June 28, 2012 / 11:26 PM / 7 years ago

Council approves UK's biggest solar plant

LONDON (Reuters) - A southern English council this week approved Britain’s largest solar power project, an 8-megawatt plant with nearly 28,000 panels that turn sunlight into power in a sign that the UK’s solar market is growing, despite uncertainty about subsidy cuts.

The project near South Brent in Devon is expected to start producing electricity by the end of August, its developer TGC Renewables said, and can produce power for around 2,500 homes.

Britain’s renewable electricity production rose to around 11 percent of total power generation in the first quarter of this year, up from 7.7 percent in the same quarter last year, but solar plants contributed only a fraction of that.

Britain’s solar sector has been hit by government plans to cut feed-in-tariffs (FITs) sooner than expected, taking many investors by surprise and denting the number of new installations.

An earlier-than-expected cut in tariffs initially announced for December 2011 caused a steep fall in new projects, with nearly 30,000 new plants registered one week ahead of the cut and just 812 projects the following week.

The latest round of planned cuts was delayed by one month to August, after installations in March and April were low, making it difficult for developers to predict how much support they can count on for future projects.

The 8-MW project in Devon will be subsidised through the government’s parallel renewable certificates obligations (ROCs) scheme for green plants above 5 MW.

Support for solar projects through the ROCs scheme is also under review, with subsidies proposed to fall in 2015 and again in 2016.

Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Keiron Henderson

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