This summer’s heatwave with its cloudless days has helped break several solar power-generation records.
As the nation sweltered, solar power briefly outperformed gas as UK’s top source of electricity, accounting for 28% of production on Saturday 1st July at lunchtime.
This is around four times higher than the average June.
NFU’s chief advisor for renewable energy and climate change, Dr Jonathan Scurlock notes that “On average over this period, solar has been generating around 7-8% of total UK electricity, breaking weekly and monthly output records and pushing wind power into second place, at about 6-7%.”
However, Britain’s sunniest month since July 2013 saw solar panels on rooves and fields across the country break the record for weekly output by producing 533 gigawatt hours of power between 21 and 28 June.
Whilst 14 May this year saw the record for peak solar generation at 9.42GW, Britain’s solar power output reached a record 9,380 megawatts on June 22 with no imminent signs that the heatwave will cool off into July.
During 21 and 28 June solar output hit more than 8GW for eight days in a row, in a first for the UK.
Numbers of new solar installations have almost flatlined in 2018, but the Guardian called these records “symbolic”, as they represented huge advances in technology.
In the same article, Duncan Burt, director of system operations at National Grid, said: “During the past 12 months alone, we have seen renewable generation records broken and we expect this trend to continue, as technology advances and we find new ways to accommodate and manage more wind and solar power on our network.”
Despite this, Rachel Morison wrote for Bloomberg last week that “Britain’s solar generation capacity is expected to increased to 16 gigawatts by 2021 and then to 18 gigawatts by 2023.”
Growth of solar energy production has petered out due to cuts in subsidy.
Domestically, there is no sign, so far, of a replacement scheme for householders with panels on their roofs, whilst the incentives for them to install them are due to expire in 2019.
However, some developers believe that by going large they can build without subsidies.
Huge plans for solar farms on the Kent coastline at Cleve Hill, proposes to provide enough power for around 110,000 households if it comes online in 2020.
If this occurs, the plant will have five times the capacity of the UK’s current largest plant, Shotwick Solar Park.
Dr Alastair Buckley, a solar expert at the University of Sheffield, said: “This marks the start of subsidy-free solar being economically viable, and I genuinely believe we’ll see bigger changes to the electricity sector in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the past 10.”
The website farminguk.com also looked to the future in light of this heatwave, noting that “With costs still falling, an increasing number of farmers are finding a good business case for on-site solar PV generation, with or without government support.”