FIT cuts prompt ‘gold rush’ for PV panel maker
Cuts to payments for electricity generated through solar panels have proved ‘perversely helpful’ according to one housing association-owned business.
Photovoltaic panel maker Romag, which was bought by Sunderland-based landlord Gentoo in April, sold out of photovoltaic panels within three days at the end of November.
The company was inundated with orders after the government announced it was slashing feed-in tariff payments for electricity generated from PV panels from 43.3p/kilowatt hour to 21p/kWh from 12 December. Installations completed before the cut off date were eligible for the higher tariff, which is valid for 25 years.
Thanks to this rush, Romag produced its maximum output of 16,000 panels a month.
Managing director Phil Murray said of the reduction to the feed-in tariff: ‘In the short term it was great - we had a gold rush.’ He added that Romag had to turn orders away at the beginning of December.
He said since the deadline he is expecting a subdued January and has already decreased from three production shifts to two, but is optimistic the benefits of solar energy will keep demand at a profitable level and the company will meet its targets of selling 12,000 PV panels a month from February 2012.
He said: ‘The cuts to the feed-in tariff were perversely helpful as the arguments against the government in the media increased awareness of solar energy.
‘People are also seeing more solar panels going up on roofs around them. With the cost of electricity rising by 8 per cent a year, people see it makes sense to invest in solar.
‘Five years ago Romag was producing 30 megawatt of PV a year and now we’re producing 30mw a day. It’s evident that PV is still a thriving business with new customers looking for a local supply.’
After being bought by Gentoo Romag begun work on a new production line costing £1.5 million. Although the new line was used during the ‘gold rush’, it was officially opened this week.
Mr Murray said he expects the company to shift its focus to creating specialist PV cells in glass which are used in high-end architecture now that the deadline for the cuts to the feed-in tariff has passed.