The Current Situation and Perspectives on the Use of Solar Energy for Electricity Generation:United Kingdom

United Kingdom

The UK has traditionally based its energy production on domestic fossil fuels. Compared to many other EU member states, the UK is starting from a very low level of renewable energy production. The market growth observed in 2009 was confirmed in 2010, with 45 MW installed last year, according to the Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaic Until 2015 report. It is important to highlight that solar installers in the UK had increased tenfold from 2009 through 2011.

The UK has seen explosive growth in recent years, and as energy prices increase, this is likely to continue. For this reason, the UK government has decided to review the new FiTs introduced in 2010 earlier than expected for solar PV installations over 50 kW. The new proposed rates are £0.19 per kWh for 50–150 kW systems, £0.15 per kWh for 150–250 kW systems, and £0.085 per kWh for 250 kW–5 MW systems and stand-alone installations. They were effective from August 1, 2011.

The residential rooftop market, which makes up 95 % of installations today, will remain unaffected. The domestic segment will therefore continue to be, together with social housing, a main driver of the UK solar PV market, with strong development already observed in the first months of 2011.

In parallel, a separate comprehensive review of FiTs is now under way, with the aim of improving the efficiency of the system and delivering £ 40 million of savings in 2014–2015. Tariff levels are supposed to remain unchanged until April 2012. The new FiTs will reduce the current benefits asociated with the use of solar energy for electricity generation.

It is expected that the yearly market to grow steadily in the coming years, reaching between 700 MW and 2 GW by 2015. However, the adoption of new pol- icies could affect these scenarios and delay the solar PV market takeoff in the UK. The government has vowed to curb the growth of massive solar farms that blight the countryside, pledging they will not allow it to become the new onshore wind. In a solar strategy released on Friday, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has indicated that they are going to support an energy policy with emphasis for growth away from large solar farms.

The government will put more emphasis in the use of solar panels on rooftops of commercial buildings and to install up to 4 million of solar panels on buildings

United Kingdom


on the government estate, including up to 24,000 schools. DECC admits that the spread of solar farms has been “much stronger than anticipated in government modeling” and that this “can have impacts on visual amenity.” It admits that public support for solar energy is starting to be eroded because some solar farms have been sited insensitively and that solar farms can “have a negative impact on the rural environment if not well planned and well screened.” It shows a fivefold expansion in the number of projects over last two years and more than an eightfold expansion in the installed capacity as bigger farms are built.

At the end of March 2012, there were 46 large-scale solar projects, most of which are solar farms. By the end of February 2013, that number has increased to 184 projects, with a further 48 projects due to start operating in that month alone. An additional 194 projects have planning permission and are awaiting con- struction, which can take as little as eight weeks. The government had already introduced tougher planning guidance to make it harder to build solar farms on greenfield sites and that he had written to every local authority planner “to rein- force the need for robust local planning on solar farms.” The guidance says plan- ners should consider the visual impact of the farms and to listen to the planning concerns of local communities.

DECC’s solar strategy indicate that the higher than expected deployment has eaten into the finite budget for renewable energy and that it will therefore be nec- essary for the government to continue to monitor the overall pipeline of projects against the government ambitions for a diverse mix of renewable technologies. It will significantly increase the threshold at which planning permission is required to install solar panels on a warehouse or an industrial park. The strategy confirmed plans to install 1 GW of solar capacity during the coming years.

Solar Power Installed Capacity

In 2012, the country has a total solar power capacity installed of 1,829 MW, which represents 1.74 % of the total power capacity installed in the country and 12.61 % of the total renewables capacity installed. The UK occupies the place number 11 at world level according to the solar power capacity installed (1.83 % of the world total) and the place number seven at regional level (2.61 % of the regional total). During the past ten years, the solar power capacity of the country increased in all of them.

Electricity Generation Using Solar Energy

The evolution of the generation of electricity using solar energy in the UK during the period 2008–2012 is shown in Fig. 4.20.




0.017 0.02 0.033



clip_image0012008 2009 2010 2011 2012

clip_image002Generation of electricity (Billion kWh)

Fig. 4.20 The evolution of the generation of electricity using solar energy in the UK during the period 2008–2012. Source EIA

According to Fig. 4.20, the generation of electricity in the UK using solar energy during the period 2008–2012 increased 78-fold. It is expected that the use of solar energy for the generation of electricity will continue increasing in the UK during the coming years, but at slower rates.

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