Solar power in the United Kingdom
|Top-left: solar panels on the BedZED development in the London Borough of Sutton. Bottom-left: residential rooftop solar PV in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Right: the CIS Tower was clad in building-integrated PV and connected to the grid in 2005.|
Solar power use in United Kingdom has increased very rapidly in recent years, albeit from a small base, as a result of reductions in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels, and the introduction of a feed-in tariff (FIT) subsidy in April 2010. In 2014, the almost 650,000 solar installations had a total capacity of over 5,000 MW of solar power. The largest solar farm in the UK is the 48 MW Southwick Estate solar farm, near Fareham, finished in March 2015. In 2012, the government had said that 4 million homes across the UK will be powered by the sun within eight years, representing 22,000 MW of installed solar power capacity by 2020.
In 2006, the United Kingdom had installed 12.5 MW of photovoltaic capacity and represented only 0.3% of total European solar PV of 3,400 MW. At the end of 2011, there were 230,000 solar power projects in the United Kingdom, with a total installed generating capacity of 750 megawatts (MW). By February 2012 the installed capacity had reached 1,000 MW.
Due to an EU agreement to generate 15% of electricity from renewables by 2020, in June 2008 a new programme to encourage homeowners to generate their own electricity was announced, which also included a feed-in tariff.
The UK's insolation is less than 110 watts per square meter (W/m²) (2.9 kW·h/m²/day, or 1050 kW·h/m²/year) which is less than parts of the globe at lower latitudes. The sunniest parts of the UK receive just over half as much insolation as the sunniest parts of Europe. The insolation in the south of the country however is comparable with that of much of Germany, which is by far the biggest market for photovoltaics in the world with a quarter of all installed capacity, as of 2013. Additionally, the higher wind speeds that can be found in the UK can cool PV modules, leading to higher efficiencies than could be expected at these levels of insolation. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) assumes an average load factor of 9.7% for solar photovoltaics in the UK.
A 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi), 200,000 MW solar farm in Scotland, where the insolation is about 900 kWh/m²/yr would provide 180,000 GWh per year, equal to all of Scotland's energy demand. Since most of that would be in the summer, when Scotland receives 12–14 hours of sun, the excess would need to be stored or exported, and wind, hydro-electric, nuclear and carbon based energy would need to be used in the winter. About 47% of energy in Scotland is used for heat, and can be substantially reduced by increasing insulation of buildings.
In August 2006 there was widespread news coverage in the United Kingdom of the major high street electrical retailers (Currys) decision to stock PV modules, manufactured by Sharp, at a cost of £1,000 per module. The retailer also provides an installation service.
The introduction of the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) in 2010 saw rapid growth of the UK photovoltaic market, with many thousands of domestic installations along with numerous commercial, community and industrial projects. On 13 July 2011, construction of the largest solar park in the United Kingdom was completed in Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire. The 4.9 MW free-field system was built just in seven weeks after being granted planning permission. The system will generate an estimated 4,860 MW·h of electricity (an average power of 560 kW) into the national grid each year. There are several other examples of 4–5 MW field arrays of photovoltaics in the UK, including the 5 MW Langage Solar Park, the 5 MW Westmill Solar Farm, the 4.51 MW Marsten Solar Farm and Toyota's 4.6 MW plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire. The cuts to the feed in tariff made in the fast track review announced by DECC on 9 June 2011 mean that large arrays of solar photovoltaics are now a much less attractive investment opportunity for developers (especially for projects greater than 250 kW), so large field arrays such as these are unlikely to be built beyond the 1 August 2011 cut off date, at least not until 2012, when PV prices reduce somewhat - a utility scale solar farm is paid 8.9 p/kWhr generated.
- Sharp Solar, has a facility in Llay near Wrexham.
- G42i is building (2007) the world's first commercial scale dye sensitized TiO2 module plant.
- Solar Century offers BIPV modules to fit with standard UK concrete tiles.
The first solar park in Wales came on stream in 2011 at Rhosygilwen, near Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire. As of June 2014 there were 18 schemes generating more than 5 MW and 34 in planning or construction.
Solar power use has increased very rapidly in recent years, albeit from a small base, as a result of reductions in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels, and the introduction of a Feed-in tariff (FIT) subsidy in April 2010. At the end of 2011, there were 230,000 solar power projects in the United Kingdom, with a total installed generating capacity of 750 megawatts (MW). By February 2012 the installed capacity had reached 1,000 MW. In 2012, the government said that 4 million homes across the UK will be powered by the sun within eight years. The government expects Britain to have 22 gigawatts of installed solar power capacity by 2020.
The first large solar farm in the United Kingdom, a 32 MW solar farm, began construction in November 2012. It is located in Leicestershire, and is expected to be completed before April 2013, when the feed in tariff for large systems will be reduced. It is located between the runways of the former military airfield, Wymeswold.
At the end of September 2013, IKEA announced that solar panel packages for houses will be sold at 17 United Kingdom IKEA stores by the end of July 2014. The decision followed a successful pilot project at the Lakeside IKEA store, whereby one photovoltaic (PV) system was sold almost every day. The panels are manufactured by the Chinese company Hanergy.
The Energy Saving Trust that administers government grants for domestic photovoltaic systems, the Low Carbon Building Programme, estimates that an installation for an average-sized house would cost between £5,000–£8,000, with most domestic systems usually between 1.5 and 3 kWp, and yield annual savings between £150 and £200.
The Green Energy for Schools programme will be providing 100 schools across the UK with solar panels. The first school in Wales was the Tavernspite School, near Whitland, which has received panels worth £20,000, sufficient to produce 3,000 kW·h of electricity each year.
Discussion on implementation of a feed-in tariff programme concluded on 26 September 2008, and the results were published in 2009. One story used the language "They will be able to sell back surplus electricity at premium prices to the national grid.", which is not a feed-in tariff, it is simply a means of reconciling any surplus from a net metering programme. The key word is "surplus", not the word "sell". Net metering only requires the existing home electric meter, while a feed in tariff requires installation of a separate meter to measure generation. Australia has been criticised for implementing a similar programme, paying A$0.60 (about £0.28) for each kWh over what is used each month, with Environment Victoria Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham calling it a "fake feed-in tariff". The current FIT is a compromise - for systems less than 4 kW all electricity generated is purchased by the electric company for 16p/kWh and then sold back to the consumer for free, who can in turn sell back any electricity not consumed at 3.1p/kWh. This requires two meters. A far simpler system is to eliminate the FIT, allow full net metering, and buy any net electricity not consumed each year at the same rate it is sold. As of March 2012 suppliers are advertising an 8% to 10% return on your investment, and a break even point of 8 to 12 years.
The government in the UK agreed in April 2010 to pay for all grid-connected generated electricity at an initial rate of up to 41.3p (US$0.67) per kW·h, whether used locally or exported. The rates proved more attractive than necessary, and in August 2011, were drastically reduced for installations over 50 kW, a policy change criticized as marking "the end of the UK’s solar industry as we know it". Feed In Tariff rates are reviewed every three months by the government and new rates are set based on how many installations there had been within the period. As of 1st April 2015, the rate is 13.39 pence per KW of power generated for domestic systems of 4KW or less and where homes meet the minimum EPC requirement of band D. 
George Monbiot, an environmentalist seeking to replace fossil fuels with carbon-free sources of energy, opposes subsidies for solar power within the UK, "because the facts show unequivocally that this is a terrible investment." On the other hand, Derry Newman, chief executive of Solarcentury, argues that the UK's "famously overcast weather does not make it an unsuitable place for solar power, as solar panels work on daylight, not necessarily direct sunlight." Some solar cells work better in direct sunlight, others can use more diffuse light. While insolation rates are lower in England than France and Spain, they are still usable. Many of the solar panels can be monitored on the internet, such as the Slepe Farm in Dorset, a 492 kW solar field.
Net metering is only available from one company, Eastern Energy, where it is referred to as "SolarNet".
Solar power numbers can only be an estimate due to the nature of how home or business owned PV systems operate within the overall grid in the UK. Essentially the power generated then used by equipment onsite will never reach the grid so can never be directly calculated by government statistics. Given this there will still be indirect estimates possible both in terms of the lowering of demand from the grid, a phenomena well seen in Australia for example, or by estimating how much electric is used by UK homes on average. There are few studies or estimates on the use of home or business generated electricity by either solar or wind so as to give an indication of the real generation of such technologies. Any reader of this who knows of such would be welcome to add to this entry to further understanding of the real contribution of solar technology in the UK.
The below table shows electricity production from solar panels as a percentage of the final consumption of electricity in the UK and not gross supply to the grid.
| % of total
PV installations by region
|East of England||7||53|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||8||50|
|Data does not include unattributed locations|
- Energy use and conservation in the United Kingdom
- Energy policy of the United Kingdom
- Green electricity in the United Kingdom
- Solar power in the European Union
- United Kingdom National Renewable Energy Action Plan
- Yeganeh Torbati (Feb 9, 2012). "UK wants sustained cuts to solar panel tariffs". Reuters.
- "Statistics – Solar photovoltaics deployment". https://www.gov.uk/. DECC – Department of Energy & Climate Change. 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- Hampshire solar farm is UK’s largest, Paul Spackman, March 17, 2015
- Fiona Harvey (9 February 2012). "Greg Barker: 4m homes will be solar-powered by 2020".
- Solar Photovoltaics
- European Photovoltaic Industry Association (2012). "Market Report 2011".
- Jonathan Gifford (23 February 2012). "UK hits one GW of PV capacity". PV Magazine.
- MacKay, David J. C. (2008). "Solar". Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air. pp. 38, 44. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
- Solar Cell Efficiency
- Hemingway, James (December 2013). "Estimating generation from Feed in Tariff installations" (PDF). Energy Trends. Department of Energy & Climate Change. p. 2.
- Solar energy in Scotland
- "Conergy completes record-breaking UK solar park". Solar Power Portal. 13 July 2011.
- Hughes, Emma (3 August 2011). "Just how many solar projects beat the fast track review?". Solar Power Portal. Semiconductor Media, Ltd. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- "Feed in Tariff Fast Track Review".
- Table of Feed In Tariffs
- Sharp Solar celebrates five years as world number one
- "Wales' first solar park powers up in Pembrokeshire". BBC. 8 July 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- "Solar parks: Large scale schemes 'to double' in Wales". BBC. 25 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- Construction Begins on Britain’s Largest Solar Plant
- Reuters (30 September 2013). "Ikea to sell solar panels in UK stores". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
- Solar Electricity, Energy Saving Trust
- Free solar power first for school
- UK Renewable Energy Strategy Consultation
- Home-made energy to prop up grid
- Solar feed-in tariff meets with mixed reviews
- Feed-in Tariff
- Feed-In Tariffs
- "Feed-in Tariff scheme". Energy Saving Trust. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- Nichols, Will (1 August 2011). "Curtain falls on solar subsidy boom". BusinessGreen. Incisive Media Investments Limited. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- Hughes, Emma (1 August 2011). "The end of large-scale solar as we know it". Solar Power Portal. Semiconductor Media, Ltd. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- Monbiot, George (11 March 2011). "Solar PV has failed in Germany and it will fail in the UK". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
- "UK's biggest solar energy farm connects to national grid.". The Guardian. 27 June 2011.
- Colored Solar Panels Don’t Need Direct Sunlight
- Slepe Farm
- SolarNet and Net Metering
- "ENERGY TRENDS - Table 5: Capacity of, and electricity generated from, renewable sources from 2008 to 2010". www.decc.gov.uk. Department of Energy and Climate Change. June 2011. p. 27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 June 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
- EUROBSER'VER. "Photovoltaic Barometer - installations 2010 and 2011". http://www.energies-renouvelables.org. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
- EUROBSER'VER. "Photovoltaic Barometer - installations 2011 and 2012". http://www.energies-renouvelables.org. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
- "Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2014-2018". www.epia.org. EPIA - European Photovoltaic Industry Association. p. 24. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- "ENERGY TRENDS - Table 6.1. Renewable electricity capacity and generation" (PDF). Department of Energy & Climate Change. March 2014. p. 50. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
- "ENERGY TRENDS - Table 6.1. Renewable electricity capacity and generation" (PDF). Department of Energy & Climate Change. March 2015. p. 52. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
- Global Market Outlook 2016 pg. 71
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Solar energy in the United Kingdom.|
- UK's First Solar Plant Gets Go-ahead: A disused tin mine is set to host the UK's first solar panel park after winning approval from Cornwall Council.
- Energy statistics from DECC
- Feed-in Tariff Installation Report
- A history of UK solar photovoltaics - Solar Panels Infographic
- Facts for Solar Energy and Solar Power - Faq