Currently the UK in the midst of a solar boom. This may not come as a surprise to people who regularly see rooftops of their neighbours being turned into solar power stations and indeed their own homes covered in solar panels, generating clean, renewable energy, but of course only when the sun shines.
Some people are very surprised that solar panel adoption has taken off in the UK, given that our climate is hardly Mediterranean. In fact you could think, wouldn’t it be better if we simply built all these solar farms in a sun drenched place like Morocco and offset the carbon saved. indeed it would free up the agricultural land in the UK for growing food, that is currently being used to build a solar panel farm.
But that’s an argument for another time. Although at the end we will share some interesting news from Morocco.
Let’s talk about the current solar panel industry in the UK.
The UK solar power adoption has increased from 12.5 MWp in 2006 to 2.5GW in 2013, the UK government is currently targeting 20GW of photovoltaic energy production by 2020 and of that 2.5 GW, solar farms produce 0.6 GW, the most being in the SW of the UK, being the sunniest. There are around 70 solar panel farms in the SW and this is only increasing.
One of the South West’s first solar farms was the Wheal Jane farm, near Truro. It is on the site of a disused tin mine and is 1.4 MW. It has 5,680 solar panels and generates enough electricity for 430 homes, and all together saves 737 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
The largest planned is in Lincolnshire on the site of an old airfield. Faldingworth in Lincolnshire will host a solar farm generating 50MW of electricity, it will have 196,000 panels and will be able to power 12,000 homes.
A similar sized farm is already in operation in Wymeswold, Leicestershire, having 130,000 panels, although it is soon to be getting extra panels this year.
However, according to solarserver.com in September, 2014 reported that the largest operating solar panel farm is the Crundale Solar Farm, in Pembrokeshire which went online September 14th, 2014 and generates 37.8 MWp. It was 147,672 solar panels, enough to power more than 11,000 homes and saving 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
But now the technology has gone one step further and taken to water. The UK’s first ever floating solar panel farm has been built in Berkshire. It has 800 solar panels, generating 200 kW and floats on a reservoir near the 300-acre Sheeplands Farm near Wargrave. This is a very interesting move as it does not reduce the earnings from lucrative agricultural farm land.
A report from Imperial College states that the UK could get 40% of it’s electricity from solar panels on 10 million homes by 2020. A third of all UK households could be producing 6% of the annual need for electricity, with 40% on sunny days in Summer. This can happen if the cost of installing solar panels comes down further and that by 2030 the cost of generating solar power will be the same as coal and gas, said Ajay Gambhir of Imperial College London.
With the cost of solar technology continuing downwards and the cost of fossil fuel increasing upwards we see the take up of solar power in the UK only increasing.
Meanwhile in Morocco, the World Bank is lending the country $519 million to build 350 MegaWatts of solar power, which is the 2nd phase of a 500 MegaWatt project. The initiative is to produce 2 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, which will be around 38% of the total Moroccan generation capacity.