Anglesey Solar Farm Gets Go Ahead

BEAUMARIS CASTLE Anglesey

England isn’t the only place looking to break records with solar over the next year or two. While there are plans to construct the biggest solar farm in the UK down in Kent, Wales has just had a change of mind for a new solar farm in Anglesey.

After being turned down for planning permission earlier in the year, the council has had a change of heart. Following an appeal by local residents, businesses and councillors it seems a 200 acre, 49.9 MW site with over 200,000 solar panels is going to be built after all.

The new site is to developed in Cemaes on farmland near the coast and is expected to deliver power for over 15,000 homes when completed – that’s roughly half the population of Anglesey itself.

Objections were made by the council despite widespread support, with some, particularly from the pollical party Plaid Cymru, saying that they were not convinced of the cost of the project or its potential impact on the farming environment in the area.

In November, planning permission was finally denied but only a month later that decision was reversed completely. This after council members were told they were unlikely to win any appeal and that it could well cost them over £100,000 in legal fees. On the whole, plans for the new solar farm have been broadly welcomed, particularly since the project is expected to bring much needed jobs to the area.

The farm is being run by Countryside Renewables who invested in smaller solar plants around the UK including in Lincolnshire and Essex. They’re also a company with a European focus and one of their biggest projects in recent years has been a large offshore wind farm in the Netherlands. The Prinses Amalia Offshore Wind Farm has a capacity of 120 MW and was one of the first non-subsidised projects in the world.

A consultant for the developers on the Anglesey site commented:

“We are now advancing towards construction, which will happen within six months, and we commit to work in close cooperation with all involved, particularly our close neighbours. It is heartening that political common sense prevailed, against a very robust recommendation of approval by professional Officers, and that Plaid Cymru members eventually supported the application, in line with their national policy on renewable energy.”

The project will hopefully be the first to introduce the latest cutting edge photo voltaic technology and will include energy storage, something that is becoming increasingly important for the industry’s future survival. Anglesey has been home to some great renewable developments in recent times. Off the coast of Holyhead, they’re testing underwater kite style wind turbines and there is also funding for a new £1 billion biomass plant on the island that will bring around 1,700 jobs with it.

With work expected to start on the solar project in Camaes in the next 6 months, just 30 miles down the coast in Kimmel Bay, a 100 acre site has already gone live and is producing enough power form some 5,000 homes. That means North Wales is fast becoming a central focus for renewable innovation and development.

Find out more about solar panels on our main website.

The Race to Harness Power of Our Oceans: What’s taking so long?

TIDAL POWER

While it always seems to take a back seat when compared to solar and wind power, the challenge to utilise the power of waves and produce electricity from the ever changing tides has been literally bubbling away under the surface in recent times. There are a good few experts who believe that if we could just find the right way to unleash this potential in the UK, it could provide a significant amount of the power we need and make us truly energy independent.

Forget nuclear and fracking, the future is tidal energy…at least if we can get our act together.

Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station

While here in the UK we wait for the Government to make up its mind on the Swansea Tidal Lagoon and the five or six other sites that have potential in this area, South Korea is already way ahead. The Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station is officially the largest tidal power station in the world. In fairness, the Koreans have been planning this since way back in the 1970s but it wasn’t until the noughties that anything started to get done.

The current development cost about $560 million and consists of ten water turbines that are capable of generating 254 MW – a yearly output of around 550 GW for the local area. While tidal power has its environmental detractors, in this case the power station has actually improved water quality in the lake.

La Rance Tidal Power Plant

It’s not just our distant friends in the East who have been making progress. France has also started to embrace tidal power. Head to Brittany and you’ll find a 240 MW station on the Rance River – it’s actually been there since way back in 1966 and is the oldest tidal power station on the planet.

What this shows to detractors of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon is that tidal power has already proven to be effective and has been providing countries with power for some time now. Up in Scotland, off the coast Stroma, another potentially huge project is underway. If things go well, the MeyGen tidal installation could generate as much as 398 MW.

The Problem With Tidal Energy

There’s no doubt that many believe our oceans hold a huge, untapped resource for creating renewable energy. But there are actually a few big problems to overcome and which need more research before we all start shouting hallelujah.

First, you have to have the right tidal conditions for installing a project like this – there needs to be around 7 meters or more of tidal range. Secondly, tidal power goes in cycles. Essentially the sea goes in and out so your installation won’t be producing electricity every second of the day. This is way some advocates are more focused on deep sea tidal projects that have the capability of producing power 24/7.

Finally, the cost is still high. The estimated price tag of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon is around £1.3 billion which many see as prohibitive and we all know what happens to price estimates in the end. This has led companies like Ecotricity to suggest, once again, that it would be cheaper to produce offshore and a lot more reliable.

Offshore tidal installations also pose their own problems, however. Many developers are working on new ideas such as the kite turbines off the coast of Holyhead in Wales but investment in this area has been lower than for options such as solar and wind. The cost of maintenance depends a lot on the type of installation and something static could end up costing more than a project like Swansea.

Another problem that could have a big impact in how much tidal power we deploy in the future is the environmental question.

While the Sihwa Lake project in Korea found that the tidal plant helped clean up their water, it was, to be fair, pretty polluted to begin with. A tidal lagoon like that planned in Swansea and other locations around the UK will undoubtedly have some impact on the environment and activists and wildlife groups are likely to get involved. The trouble is that the true cost in this area will not be known until we have a working plant to get data off. If planning permission is to be granted for Swansea, an environmental impact assessment will have to be undertaken and the developers will then have to put in or propose measures to mitigate that impact.

For the moment, the future of tidal power, particularly in the UK, remains unclear. Financially, the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has been given the nod from all the right examining bodies. It has plenty of advocates and plenty of detractors. There’s still the hint, however, that the Government will continue to stall and that we may not get an answer for some while. In the end, the cost of doing nothing may well cost us a clean energy solution we could all get behind.

Plans for UK’s Newest and Biggest Solar Farm in Kent

solar panels kent

It will be the size of 450 football pitches or the equivalent of 2 Hyde Parks and it’s set to be the biggest solar farm in the UK up till now, providing power for over a hundred thousand homes. If it gets built, of course.

Head to the north Kent coast, just down from the Isle of Sheppey and you’ll find the potential location for Cleve Hill Solar Park.

A proposal was made for the site back in November and because it’s so large there are some hurdles to overcome before anything gets the go ahead. Firstly, because of the sheer size, it’s the first solar energy farm in the UK to be designated as a NSIP or Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. What does that mean? It has to be signed off by the Government and in particular the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, currently run by Secretary of State Greg Clark.

There are also more than a few detractors who are worried about the impact the huge site is going to have on local wildlife. Nearby is the South Swale Nature Reserve and Kent Wildlife Trust has already raised concerns. According to the Trust:

“While we are not opposed to solar farms, and indeed are supportive of initiatives to reduce human reliance on fossil fuel energy generation, we are concerned about the potential impacts from this proposal on the internationally important habitats and wildlife in this area.”

That could mean there will be legal challenges once the full details of the solar farm construction are made publicly available.

It’s estimated that the new farm would have five times the capacity of any other in the UK and is seen as a welcome boost to an industry that has had its fair share of hurdles to get over recently. The farm is a collaboration between Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy and is also notable because it would be the first such installation to be built without the aid of Government subsidies. That in itself should warrant everyone in the UK backing it.

The sheer size of the project will mean that there is now going to be a lengthy consultation period and a series of events will be held throughout February 2018 to inform local interests. On their part, the companies involved in setting up the project believe that the new solar farm will bring a large number of benefits to the local region not least by generating income of around £1 million a year which will be used to improved amenities. The companies have also anticipated a potential appeal because of the impact on wildlife by introducing a dedicated mitigation area to protect bird species. Whether this will be enough to satisfy the Kent Wildlife Trust remains to be seen.

According to Hugh Brennan from Hive:

“The Cleve Hill Solar Park is a pioneering scheme that aims to optimise the technological developments in solar energy. Our ambition is to deliver the first non-subsidised renewables project of this scale, delivering low cost, clean, home-grown energy to power UK households.”

It’s also hoped that the installation at Cleve Hill will also utilise the latest battery storage technology with the help of Xero Energy, an energy consultancy firm based in Glasgow.

Find out more about how solar power works or find solar panel installers in kent on our main site.

Dogger Bank: Where The Real Wind Power Lies

tennet island

It’s more recognisable as part of the radio shipping forecast. Dogger bank lies some 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast in the North Sea. No one has paid it much attention up till now except fishermen. But that could all be about to change.

Dogger Bank may soon become an important energy hub if Dutch backer TenneT has anything to do with it. Plans to build a windfarm island which is surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of turbines, could be realised over the next decade or so, providing electricity not only to the UK but also the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Belgium.

The island idea is integral to the success of the project – helping to lower costs and provide maintenance and a secure power grid to the site which is far from land compared to other offshore farms. It would need to be around 6 km² in size to do the job and building that will be no mean feat in itself. According to the company, it’s the next logical step:

“The big challenge we are facing towards 2030 and 2050 is onshore wind is hampered by local opposition and nearshore is nearly full. It’s logical we are looking at areas further offshore.”

Don’t expect to see the site emerging in the more immediate future, however. There are a number of hurdles to overcome before work could potentially begin. For the moment, it’s at the idea stage but it’s one which TenneT are pretty enthusiastic about.

Of course, the biggest problem is going to be how it gets funded. The project, from an initial estimate, is expected to cost around £1.3 billion but would provide around 30 GW for each windfarm installed. The good news is that the reaction from investors seems to be pretty positive as more and more are prepared to think out of the box and entertain new ideas. The sheer size of the project may well be its saving grace. In the interim, the Netherlands are currently working out their roadmap for the future of green energy so things are on hold. It could be 2027 before we see any real movement on a project of this size and that’s a conservative estimate.

There’s no doubt that wind power is having a huge impact on the renewables agenda around the world but the problem has always been where to place the turbines. Close offshore has often been the solution after countries like the UK stopped building onshore farms because of complaints and worries for local eco-systems as well as complaints from residents. But even across the coast spaces are being filled up rapidly and finding new potential sites naturally means heading further out. With that comes greater costs and even bigger logistical issues. Building an island out in the North Sea may seem futuristic but it is possible – it just depends if the economics actually pan out. It’s also the only way a project like this will work.

Who are TenneT?

TenneT are basically the Dutch equivalent to our National Grid in the UK. They’ve been involved in some major infrastructure projects since forming in 1998, including installing 360 mile long submarine cable between Feda and Eemshaven.

American Climate Change Scientists to Relocate to France?

Climate Change Scientists

The Trump administration was always going to be bad for climate change scientists and those who believe in a greener, more sustainable world.

The change from informed acceptance and engagement to unhealthy scepticism happened pretty quickly once Donald J Trump was inaugurated in January, culminating in the US announcing it was stepping back from the Paris Climate Change Agreement during the summer.

While expected, Trump’s speech on the Whitehouse lawn that day in June was undoubtedly a gut punch to every scientist who has worked hard to gather evidence on climate change over the last four decades or so.

News that some scientists were being prevented on speaking out about climate change has caused worry not only in the US but around the rest of the world. It started with Trump gagging employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture, preventing them from communicating with either the public or the press. In the February after Trump got into power, the Guardian was already reporting that:

“John Holdren, who was science adviser to Barack Obama until last month, said that Donald Trump’s team already appeared to be taking “a more comprehensive, more draconian and more oppressive” approach to vetting scientists’ communications than previous administrations.”

By October, things hadn’t got any better. The New York Post reported on protests after the EPA essentially prevented pro climate change scientists from presenting their data at high profile conference in Rhode Island.

Now help has arrived from an unlikely source. Following Trump’s speech about leaving the climate change agreement, French president, Emmanuel Macron had made a public announcement that the US decision wouldn’t derail the real efforts being made by practically every other country on the planet. The climate change agenda would continue and had to succeed.

Shortly before Christmas, Macron awarded 18 scientists from around the world millions in grants to relocate to France and continue their important work. The project is a move by the French government to attract the best researchers and scientists in climate change to the country – there were over 5,000 expressions of interest and of the 18 grants, 13 were given to Americans. One of the winners, Camille Parmesan, will be moving from the University of Texas to the Pyrenees to explore how man-made climate change is impacting on local wildlife.

The grant awards have come as a welcome fillip to climate change scientists in the US, but closer to home there has been some worry that Macron is giving money away that could be better spent at on French scientists and their projects.

While the situation is not ideal in the US because of the Trump agenda, many believe it doesn’t actually matter. Both businesses, including many large corporations like Google and Apple, high profile individuals and indeed many states and cities are still committed to the climate change agenda and will continue to forge forward despite what the government says or does.

Nothing exemplified the strange times we are living in more than President Macron teaming up, albeit briefly, with Hollywood legend Arnold Schwarzeneggar to tell the world they were going to ‘make the planet great again’. This is a battle that many believe we cannot afford to lose – the good news is that they are still in the majority.

China’s Solar Panda to Produce 3.2 Billion KWHs

The panda solar farm in Datong, China.

It’s not often that energy design gets a little funky. The solar panda that China has recently developed caused a stir around the renewable energy world, not simply because of its size and energy output.

The development is actually a sign of the times. The site was constructed in record time – something that the Chinese appear to be particularly good at – and is a  reminder that they are quickly becoming the powerhouse nation when it comes to renewable infrastructure and development

Seen from the air, you might be forgiven for thinking that China is going to start giving all their plants an artistic slant. The installation was carried out by a company called Panda Green Energy and the design was actually suggested by their largest shareholder China Merchants New Energy. It’s part solar plant and part branding icon and PR initiative. It all makes sense.

The plant in Datong covers some 250 acres and the panda effect has been achieved by combining dark monocrystalline silicon panels and light thin film solar panels. The completed plant is expected to deliver 100 MW of power once it goes fully online and it’s by no means the first we’ll see. The company is expecting to develop 100 similar panda shaped installations over the next few years.

The Belt and Road Initiative

While the solar infrastructure plans of many countries seems to be pretty piece meal for one reason or another, in China there’s a definite future direction that is backed entirely by President Xi’s government. The Belt and Road Initiative is all part of a grander plan to build big, big things not only in China itself but across the world, particularly along what is still called The Silk Road.

Now that the USA has decided, if with collective unwillingness, to take a back seat in the climate change and clean energy agenda, China has certainly stepped in to fill the vacuum. It could mean that major projects now have a huge helping hand from a country that was previously seen as one of the biggest polluters in the world.

It isn’t just large projects that are gaining traction in a country that seems to be unstoppable when it comes to renewables – roof top solar is also expanding much quicker than expected and in areas where it’s most needed. According to Bloomberg recently:

“The growth of the market has benefited top panel producers, including JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Trina Solar Ltd. China installed 43 gigawatts of solar power in the first nine months of 2017, already above the 34.5 gigawatts for all of last year.”

We shouldn’t be surprised, of course. China has been seen as the largest solar market for the last four years and went past Germany as the country with the most PV capacity a couple of years ago. The panda solar farm may look cute but it’s a real reminder that things are starting to move very quickly in the solar market as with other renewable technologies.

Find out more about solar PV on our main website.

10 Clean Energy Projects That Caught the Eye in 2017

Tesla South Australia Battery

From building solar panels in the most inhospitable places to starting a battery storage revolution, it’s been an interesting year for clean energy projects. Here are just ten that caught our eye over the last 12 months:

  1. Tesla’s Aussie Batteries

One of the most remarkable stories of 2017 was the installation of a 100 MW battery in Australia. It all started when Elon Musk was challenged on Twitter to sort out the energy problems in South Australia. Musk came back to say that he could install the battery system within 100 days or he’d give all for free. Once backing was given by the state government, it actually only took Tesla 60 days to install their battery system and they managed to get it online by the middle of December.

  1. Huainan in China: The Floating Solar Farm

It’s big and it floats – the construction in Huainan in China comprises of 166,000 solar panels gleaming in the sun on a huge lake and providing enough energy to power a large town. More than anything it marks China’s real arrival as a clean energy powerhouse and they’re not done yet. The government is looking to invest some $360 million in clean energy projects up to 2020, providing employment for over 13 million people in the process.

  1. Solar for Chernobyl

It’s been a no go area since the nuclear meltdown in the 1986 which forced the entire region to be evacuated. Now money is being invested in large numbers of solar farms to help produce the clean electricity that Ukraine needs. According to The Business Insider recently:

“In 2016, the government announced a plan to redevelop 1,000 square miles of abandoned land around Chernobyl. The soil is still too radioactive for farming, but the area is still connected to Ukraine’s major population centers with power lines that were laid in the 1970s. That makes the site ideal for renewable energy development.”

  1. Plans for Biggest UK Solar Farm at Cleve Hill

While solar PV might have taken a dent from a reduction in the Feed in Tariff in recent years, it’s still going strong in the UK. Once built, the plant at Cleve Hill in Kent will cover 900 acres and provide more than enough power for 110,000 homes. It will be the biggest such project in the UK so far and will have five times the capacity of any previous installation.

  1. The World’s Biggest Wind Turbines: In Liverpool

Liverpool was also home to some record breaking of its own in 2017. The world’s biggest turbines were erected off Liverpool Bay providing enough power for over 200,000 homes. Each turbine rises to a height of 195 metres while the blades are 80 metres long.

  1. Swansea Tidal Lagoon Remains Stalled

We’ve reported on the development of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon a few times here on the Renewable Energy Hub. At the beginning of 2017, confirmation that it was a viable project and that the Government should proceed came from their own commissioned review. Since then the cost of the project (£1.3 billion) has been the cause of delays. As of yet, we’re still not much closer to getting the lagoon built and the more time goes by the less likely it seems.

  1. Scotland Pushes Forward to Harness Sea Power

Having more luck with tidal power is Scotland, this time off shore. Their turbines in the Pentland Firth produced a record amount of electricity this year. Although a small project, it highlights the huge potential that harnessing the seas could bring to the UK. According to Hannah Smith at Scottish Renewables:

“The tides that flow through the Pentland Firth are some of the most powerful anywhere on earth and harnessing them has meant using machines and skills which have never before been tested on a commercial scale. This latest record is just one in a long line for the MeyGen project, which is leading the world in tidal energy deployment.”

  1. Argentina’s 300MW Solar Plant

South America hasn’t been seen as a vital hub of renewable energy but it’s certainly starting to catch up. Construction this year began on the 300 MW Cauchari Solar Project is part of a much wider push to bring renewables to the country. Other countries in the region, including Brazil, are now pushing forward with clean energy investment.

  1. UK Raises Tariff’s for RHI

Much less of a project and more of a statement of intent, the UK government dramatically increased the tariffs for the Renewable Heat Incentive at the end of 2017. That means anyone who installs low carbon heating technology such as heat pumps, solar thermal and biofuel systems can get paid for every kWh they produce. It’s hoped this will encourage people to switch to low carbon alternatives both for the domestic and commercial market.

  1. Dingle Tests the Potential of Battery Storage

It may sound like a small project but it’s impact could be huge. The Irish hamlet of Dingle is being used as a testing ground for battery storage and smart technology with 20 homes being chosen and £1 million invested. According to head of customer innovation at Electric Ireland, Brian Ryan:

“With battery storage in domestic installations at a very early stage, this project will provide an in-depth understanding of the application of battery technology, and will provide critical data for possible future battery applications.”

The project started in December 2017 and is expected to run for two years.

The Year Ahead For Low Carbon Heating: Is it a good time to change your home?

renewable energy warm home

It’s perhaps the biggest challenge that the UK (and the rest of the world) faces when it comes to meeting our obligations under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. How do you decarbonise a heating sector that depends so heavily on fossil fuels?

Heating makes up about half of the energy we use in the home but there are plans in place to encourage home owners and businesses to change to lower carbon alternatives.

Most of us, whether we are home owners or running a business, power our heating by gas. It’s still currently the most cost effective and energy efficient solution. Almost 85% of us are in the same boat and getting us to switch is the major challenge the Government faces.

Programs like the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) are all well and good but they favour those with the money to invest in the first place. According to the Energy Saving Trust:

“It’s not going to be cheap, so this makes how the costs of transformation are distributed absolutely crucial. People on low incomes need to be treated fairly, but at the moment, low-carbon incentives focus on ongoing payments rather than up-front costs, which excludes those who don’t have the money to invest in the first place.”

There’s no doubt the challenge to decarbonise is huge and one which we can’t avoid facing. If you have the money to invest right now, however, 2018 is a pretty good time to start.

The Renewable Heat Incentive

The aim is to decarbonise our heating by 2050 and that means everyone moving away from gas and other fossil fuel systems to low carbon alternatives such as heat pumps and bio-gas. If that seems like plenty of time, think again – we’d have to convert nearly 16,000 boilers a week to ensure that we reached the target.

One of the key ways that the current Government is trying to encourage us to swap to lower carbon alternatives is with the Renewable Heat Incentive or RHI. This works in a similar way to the Feed in Tariff for solar and wind, paying those who have certain heating systems installed a monthly amount for the energy they produce.

There are different schemes for domestic and non-domestic heating that fit the criteria and it is all administered by Ofgem. The good news is that recent changes in response to decarbonising our heating have seen a rise in the tariffs. That means you can get a pretty good return on investment if you decide to switch your current heating to a low carbon solution and act in the next 12 months.

Low Carbon Heating Solutions

Biomass Boilers and Stoves: These are systems like wood chip burners and what are commonly called combined heat and power (CHP) systems. They can be as simple as the wood burner you have in your living room or a more complicated installation that provides heating for your entire home or business. The current rate for RHI is 6.54 pence per kWh produced.

Air Source Heat Pumps: These draw the latent heat from outside your home using a system like your refrigerator but in reverse. In effect, it turns cooler air into warmer air and uses that to heat your home. An air source heat pump can be fitted to your outside wall and comes with a RHI of 10.18 pence per kWh produced.

Ground Source Heat Pumps: You can get a similar heat source from the ground, though this option is more expensive than the air variety. It involves installing pipework in an area outside your home such as the garden – the greater cost is down to the bigger job of digging up an area and laying the pipework. Accordingly, it comes with a higher RHI of 19.86 pence per kWh produced.

Solar Thermal: More popular in other parts of the world, solar thermal takes the heat of the sun and converts it for use in the home. It is often cheaper to install than solar PV for electricity and has the highest RHI of 20.06 pence per kWh produced.

Now Is a Good Time to Invest

There’s no doubt 2018 is a great time if you are looking to decarbonise or update your heating system. Each technology that has support under the RHI has its own merits and you’ll need to do your research before settling on what is best for your home. While the initial cost can seem quite large, particularly for installations such as Ground Source Heat Pumps, the return on investment is good and will probably never be better.

You can now search our comprehensive database of suppliers and installers to find someone in your area who can deliver the low carbon solution you are looking for.

What Lies Ahead For UK Solar PV in 2018?

v3solar spin cell

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic when it comes to solar power in the UK, despite the reduction in Feed in Tariffs that essentially put a dent in the domestic market. Last year saw some new solar records broken and we are still continuing to invest in major projects around the country, some on a subsidy free basis.

Thanks to some great sunshine in the summer, on the 1st May, the UK got a record 24.3% or 8.7GW of its power purely from its host of solar panel arrays, both domestic and commercial, around the country.

Lower Prices Means Solar is Still a Good Investment

According to Which? the cost of solar panels have come down quite dramatically over the last few years. In 2011, the average cost of a 3.6 to 4 kWp system would have been around £12,000. By the middle of June 2017, that cost was down to just under £6,500 on average.

One of the biggest drivers over the last decade has been lowering prices along with better technology. The Government were providing a healthy Feed in Tariff that meant those homes getting solar PV installed could get a good return on investment by basically selling their excess back to the utility companies and getting a subsidy of about 12 pence for each kWh produced. That was slashed back in 2016, much to the dismay of the industry, but you can still get a FiT of 4 pence if you install today.

While the number of homes that are opting for solar has dropped since 2016, that doesn’t mean installations have stalled completely. The lowering price of solar is making it more attractive and there are some systems out there that you can install for just over £4,000. Expect the market to continue to become more competitive over the next 12 months.

For many homeowners, however, the cost of installation still represents as sizeable investment. While domestic and roof top solar is struggling a little, commercial solar farms are continuing to be built with 640 MW of capacity added in the first quarter of 2017. According to The Solar Power Portal, this had a lot to do with beating the March deadline for accreditation on 4.99 MW installations:

“The rush to connect by 31 March 2017, and subsequently apply for accreditation from Ofgem for 1.2 ROCs, saw an incredible number of solar farms built. Of the 118 solar farms accounting for the ground-mount contribution, 90 of these had capacity in the range 4.5-5 MW.”

The Rise of Subsidy Free Solar

Since the slashing of Feed in Tariffs in the early part of 2016, the solar industry has had to come to grips with the prospect of developing free of any subsidies. Though many see this as a mistake by the Government because it was introduced too early, most understand that this is the end point that the sector needs to reach.

The first subsidy free solar farm on a 45 acre site at Clayhill in Bedfordshire started producing electricity in November 2017. The 30,000 solar panels were installed by Anesco and will deliver enough power for 2.5K homes. According to the company’s executive chairman, Steve Shine:

“For the solar industry, Clayhill is a landmark development and paves the way for a sustainable future, where subsidies are no longer needed or relied upon. Importantly, it proves that the Government’s decision to withdraw subsidies doesn’t have to signal the end of solar as a commercially viable technology.”

While the Government is hailing subsidy free projects like Clayhill, most experts have warned of the need to be cautious. It doesn’t meant that the solar industry is up and running on its own two feet yet – that may well come. For the moment, it’s a case of so far so good but we shouldn’t get carried away.

Some good news is that Next Energy Solar Fund is investing in four more subsidy free solar projects that should come to fruition in the coming year.

Improvements to Solar Storage

Like waiting for the next Star Wars movie to come out, those in the industry are anticipating great things with solar storage over the next 12 to 18 months. There are already a number of different models of batteries for solar panels on the marketing, including Tesla’s Powerwall, but we haven’t yet reached the tipping point where storage becomes the norm rather than the exception.

So, when is it really going to take off and bed in? While some providers are introducing solar batteries to their clients across the UK, including many home owners, others are staying at arm’s length as they wait for the cost to come down and the technology to improve.

Realistically, there are still a lot of questions to answer when it comes to battery storage. One issue is how you integrate different products from different providers. This may mean that towards the end of 2018 we may start finding many installers using more integrated approaches and incorporating software that makes this easier. What really needs to happen though is an increase in customer awareness and a greater uptake of storage systems and that can only happen once the price comes down. This may be happening a little slower in the UK than in the rest of the world but the signs are good.

As with any investment, if you are thinking about having solar panels installed in your home then it pays to shop around. You can now search for installers in your area using our comprehensive database. We always advise to get at least three different quotes and to do as much research as you can.

New Technologies

V3Solar has developed a new solar technology that the company claims could be cheaper than coal. Using cones and ‘spin cells’ the units manage heat whilst maximising the use of the suns rays. Other technologies are due to break onto the market this year that promise to increase electrical yield whilst minimising cost and space.

Find out more about solar panel installation here.

How Wind and Solar PV Fared in 2017

Renewable Energy

Overall it was a pretty good year for renewables and the clean power agenda, despite the obvious set back of America pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement. China continues to become a powerful mover and shaker in the renewables arena and will probably lead the way for some time to come.

Here in the UK, records were broken over the last 12 months and enthusiasm for renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, among the general public continues to grow and has never been higher.

Here are just some of the highlights from the last year.

Solar and Wind: The Latest Figures

According to REN21’s latest status reports we are experiencing a:

“…global  energy  transition  well under  way,  with  record  new  additions  of  installed  renewable  energy capacity, rapidly falling costs, particularly for solar PV and wind power,  and  the  decoupling  of  economic  growth  and  energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the third year running.”

Total global capacity for solar stood at 303 GW by the end of 2016, up 75GW on the previous year. The biggest mover here was undoubtedly China which added nearly 35 GW in the rapidly expanding market. That represents about 46% of all the added capacity, with the USA coming in second at 20% and Japan at 11.5% added, something which highlights Asia’s growing dominance.

Wind power has grown a little more slowly, with capacity reaching 487 GW around the world. China again leads the way, adding over 20% of capacity by the end of 2016 with the USA and Germany following some way behind with 8.2 and 5% added.

There has also been an sea change in countries, as well as regions and cities, committing to 100% renewable energy targets over the next few years. That comes on top of rapidly lowering costs for both solar and wind installations as well as the realisation that climate change is an urgent problem that needs to be solved through taking action.

Nowhere is the change to renewables such as solar and wind more dramatic than in the developing countries where billions of people live without access to stable power solutions. The growth of mini-grids and stand-alone systems is beginning to transform remote areas. By the end of 2016, the mini-grid market was worth $200 billion a year.

The Trump Conundrum

Donald J Trump became president of the United States in January of 2017 and green enthusiasts were more than a little dismayed. Trump, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to understand the difference between climate and weather and had threatened to leave the Paris climate change agreement during his campaign. Just a few months into office, he decided to do just that.

According to NBC news, there were a couple of reasons for his decision – first Trump is a climate sceptic despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that seems to be piling up and secondly he’s no big fan of international agreements or regulations, particularly if they impact on the economy of the US.

While there was a groan of consternation in renewable sectors and around the world, the good news was that it led to almost every other country recommitting to the Paris deal in the wake of the Trump announcement. States within the US, including California, also stood up to confirm they would continue to meet their obligations under the agreement despite what their president was saying.

While this may be better news, there’s no doubt that the US has, in some way, damaged it’s reputation and ceded the lead to other countries, particularly China, when it comes to investment in renewables.

China Leading the Way

China’s change from fossil fuel guzzling behemoth to the world leader for renewables has been dramatic and swift and it continued to gather pace over 2017.

By 2020, the country is expected to invest nearly £300 billion and create over 13 million jobs in a blueprint that includes solar, wind and hydro projects over the next five years. China is now the world’s leading solar energy producer with more and more investment going in and the cost of installations dropping rapidly. That doesn’t mean China isn’t without its problems – while the change to renewables has been strong, coal still remains it’s biggest source of energy and its biggest polluter.

Renewables in the UK

According to Green Energy, the UK broke no less than 13 renewable energy records in 2017. In June, we managed to produce 20 GW of power from renewables, more than the combined efforts of coal and gas – the biggest output so far seen in a nation that has stumbled recently when it comes to green energy solutions. We also had our first full day of energy production that didn’t involve the need for coal power – the longest period when we didn’t have to call on coal for our electricity was in October and lasted over 40 hours.

In one day in December, wind power produced a monumental 281 GWh of power while solar hit 8.9 GWh in mid-summer. Support for renewable energy in the UK also reached an all time high with 82% of people favouring it over other forms of energy creation, including fracking and nuclear.

While domestic installations of solar have fallen off in the wake of the reduction in Feed in Tariff payments since 2016, the cost of solar PV has also dropped. A 4kW array can set you back between £6,000 and £8,000, including installation, whereas just 7 years ago it may well have cost twice as much. The truth is that the industry is still learning to survive without the crutch of subsidies but homeowners and businesses are still investing in this area.