Wales is a popular spot for solar panels, but still room for improvement

by James Martin II on January 9, 2013

Flag of Wales

Wales has proved to be the most popular country in the UK for solar power, but the differences in solar panel uptake between regions within Wales is stark, according to figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and analysis by Wales Online. Wales beats out England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland for the average number of solar installations per household, with 177 in every 10,000 homes now with a system–compared to just 118 per 10,000 homes for the rest of the UK.

Coming in as the No. 1 Welsh solar hotspot is Wrexham, where a phenomenal 509 of every 10,000 homes have solar panels installed–almost 5% of all households. After Wrexham are Monmouthshire with 327 (about 3.2%) and Torfaen with 301 (about 3%). The motivation to go solar can be easily attributed to the UK’s feed-in tariff incentives for renewable energy which, which when combined with some of the most consistently sunny weather in the UK, make investing in solar in Wales an attractive prospect.

Wales Online points out, however, that the other side of the story are the jurisdictions dragging down the numbers of the Welsh solar leaders–the Wales-wide average is around just 1.7%. There is a huge discrepancy between the solar ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’–and the difference may lie in the local councils’ approach to solar power.

One of the main things that enabled Wrexham to acheive its status as the solar torchbearer for Wales was likely the local council’s avid support for the technology. Alun James of  WWF Cymru, interviewed in the Wales Online article, says, “While it’s difficult to say exactly why certain areas are leading on solar panel installations, it is clear that Wrexham council’s efforts to install panels on thousands of homes has put it at the top of the table.”

Putting its money where its mouth was, Wrexham council took the lead in having systems installed itself. Wrexham council member Bob Dutton explained how they put the town on the solar map, and how it has benefited the community:

We have made a significant investment in solar PV over the past 18 months, installing almost 3,000 systems on council owned domestic properties. The project demonstrates the council’s commitment to carbon reduction, and has also helped to create local jobs, reduce levels of fuel poverty and create a long term sustainable income stream for the council via feed-in tariff payments. The success of this project has ensured that Wrexham is now seen as one of the leading local authorities for renewable energy deployment within the UK.

The council’s proactive support for solar panels has doubtless inspired local residents to consider the technology themselves; A recent survey revealed that many UK residents underestimate the returns that they could see when they install a solar system. (Return on investment for a typical 4kWp solar system, for example, sits at around 7-11% per annum, with payback periods of under 7 years). Council support could have also counteracted the predominantly negative coverage that solar and other renewables get in the mainstream media.

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