UK-based renewable energy developer Lightsource is looking to diversify its revenue streams through a new program which will invest up to £600 million over the next five years in buying up solar assets from homes and businesses.
Under the proposed scheme, Lightsource would offer the owners of both residential and commercial rooftop solar arrays a lump sum for their installation, which will see Lightsource take ownership of those solar arrays and garner the company the payments they receive under the feed-in tariff (FiT) program. According to the company, “the original owner would continue to receive power free of charge” from the solar arrays, while Lightsource will take over the operations and maintenance side of the installations “for the remainder of the FiT payment period.”
Lightsource says it has already purchased more than 1,000 solar installations in the UK, accounting for more than 2.25 megawatts (MW) of capacity, under its buyback scheme, and is now looking to acquire more solar installations that were operational before the FiT rates were cut in early 2012.
“There’s no question that solar PV is a sound investment. 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.” – Nick Boyle, CEO at Lightsource.
According to Lightsource, buyback schemes such as its own, or other alternative ownership structures, “could prove particularly attractive to commercial owners of solar arrays” beginning next year, due to “government plans to increase business rates for firms that own and operate solar systems.” One way around those rate hikes would be to have the solar arrays owned and operated by a third party that would still generate solar electricity for use on-site, as the solar electricity would be considered “mainly for export.”
As solar subsidies and rate structures continue to change, solar companies may need to look at new ways to diversify their revenue streams, including through buyback schemes such as this one, but Boyle maintained “the solar sector was still well positioned.”
“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. 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.”