Lightsource Renewable Energy has revealed it is looking to invest up to £600 million over the next five years in buying solar assets from households and businesses, as it looks to diversify its revenue streams.
The company, which is one of the leading developers and operators of solar assets in Europe, said the scheme would offer owners of residential and commercial rooftop solar arrays a cash lump sum for their installation.
Under the terms of the proposed deal Lightsource would take ownership of the arrays and receive the feed-in tariff (FiT) payments associated with them. However, the original owner would continue to receive power free of charge from the solar panels and Lightsource would take responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the installation for the remainder of the FiT payment period.
“There’s no question that solar PV is a sound investment,” said Nick Boyle, CEO at Lightsource. “Our buyback scheme offers early adopters the chance to realise an immediate substantial return on their investment today with the added benefit of continued free solar electricity. In return for the FiT payment, we operate, maintain and insure the system – taking the hassle and cost out of any necessary future repairs.”
The company said it has already acquired more than 1,000 installations across the UK boasting more than 2.25 MW of capacity through its buyback scheme, but is now looking to beef up funding for the initiative with a particular focus on acquiring solar systems deployed before FiT rates were cut in April 2012.
Buyback schemes or alternative ownership vehicles could prove particularly attractive to commercial owners of solar arrays from next year in the light of government plans to increase business rates for firms that own and operate solar systems.
The industry is campaigning against prospective changes to business rates rules that could see the tax levied on solar systems increase up to eight-fold.
However, industry insiders have noted that if the government goes ahead with the planned changes companies could avoid the hike in business rates if their solar systems are owned and operated by a third party that then still provides power to the site, as the power generated would be deemed “mainly for export”.
Solar developers in the UK have faced tough market conditions in recent months following steep cuts to the subsidies offered to solar farms and rooftop installations, prompting firms to investigate new ways to diversify their revenue streams.
However, Boyle said he was confident the solar sector was still well positioned to take advantage of rapid changes in the way the energy sector operates.
“For Lightsource and the energy industry as a whole, I can see huge changes happening in the future, as technologies across solar and IT combine to create genuinely smart homes and businesses,” he predicted. “These technologies are already changing the way that we live and work – and the application of energy management systems and batteries will revolutionise the energy industry making it cheaper and cleaner for everyone.”