LONDON (Reuters) - The number of solar panel installations in Britain doubled in less than two months until December to 230,000 projects, government data showed, as developers scrambled to benefit from higher state subsidies ahead of a 50 percent cut.
Solar projects of up to 4 kilowatts (kW) installed on or after December 12 face a 52 percent drop in renewable energy subsidies to 21 pence per kilowatt-hour from April 1, 2012.
GRAPHIC: UK PV installations 2011 http://link.reuters.com/vax65s
Weekly solar installations in the week ending December 11 reached an all-time high of 29,880, compared with just 812 projects registered the following week which included the subsidies deadline, data provided by the Department of Energy and Climate Change showed.
As a result of the high uptake, UK solar power production capacity has risen more than sixfold this year to just below 760 megawatts (MW).
The government decided to cut solar tariffs earlier than expected as the generous subsidy scheme prompted higher-than-forecast uptake and threatened to deplete a dedicated budget ahead of its planned 2015 end date.
The steep cuts caused uproar among solar plant developers who claim the reductions were too high and would kill an industry which is still developing.
"The premature cuts could cost up to 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to 230 million pounds a year in tax income," environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth (FoE) said.
Two solar companies and the FoE have sued the government for its solar cut decision and a High Court verdict is expected later on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by James Jukwey)