TOP-LEVEL scientists and entrepreneurs gathered in the North-East yesterday and predicted legislation coming into force next year will be a watershed for solar power use in the UK

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The Government is introducing its Feed-in Tariff in April next year, which will offer financial incentives to individuals and businesses that embrace solar energy.

Speaking at Solar Flair 09, a national photovoltaics (PV) conference, yesterday experts said the move is likely to open the floodgates for renewable energy because it would reward trailblazers.

The conference delegates, who met at Hardwick Hall, Sedgefield, County Durham, heard from representatives from a range of companies at the forefront of solar technology, including QuantaSol, Sanyo, Romag, The Centre for Renewable Energy at Durham University and the Printable Electronics Technology Centre (Petec), the UK’s national flagship facility for Printable Electronics, at the nearby NETPark.

The key message from the conference – organised by the County Durham Development Company – was that although the UK lags behind other countries with the implementation of PV appliances, a change will be seen when the Feed-in Tariff is introduced.

The Feed-in Tariff is also likely to increase employment in the installation sector, which prompted regional development agency One North East to invest in a solar training centre and courses ready for this increased demand.

The tariff scheme has been implemented in countries such as Germany and Spain and has proved an overwhelming success.

Currently, the renewables industry in the UK is dominated by biomass, followed by wind and hydro power, with PV making little impact because costs are too high.

In a survey by Consettbased glass maker Romag, 100 per cent of architects surveyed said that cost was the biggest barrier to PV.

The introduction of the Feed-in Tariff makes PV technology affordable, not just to businesses, but to residential customers who want to install solar panels in their home.

The conference was told that residential customers taking advantage of the Feedin Tariff will have no bills and will not be subject to the steep price increases the UK has suffered in recent years and instead the average household will make £1,200 per year.

Speaking on behalf of the New and Renewable Energy Centre, in Blyth, Northumberland, Tim Bruton said that the Earth receives 6,000 times more energy from the sun than it consumes daily.

Mr Bruton said that a study by Northumbria University showed that if every southfacing home in the UK fitted solar panels, it would generate enough electricity to meet the country’s energy needs.

“Obviously, we believe solar energy as a sector is going to take off in a big way in the future in the UK,” he said. “It’s important for the region.”

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