The cost of installing energy-saving solar panels is set to take a tumble thanks to the opening of Britain’s first solar centre.

The National Solar Centre (NSC) in Cornwall will focus on driving uptake by making solar photovoltaic technology cost-competitive with traditional forms of energy.

Speaking at the centre’s unveiling, energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said that solar would play an increasingly valuable role in the UK’s energy mix.

The news was particularly good for convenience stores, a spokesman for the Solar Trade Association added.

He told Convenience Store: “The launch of a centre of expertise in training, research and data aggregation and analysis is very timely indeed.
“Although the Feed-in Tariff is lower now than when it first launched, the policy framework is much more stable, and system prices have fallen dramatically. As a consequence, solar is now affordable to greater numbers of potential users, while wholesale energy prices continue to rise.

Now is as good a time as ever for retailers conscious of costs and carbon to invest in solar power for their premises,” he said.

The government’s previous Feed-In Tariff saw householders and small businesses paid for their solar generation at 43.3p per kWh of electricity generated. However, this was cut to 21p in 2012 after the runaway rate of installations threatened to cost it too much.

A number of convenience store retailers including Chris Smith of Greensmith’s in London’s Waterloo are already using solar energy, with take-up expected to climb in 2013. Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide almost all of Greensmith’s hot water needs. And in the Lodsworth Larder in West Sussex, solar is helping to keep energy bills under control.