British builders gain solar skills

Tuesday, 24 March, 2009

More construction groups are choosing solar photovoltaic panels than all other renewable energy technologies put together — making it the most popular, green energy system for the trades to diversify into. This is a global trend, with up to 6.3 million 'solar' jobs expected by 2030 — 75% of this in installation, according to recent research from the Britsh government’s Department for Business & Regulatory Reform (BERR).

In Britain, the public sector and charities are entitled to a 50% saving on the costs of installing micro generation technologies under the government’s Low Carbon Buildings Programme, and individuals are entitled to up to $5165.

And one London-based company has come up with a way to deal with this demand and benefit the whole industry. Solarcentury’s one-day roofer training courses are proving a success with roofers looking to prepare for diversification.

By the end of January 2009, the solar team trained nearly 30 roofers from 15 companies on how to market, specify and install C21e solar electric roof tiles and slates as part of their standard contracting service.

Each course lasts for one day, with a maximum of 10 people per class.

“This training for C21e system installation underpins our position in the vanguard of the roofing revolution. Last year we became the first company in the country to offer certificated National Federation of Roofing Contractors training in the fitting of solar panels on rooftops, and this is a great step forward,” Chris Hopkins, a recent trainee and managing director of Ploughcroft Roofing, said.

“The new solar slates are very relevant for us because there are so many slate roofs in the area where we work. In fact, we have already had a number of requests for the product from local authorities and schools.”

Driving the demand for roofers to acquire solar skills is the code for sustainable homes, the government’s support of renewable energy, and consumer demand.

Roofers are keen to get training in solar skills because PV technology, or solar electric, is proving to be one of the easiest and cheapest ways to meet CO2 reduction requirements in building regulations such as the code for sustainable homes and the ecohomes standard.

“Despite the economic downturn, social housing providers need to continue investing in the UK’s housing needs. Because of this, the public sector is leading the way in demonstrating how innovations such as solar PV can contribute to the design of homes that meet the demands of the code for sustainable homes," Jeremy Leggett, Solarcentury’s executive chairman, said.

“Without employing renewable energy technology such as solar PV, there is no way that levels five and six of the code are possible. Roofing contractors who recognise this have the opportunity to maximise their business opportunities, as the market shifts towards trades which can deliver renewable technologies.”

Internationally, British expertise is heralding the benefits of solar power also. BP's integrated energy group and its solar division BP Solar has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Spain, India and China.

BP Solar also has manufacturing bases in Australia, India, Spain and California, producing 13.2 megawatts a year. Major projects include the supply of solar panels to the athletes village for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and a $30 million project to supply solar power to 400 remote villages in the Philippines.

BP Solar’s modules installed worldwide will offset more than 14 million metric tonnes of CO2 during their lifetime. That is the equivalent of planting more than 5 million acres (2,023,000 hectares) of trees.

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