29 Dec Solar News
In 2016 the International Energy Agency, (IEA), stated that renewable energy sources had accounted for two-thirds of new power added to the entire world grid. Within this renewable power increase, it was solar power that was the strongest component, even surpassing the net progression of coal. The IEA predicts, and fully believes, we are in a new age of energy production, with solar capacity set to continue its growth to become the most popular renewable up to the year 2022.
It has been predicted that solar will constitute roughly 10% of the global power over the next 20 years, with a current growth of around 15% per annum. This increase in solar popularity has even caused companies, such as, BP to turn. The oil company has paid £149m this year for a 43% stake in London-based company, Lightsource; Europe’s largest solar developer. This marked a huge change for BP, returning to solar after withdrawing from it six year previous. The company claim to be returning to the sector in a ‘different’ way, stating solar technology has matured and shifted towards development of solar farms. BP currently employs 8,000 people in alternative energy which until now, has mostly been centered on wind power and biofuels. This shows the willingness that BP has to play a role in the low carbon transition, marking a realization that energy production is shifting away from fossil fuels. This has been mirrored by other oil and gas companies: Shell buying electric car infrastructure companies; Total acquiring battery storage firms; and Statoil pioneering floating wind farm production. This new collaboration with BP demonstrates the movement across many countries around the world, of solar changing from Government reliance to competing alone as unsubsidised.
In the UK there are currently 12.1 gigawatts of solar energy, enough to power 3.8 million homes, sending a strong message that solar has a strong place in UK energy mix. This was supported by the May spring bank holiday earlier this year which reached a new record for solar capacity, producing a quarter of the nation’s electricity mix. This was more than the nuclear and coal power stations combined, with belief this kind of production will be repeated in future years. Solar also contributed hugely to the UK energy mix, helping the national grid to go without coal power for over 24 hours in April of this year, for the first time since the industrial revolution. As little as five years ago, this kind of success for solar power would not have been predicted, but it was allowable because of large support and dwindling costs at a rate far from what was anticipated.
Across the country, solar power was once considered to be only available to wealthy individuals. However, Chinese policy makers have now placed whole manufacturing teams firmly behind the production of cheaper panels, driving the technology further down the cost curve. This was further assisted by the introduction of a Feed-in tariff, (FIT), subsidy in April 2010 from the UK Government. Therefore, solar power is now readily available to a wide range of homeowners, from farmers with depleted land who found it more economical to farm renewable electricity than livestock, to factories that are hugely energy-intensive who found it easier and cheaper to produce their own energy, to panels even being expected to line the roof of Buckingham Palace.
Due to support like this across the country, an enormous solar farm is planned in UK for the north of Kent, with the hope of solar panels being laid across 890 acres of farmland; the equivalent of 400 football pitches. However, there is concern about this development, mainly due to the size of the enormous proposal. Wildlife charities and local communities fully support the production of green energy, but are worried for the local wildlife and the landscape infrastructure, despite promises from the project developers there will be strategies in place to avoid and mitigate any concerns.
However, as the IEA stated earlier this year, the increased scale and support for solar power, alongside other types of renewables, and it’s intermittent nature at local levels for communities as a drive towards cleaner energy production, means integrating it with power grids has become critical and essential.
By Charlotte Davey