UK power output from solar PV increases 840 fold–in the space of a year

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by James Martin II on October 2, 2012

Half a terawatt-hour (TWh) of solar power was produced in the UK in Q2 of 2012, according to figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). This represents an astronomical 840% increase from the same period in 2011, when combined solar PV capacity produced only 1/5 of a TWh.

The phenomenal rise of solar power production is attributed mainly to the introduction of a UK-wide feed-in tariff for solar power. A surge in the number of solar system installation companies accompanied the rise in generation capacity across the country to 1.38 gigawatts (GW), and around 4,000 installers currently exist in the UK market.

Although the contribution appears small compared to generation capacity from other renewable sources such as wind and hydropower, the gains by solar PV are significant to the UK’s generation portfolio for a number of reasons. Solar PV, as a ‘distributed generation’ technology that encompasses smaller rooftop solar and larger projects such as solar farms, also plays the important role of reducing demand for power from the grid by allowing homes and businesses to consume power that they produce themselves.

This ‘self consumption’, in combination with revenue from feed-in tariffs, can result in major savings on power bills. It also makes solar PV an increasingly attractive investment as electricity prices continue to rise UK-wide.

UK Renewable Energy Generation Q2 2012. Source: DECC.gov.uk UK Renewable Energy Generation Q2 2012. Solar PV is lumped in with todal power and wave power. Source: DECC.gov.uk

The growth in solar power generation in the UK happens against the background of rapidly increasing renewable power generation in the EU and around the world. The DECC report is a reminder, however, of the overwhelming dominance of conventional, fossil fuel and nuclear electricity generation. Nearly 90% of the UK’s power came from these latter sources.

The share of power produced from renewable sources increased 0.6% from Q2 last year to 9.6% this year, most of this being accounted for by offshore wind. Altogether, absolute generation from renewables increased 6.5% compared to this time last year. Meanwhile, domestic fuel production fell by 10.1%, and unusually high gas prices resulted in a decreased percentage of generation by gas. Gas, coal, and nuclear generation are widely believed to be vulnerable to this type of price volatility; indeed, due to this and other pressures solar and wind are projected to be cost-competitive with these forms of generation by 2020.

© 2012 Solar Selections Ltd

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