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STA Responds to 10MW Community FIT Energy Bill Amendment

The STA has welcomed Government proposals to increase the upper size limit of community projects eligible for the fixed Feed-in Tariff (FIT) from 5MW to 10MW in an amendment tabled by DECC yesterday [1].

The amendment does not stipulate a 'community' tariff per se, but will do so in secondary legislation, the STA understands from DECC officials.

STA Chief Executive Paul Barwell said:
“Community solar farms on lower grade agricultural land are a great way to generate electricity locally using the sun as a free source of energy. It helps farmers diversify their risk away from increased weather risks to their land, while at the same time fostering dual purpose land use and biodiversity. Community ownership will help secure better community acceptance for more ambitious solar farms over the existing 5MW threshold.”

However, the STA has been meeting with community energy groups to explain why it is the existing FIT that needs to be tackled if community solar is to thrive. Currently all solar schemes over 50kW (the size of e.g. a school scheme) are subject to very stringent capacity constraints. For example, in any quarter, if more than 200MW of capacity of 50kW+schemes is installed, this will result in a 28% cut in all the tariffs from 50kW through to 5MW. Furthermore, for schemes over 250kW (larger commercial or community schemes), the FIT is too low to work, leading to just a handful of projects at this size since last July. This is despite schemes over 250kW being more cost effective than many large-scale renewables supported under the Renewables Obligation (RO).

STA Head of External Affairs Leonie Greene said:
“Everyone who wants to see more diverse investment in solar from a myriad of new investors at the local level should be looking to reform the existing FITs. Solar is being unfairly constrained and key sub-sectors of solar just aren't viable in the UK. It is this 'normal' mid-size of solar, dominant in markets overseas, that needs urgent attention.”

The STA is currently finalising its best practice guidance for high standards in solar farm construction, which recommend avoiding prime grade agricultural land, and provide a set of criteria which developers, builders and land tenants can use to ensure best practice.

Leonie Greene said:
“The UK solar policy framework currently risks driving extremes of scale for domestic and field arrays, which in turn risks damaging currently high levels of public support for solar. We can't believe that anyone wants this outcome and urge communit groups and DECC to ensure the existing FIT is made to work for mid-size solar projects.”

1. DECC: ‘More community energy projects to get support under Feed-in Tariffs’, 3rd July 2013. Available at:

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