Lightsource Renewable Energy wants to invest up to £600 million over the next five years in buying solar assets from households and businesses, to diversify its revenue streams.
The company said it would offer owners of residential and commercial rooftop solar arrays a cash lump sum for their installation. Lightsource would take ownership of the arrays and receive the feed-in tariff (FiT) payments associated with them. 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.
Nick Boyle, Lightsource chief executive, said “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 totaling 2.25MW but it now wants to acquire solar systems deployed before FiT rates were cut in April 2012.
It says 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. Companies can 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”.
The company is also seeking commercial customers who want to save on electricity imports by allowing Lightsource to install new PV arrays ‘behind the meter’ with no capital investment.
Boyle told attendees at the Nemex show recently that onsite PV would help fix energy costs long term, saying “for large scale solar we can undercut [market energy prices] and for domestic energy we can match them”. Now, he said, the company is building at 7p behind the meter and fixing the price for 20 years.