Solar PV showed steady growth through 2012

by James Martin II on January 7, 2013

Solar PV capacity grows in UK

According to data released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), solar photovoltaics (PV) system capacity across the UK showed steady growth in the first 9 months of the year. There is now over 1.6 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity in the UK–more than triple the 489 megawatt (MW) figure of the same time the previous year.

At just over 1 terawatt-hour (TWh), the power generated by solar PV (grouped in with a small amount of wave and tidal power) represents just above 1% of the UK’s total power generation for Q3 of 2012, and about 11% of the country’s renewable energy production, which rose 2.4% from 9.1% of all power produced for the same period the previous year. The overall increase in renewable energy production is attributed to the UK’s renewable energy target. Growth in small-scale technologies such as rooftop solar PV systems is being attributed in great part to the UK’s feed-in tariff, which subsidises each unit of power produced by these technologies.

The role of solar PV in the UK’s energy mix grown dramatically but quietly in the past 2 years, with the DECC only officially acknowledging its importance by including the technology in its updated Renewable Energy Roadmap released at the end of 2012. Until proving its popularity and effectiveness, PV was widely viewed as either inappropriate for the UK or just too small-scale to be useful. Pursuant to the updated Roadmap, a solar-specific strategy will be introduced by the DECC early this year to clear the path for further uptake of solar panels across the UK.

Renewable energy share of electricity generation

Renewable energy share of electricity generation. (Image via DECC.)

Solar PV’s share of the power generation pie is likely to continue growing through 2013, thanks to the stabilised policy climate that has emerged after a tumultuous year of industry uncertainty due to stop-start government support for PV and other technologies supported by the feed-in tariff. Although the future importance of solar PV in the long-term is largely unquestioned, the DECC’s approach to solar seems to have matured enough to keep the industry on a steady path for the short- and medium-terms as well. As Solar Power Portal’s Peter Bennett points out in a recent editorial piece:

The move [to publish a solar PV strategy] marks a step-change in attitude towards solar from DECC. It appears that within the walls of Whitehall Place, solar is no longer considered a nuisance but a viable technology in the quest to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply. 

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