Devon, Wales, and North Somerset are UK’s solar leaders: DECC

by James Martin II on December 1, 2012

UK's leading solar areas: Devon, Wales, North Somerset

There are no winners or losers in the game of solar power, but if one were to give awards, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) might declare communities in Devon, Wales, and North Somerset the solar champions of the UK based on recent statistics.

The data from the DECC show that North Somerset is the UK’s 3rd most popular spot for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems–solar installations in North Somerset account for around 4% of all the UK’s installations. All three locations are located in the south of the UK, where it is generally agreed that a higher incidence of sunshine makes going solar a financially rewarding endeavour, with annual returns on investment of up to 22%.

Solar PV has proven to be one of the most popular forms of renewable energy in the UK, driven mainly by the feed-in tariff. Although the feed-in tariff applies to a number of different ‘microgeneration’ technologies such as hydropower, wind, and biodigestion, solar PV has clearly shown itself to be the most popular in all parts of the UK–breaking the 90% barrier everywhere except for Scotland, where the number was still an impressive 50%. Wales and the South East and South West (including sunny Cornwall) regions of England have proven themselves to be the uncontested leaders in renewable energy, with over 450 megawatts (MW) of installed solar PV capacity between them (see the map below).

The data give further geographical detail to the 840-fold increase in solar PV power output that occurred in the last year in the UK. Thanks in part to the relatively high population density of the UK, solar PV has proved itself to be an clean and effective power generation method despite having less incident sunshine than many other countries. In fact, the UK now has as much installed solar PV capacity as the whole of Australia–around 2 gigawatts (GW)–despite Australia’s being a much more sun-blessed nation.

The feed-in tariff is credited as being the main driver of the rapid uptake of the technology, but concomitant with the boom has also been an increase in competition and a drop in the cost of installing a system–making investment in solar attractive for households with a wider range of incomes than ever before. Solar panels have been making an appearance not only on the roofs of individual houses, but also on farms and commercial buildings across the UK.

Breakdown of solar and other renewable capacity across the UK

Breakdown of solar and other renewable generation capacity across the UK. (Source: Ofgem)

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