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Exclusive: US giant Solarcity pulls out of the UK less than a year after launch

American solar giant SolarCity has pulled out of the UK market less than a year after setting up in the country.

A company spokeswoman told Construction News “current economics” had led to its exit from the UK and that it would not return until these had improved.

Zep Solar, a subsidiary of SolarCity - the fourth biggest solar firm in the US - set up in the UK eight months ago and had put in place plans for rapid expansion.

In an interview with the PVTech website in July, Zep Solar vice-president of global operations Chad Medcroft said the company, which was headquartered in Milton Keynes, had targeted the UK and was hoping to bring its PV offering to the market by October.

Mr Medcroft said at the time: “Our commercial mounting system will be piloted from August and through September, leading to a full ramp sometime in October or November.

“It’s fair to say we’re going to be expanding and adding more personnel in our office soon.”

Zep Solar’s closure is the latest among solar installation firms after the government unveiled proposals to slash renewable energy subsidies by up to 87 per cent.

Last week, it was confirmed that Mark Group and Climate Energy had gone into administration, putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk.

Yesterday, a third firm, Sothern Solar, was wound up, with the administrators citing the government cuts to feed-in tariffs as the driver behind its collapse.

Zep Solar was acquired by the Elon Musk’s SolarCity for $158m (£102m) in 2013.

Solar Trade Association chief executive Paul Barwell said: “This is more devastating news for the solar sector.

“Despite the fact that the government is still in a consultation stage, there is such a dramatic loss of investors confidence in the market.

“What is significant here is that these are big overseas companies looking to invest in the UK.

He said companies are now being deterred from investing in the UK solar industry due to “draconian measures against renewables”.

A spokeswoman for SolarCity said: “We set up a small R&D operation in the UK, but the current economics don’t support a broader expansion.

“We wouldn’t consider expanding to the UK as a solar provider until the economics improve, and we think that is at least a year or two away.

“We’ve completed the R&D project—we had six employees working on it and we were able to reassign two but we had to part ways with the other four until the conditions change.”

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