectively ‘kill’ solar PV in the UK as small firms go out of business and jobs are lost.

Some figures in the industry are predicting that as many as 25,000 jobs could go. One firm is facing a 100% cancellation rate among 90% of those clients whose contracts fall on the wrong side of the deadline. Others believe that solar PV could go back to being a status symbol or merely the visible sign of environmental attitudes within particular households, with many deserving schemes such as those aimed at reducing fuel poverty or assisting community projects losing out. This has already started to happen. Dorset County Council have just announced that they are to cancel a £1 million project aimed at installing solar PV on the roofs of local schools. The decision was made on the basis that the project would make a loss of around £60,000 which works out at £2,000 per school.

Emma Hughes from Solar Power Portal approached a number of figures in the industry to gauge opinion on this issue. Predictably they were all woefully similar essentially encompassing the view that the rate cut would kill the industry and that this means that the whole solar PV sector has basically wasted its time. According to Business Green one firm has reputedly been preparing itself for redundancies this week while another solar executive said that he had effectively lost 12 months of his time and £20,000. Another issue though is that of trust. The government has been seen to say one thing and do another, and this is the second occasion on which the ability of solar PV businesses to trust the government has been called into question.

Despite the grim situation, Emma Hughes is optimistic nevertheless. She believes that rent-a-roof schemes will fall flat, but she refuses to believe that the industry will be killed off completely. If anything positive emerges from this it will be that those with strong business models will carry the flag forward to strengthen the industry in the future.

Let’s just hope that this is indeed the case.


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