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Supporting the Solar Energy Market

The UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. More renewable energy production will help to achieve this and reduce the UK’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. Since 2008, installed solar energy capacity in the UK has increased more than a thousand fold, from around 2MW to 2.5 GW. Research carried out at Northumbria University on the performance of photovoltaic systems (PV) - the most commonly used technology for converting sunshine into electricity – has played an important role in achieving this increase.

In 1994 the University installed the UK’s first PV façade at its city campus. This project provided a wealth of performance data on the influence of system design, climate and shading on the electrical and thermal performance of PV modules in UK conditions. This generated a unique field of expertise at Northumbria and led to the involvement of the research team in the Domestic Photovoltaic Field Trial between 2000 and 2007. This project remains the most comprehensive study of domestic PV system performance in the UK and the data and insights from it continue to be used to inform a number of government policies that have encouraged PV implementation.

The introduction of the Micro-generation Feed-in Tariff in April 2010 supported a rapid increase in domestic solar energy PV systems. For small domestic solar energy generators, the Tariff assumes a fixed percentage of the electricity generated is exported to the National Grid, avoiding the need for costly metering. The export percentage used by the development committee to calculate the payment to be applied was directly informed by the results from the Domestic Field Trial. The best practice guides produced from the project also informed the Micro-generation Certification Scheme, which defines the quality requirements for installations to be eligible to claim the Feed-In Tariff.

Northumbria University’s influence on creating a more effective and efficient market in solar energy extends to Europe where our researchers are among Europe’s leading experts on photovoltaic systems. They contribute to European policy via membership of working groups feeding into the European PV system monitoring guidelines and international standards relating to PV system components.

For more details on this research please read our Business Services Case Study 'Solar Capture Technologies: Northumbria Research shines light on solar technology'

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Northumbria Research Link (NRL) is an open access repository of Northumbria University's research output.

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