UK could install 8 gigawatts of solar by 2016

by James Martin II on December 20, 2012

Solar installation on house

The UK could surpass much sunnier EU member states in installed solar panel capacity in the next 3 years, according to a report compiled jointly by Rexel Energy and IMS Research. The report estimates that the UK will have 8 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed by 2016–vs around 1GW at present.

Due to economic crises in both countries, the report anticipates that the UK will overtake Spain and Greece in solar power capacity, although it will still lag behind global solar leaders Germany and Italy. This will make it the #3 solar PV power in the EU–up 4 slots from #7 in 2011. Germany will see about 55GW of solar by that time, whilst Italy will be home to about 25GW.

Installing 22GW of solar PV is a sub-target of the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target, which mandates that nearly 30% of the power generated here come from renewable sources such as wind, hydropower, and solar. While not known for its abundant sunshine, the UK is seeing a larger and larger proportion of its energy needs met by solar panels. Solar PV system capacity has been increasing dramatically in the past few years, since the introduction of the UK’s feed-in tariff, which rewards system owners financially for generating power. The UK saw an 840-fold increase in solar power generation between 2010–when the feed-in tariff was introduced–and 2011.

The fact that so many solar panels are going up on roofs or as solar farms and parks is testament to the fact that solar power works in the UK–which is not universally known for its good weather. Although the impetus for the government’s support for renewable energy lies mainly in the environment and energy security, the end result of its support is that uptake of solar PV is being driven by economics. With returns on investment greater than 10% for a typical solar PV system, going solar has become an attractive investment option for many homes and businesses in the UK.

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