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Last month the government released a consultation proposing to introduce a new permitted development right that would remove the requirement for a planning application to the local authority for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installations of up to one megawatt in capacity.  The consultation has been issued as a result of the ‘Solar PV Strategy Part 2: Delivering a brighter Future’ (Solar Strategy), released in April 2014, in which the government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) identified planning constraints as one of the key barriers to the development of rooftop solar PV for the mid-size commercial market.

Whilst permitted development rights for the installation of solar PV on non-domestic buildings have existed since 2012 for projects of up to 50kW, installations above this size still require a full planning application.  The new permitted development rights would apply to rooftop installations on all non-domestic buildings subject to some exclusions, for example listed buildings, and requiring prior approval in consideration of design and siting.

Changes to planning permission is just one of the steps identified by the Solar Strategy to push solar PV in this sector, with other initiatives such as simplification of the registration process for tariffs under the ROOFiT scheme and the development of guidance by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors to ensure their members are able to inform property buyers and sellers of the value associated with income from the feed in tariff and the electricity saved from properties which incorporate solar PV.

The focus on mid-size, non-domestic buildings further opens up the opportunities for the use of solar PV on agricultural buildings for instance dairies and poultry farms.  The advantages of these installations include the ability to use the power generated on site; reduced pressure on the grid; reduced energy bills; economies of scale and lower impact on landscape and visual amenity.  Developers are actively looking for suitable rooftops; providing rooftop owners with the option of owning the solar PV installation themselves or leasing it to a third party with the possibility of entering into a power purchase agreement to receive electricity at a reduced price.

The consultation response is expected in late September.

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