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Solar farm applications almost double after cuts announcement

Words: Laura Edgar

Planning applications for solar farms have increased after the government announced it was consulting on plans to end subsidy schemes for solar farms, says new data. 

The data, compiled for Building magazine by Barbour ABI, which supplies construction data to the Office for National Statistics, Cabinet Office and Treasury, shows that 83 applications for solar farms – a record – worth a total of £431 million were submitted for planning permission in July. Seventy-three were for five megawatts (MW) or less.

According to the data, two-thirds of the solar projects were submitted on or after 22 July, the day the Department for Energy and Climate Change launched a consultation on closing the Renewables Obligation for solar farms with a capacity of 5 MW or below.

In June, just 45 applications were made whereas 51 were submitted between 22 and 31 of July, after the announcement.

Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said it wasn’t a surprise to see a flood of applications trying to get projects in the planning pipeline immediately after the government announcement.

“The government’s stance on solar is that falling costs have made it easier for the industry to survive without subsidies, particularly with the drop in prices for wholesale electricity prices.

“However, the risk here is that diminishing subsidies could falter a growing industry, potentially putting it under major jeopardy. Up to 27,000 jobs are at risk over the coming years in solar alone, not mentioning other renewable technologies, if more subsidy cuts are on the way,” he concluded.