Google Sign up to the Largest Renewable Energy Deal in History


On 19th September Google, the search giant announced that it was making a major investment in renewable energy.

Google’s Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai said the clean energy deal will include 18 separate agreements across the US, Europe and Latin America to supply Google with electricity from wind and solar projects constituting what he said was the “biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history”.

Almost half of Google’s new renewable energy investments will be made in Europe, to include projects in Finland, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark.

The deal includes purchasing energy from solar farms in South Carolina, North Carolina and Texas, and making data centre investments in Chile that combine solar and wind power.

Overall, the company is purchasing a whopping 1,600 megawatts in new energy deals electricity – the equivalent capacity of a million solar rooftops, the company said.

Sundar Pichai said that Google’s worldwide portfolio of wind and solar deals has increased by more than 40% to 5,500 megawatts with the new agreements. Google also said that the new agreements will set in motion the development of millions of solar panels, wind turbines and other construction which will total more than $2 billion in new infrastructure.

Sundar Pichai said:

“Sustainability has been one of Google’s core values from our earliest days. Over the years we’ve worked hard to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, build products with people and planet in mind, and drive change at scale through our supply chains.”

One industry expert commended Google’s action as a “step change” in corporate commitments to green energy. The deals were revealed before the UN climate change summit in New York and on the eve of planned worldwide environmental protests.

Google said it had already become the first company of its size to match 100% of its electricity use with renewable energy sources in 2017 after buying more than 7bn kilowatt-hours of electricity. It went on to match that feat again in 2018 and expects to meet the target in 2019 too.

Due to fluctuations in supply however, not all of the electricity Google uses flows directly from green sources. The new commitments are a step closer to it’s longer term goal of “carbon free” operations meaning that renewable energy is being used, every day, without the company having to fall back on coal or gas fired power stations.

For now, wind and solar power is not reliable or widely available enough to manage that objective, making investment in new capacity critical.

Sundar Pinchai said:

“We are making long-term purchase commitments that result in the development of new projects. Bringing incremental renewable energy to the grids where we consume energy is a critical component of pursuing 24×7 carbon-free energy for all of our operations.”

Google has signed up to long-term power purchase agreements or PPAs which encompass 52 projects and generates 5,500MW of energy. Corporate PPAs have developed as an essential way to secure long-term investment in creating new wind and solar capacity since government funding for renewables has decreased in many parts of the world.

Sundar Pinchai said in a blog post:

“Once all these projects come online, our carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than places like Washington DC or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year.”

Google is not alone in wanting to reduce the vast environmental impact of their data centres and devices. Other Silicon Valley companies are also aiming to change their global operations. Facebook has pledged to power its operations using 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020 saying that it has signed deals worth 2,500MW over the last 12 months. Amazon said it planned to be carbon neutral by 2040 and would order 100,000 electric delivery trucks in order to reach this goal. Apple said last year that its own facilities are 100% powered by renewables. Apple’s manufacturing suppliers account for the biggest share of its overall environmental impact with the production of its iPhones and Macs. Apple is pushing them to become 100% powered by renewables in line with them.

Pichai also announced two energy-related grants from, the search giant’s philanthropic arm. The company is giving a $500,000 grant to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance in the US, and €500,000 to RE-Source in Europe. The money will be used to research new business models for renewable energy and provide training to consumers. 

Sustainability is high on Google’s agenda with the pledge last month to make it’s “Made by Google” line of products including, Pixel smartphones, Google Home smart speakers and its nest devices, more sustainable. The company has said that all its devices will include recycled materials by 2022.

Helen Clarkson, chief executive of the Climate Group, a non-profit organisation that works with companies including Google, Apple and Facebook to reduce their environmental impact, said:

“Google’s latest energy deals would serve as an inspiration and a challenge to others.  Google’s suite of purchases is an order of magnitude larger than the current trend and marks a step change in corporate investments. This huge portfolio of new projects demonstrates how corporate investment in renewable electricity is expanding in scale and global reach.”

Is Renewable Energy set to be the World’s Main Power Source by 2040?

EV Charging

According to BP, renewable energy sources will be the world’s main source of power within the next two decades. The UK based oil company said that renewable energy sources are establishing a foothold in the global energy system faster than any fuel in history. They forecast wind, solar and other renewables will account for an estimated 30% of the world’s electricity supplies by 2040 up from 25% in their estimates last year and about 10% today.

They think the figure will be even higher in regions such as Europe reaching 50% by 2040. In it’s annual energy outlook BP said that the speed of growth was unparalleled. The report’s central scenario says that oil took almost 45 years to go from 1% of global energy to 10% and gas more than 50 years while renewables are expected to do so within 25 years.

Should there be an even faster shift to a low carbon economy that period could be reduced to just 15 years. BP said that this would be ‘’literally off the charts’ in comparison to historical shifts.

According to official data more than half of the electricity used in the UK last year was generated from low carbon energy sources. The government’s annual review of energy statistics revealed that the rapid rise in renewable energy together with low carbon electricity from nuclear reactors accounted for almost 53% of generation in 2018.

The UK’s capacity to generate power from the sun, wind, water and waste grew by 10% setting a new record by meeting a third of the UK’s power generation.

As the UK undertakes more renewable energy projects and shuts down old, polluting coal plants the government has been able to confirm a string of green energy records that have been broken in recent years.

Earlier this year the National Grid said that the UK had recorded its greenest ever winter due to windy weather and dwindling coal-fired power.

This came after the second greenest summer, which fell narrowly short of the 2017 record for renewable energy due to a long heatwave. Interestingly, very hot weather can have a negative impact on renewable energy generation because high pressure weather systems can suppress wind speeds, and solar panels produce less electricity if temperatures climb too high.

As the renewable energy industry has grown it has edged out coal and gas plants which together made up less than 45% of the UK’s electricity last year.

Gas generation made up 39.5% of the generation mix last year falling from 40.4% in 2017. On top of that, after the Eggborough coal plant shut down and Drax converted one of its units to burn biomass instead, coal generation fell to 5.1% last year.

SSE have announced plans to shut its last coal plant at Fiddlers Ferry near Warrington, Cheshire, in March 2020 which leaves only five coal plants left running by the end of the coming winter.

Emma Pinchbeck, the deputy chief executive of Renewable UK, said:

 “The record-breaking figures clearly show that investment in renewables and the government’s championing of offshore wind is delivering rapid change to our energy system”.

She also said:

“As well as helping keep prices down for consumers and boosting the competitiveness of our businesses, renewables are a huge economic opportunity, bringing employment and investment to all parts of the UK.”

The UK government promised developers the chance to compete for a share of £557m of state subsidies in exchange for industry investment in the offshore wind sector over the next 11 years.

This deal could see offshore wind grow to 30% of the UK’s electricity by 2030 as the UK endeavours to reach the 2050 target to cut emissions from the economy to net zero.

Unfortunately, ministers are currently refusing to lift the block on support for new onshore wind farms which are unable to compete for subsidies although they are one of the cheapest forms of electricity.

Emma Pinchbeck said:

 “To achieve its net zero ambitions, the new government needs to go further and faster – and the first steps should be removing the barriers to onshore wind which is our cheapest source of power, and building on our successes in innovative technologies like tidal energy and floating wind where the UK can be a world leader.”

An exciting milestone has been reached by Britain, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, Britain is obtaining more power from zero-carbon sources than fossil fuels.

However, BP sees a “major role” for hydrocarbons on a worldwide basis until 2040, which it says will require substantial investment. It forecasts global demand for oil and gas to be 80-130 million barrels per day by then, up from around 100mb/d today.

This does not bode well for avoiding dangerous levels of global warming. The central scenario presented by BP expects carbon emissions to grow 10% by 2040, as world energy demand grows by a third and fossil fuels continue to play a key role.

Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said:

“Meeting the challenge of providing more energy while cutting emissions would undoubtedly require many forms of energy to play a role”.

The company said it expected growth in renewables to be driven by government policies, technological change and the falling costs of wind and solar power.

Renewables are expected to grow by 7.1% each year over the next two decades, eventually displacing coal as the world’s top source of power by 2040.

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UK Taxpayer to Incur No Extra Cost from The New Generation of Offshore Wind Farms

Offshore Wind

The cost to energy bill payers of supporting new offshore wind farms looks set to   shrink to zero.

Since record low state-backed subsidies fell below the market price for the first time new renewable energy projects are due to be built at no extra cost for millions of British energy bill payers.

The UK is set to embark on a remarkable journey of growth in the offshore wind sector. The crown estate has begun the first leasing round for offshore windfarms in a decade to bring in a new generation of wind projects eventually expected to generate an investment of £20bn.

The intention is to auction off new seabed rights in the waters around England and Wales to wind power developers. The leasing scheme allows up to 7GW of electricity generation capacity which is enough to meet the needs of more than 6m homes.

The Crown Estate will reap a record windfall as a result of this leasing round which could potentially generate hundreds of millions of pounds. Surplus revenues from this will be passed to the treasury.

Energy companies are keen to profit from the UK’s growing offshore wind sector and so the auction is expected to be highly competitive.

Currently, the UK has got 8.5GW of offshore wind generation capacity which provides more than 8% of the UK’s annual electricity needs. The government has agreed to support the industry to expand the UK’s offshore wind capacity to 30GW by 2030.

The cost of supporting wind turbines has dropped by almost a third in the last two years, the results of a government subsidy auction have shown leading to record lows of less than £40 per megawatt per hour (MWh).

Because the guaranteed price for wind power is so low the cost of supporting the new generation of offshore windfarms will not add any additional costs to energy bills.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said:

“It’s great news that millions more homes will be powered by clean energy at record low prices. Seizing the opportunities of clean energy not only helps to protect our planet but will also back businesses and boost jobs across the UK.”

New subsidy contracts will be handed to energy giants including another six offshore windfarms off the coasts of England and Scotland. The projects are expected to start powering UK homes within the next four years.

Most of the projects winning a subsidy contract will receive as little as £36.65 for every megawatt hour of electricity they produce with the most expensive projects costing only slightly more at £41.61/MWh.

Hugh McNeal, the chief executive of RenewableUK, said:

“The results marked a new era of cheap power, as the cost of offshore wind is now lower than the expected market price for power. Reaching that ‘zero-subsidy’ level is made possible by the certainty these long-term contracts provide.”

Offshore wind has dropped below the cost of fossil fuels in a little more than 5 years. In the early days of offshore windfarms contracts were worth around £120/MWh.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the energy and clean growth minister said:

“The support we’re announcing today will mean that over 7m more homes will be powered by renewable energy as we decarbonise our energy system – crucial as we continue on the road to net zero emissions by 2050.”

The latest record-breaking auction for offshore wind subsidies comes two years after two windfarms, the Hornsea 2 project off the Yorkshire coast and the Moray offshore windfarm in Scotland achieved a guaranteed price for their electricity of £57.50/MWh through a similar auction.

Major energy companies hoping to profit from the offshore wind boom are being attracted by the plummeting cost of offshore wind.

RenewableUK, the industry’s trade body has estimated that the next generation of offshore wind development would bring almost £21bn of investment in today’s prices, and support about 9,000 full-time jobs.

Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK, said of the Crown Estate auction:

“These powerhouses of the future will create thousands of highly skilled jobs, continuing the rapid regeneration of our coastal communities, as well as benefiting our UK-wide supply chain.”

In the past the Crown’s chief revenue stream from Offshore wind was received as a percentage of the windfarm’s income once it began selling the electricity it generated. This time an “option fee” will be required for the leasing round which will be used as the basis for a rent agreement over 10 years.

Huub den Rooijen, a director at the crown estate, said:

“the new leasing round plans had been agreed through extensive engagement with the market and stakeholders, to deliver an attractive, fair, objective process, which helps to balance a range of interests in the marine environment”.

He went on to say that:

“the competition would open the next chapter in the UK energy industry’s remarkable transition”.

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New Algorithm Developed to Better Utilise the Power of Solar Panels

Algorithm Banner

One of the great things about the solar industry is its constant growth. It is continually searching for better ways to collect energy. No energy source is completely efficient. Currently Biomass is the most efficient source of renewable energy, converting at 50%. Solar panels come much further down the chart at 4%. This might be all about to change as researchers have been busy developing an algorithm which can convert solar power much more efficiently.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a way to better harness the volume of energy collected by solar panels.

In this new study published in the journal ‘IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology’ researchers have developed an algorithm that both increases the efficiency of the solar photovoltaic (PV) system and reduces the volume of power that is wasted due to a deficiency of effective controls.

The study entitled “Nonlinear Optimal Feedback Control and Stability Analysis of Solar Photovoltaic Systems,” was authored by Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics researchers Milad Farsi and Jun Liu.

Milad Farsi, a Ph.D. candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics said:

“We’ve developed an algorithm to further boost the power extracted from an existing solar panel… Hardware in every solar panel has some nominal efficiency, but there should be some appropriate controller that can get maximum power out of solar panels. We do not change the hardware or require additional circuits in the solar PV system. What we developed is a better approach to controlling the hardware that already exists.”

The new algorithm allows controllers to target the fluctuations which happen when the panels are operating at maximum output, which is a notoriously wasteful part of the process. These fluctuations have historically led to the wasting of potential energy collected by panels.

Milad Farsi went on to say:

“Based on the simulations, for a small home-use solar array including 12 modules of 335W, up to 138.9 kWh/year can be saved. The savings may not seem significant for a small home-use solar system but could make a substantial difference in larger-scale ones, such as a solar farm or in an area including hundreds of thousands of local solar panels connected to the power grid.”

“Taking Canada’s largest PV plant, for example, the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant, if this technique is used, the savings could amount to 960,000 kWh/year, which is enough to power hundreds of households. If the saved energy were to be generated by a coal-fired plant, it would require emission of 312 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.”


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Though this will not mean huge improvements for homeowners in the short term, the improvements could be massive both collectively and for industrial use ultimately leading to lower operating costs and a greener operation.

Milad pointed out that the savings could be even more considerable under a fast-changing ambient environment, such as Canadian weather conditions, or when the power loss in the converters due to the undesired chattering effects seen in other conventional control methods is taken into account.

There are exciting new solar panel technologies being developed all the time that are either in the pipeline or already on the market. These technologies will completely change the way we think about not just solar power but energy production in general.

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Can Big Business Lead the Renewables Revolution into the next phase?

ipcc report

In October last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its most clear-cut warning so far on the effect of failing to limit global warming to 1.5°C. As big business is responsible for 60% of global energy consumption it is businesses not governments that will need to push the transition to renewables. Though companies like Google, Apple and IKEA are leading the way their actions will not be enough to make the difference that is required. The world needs the next wave of corporations to begin their renewable journey.

This is all happening at a time when the renewable energy transition in Europe is at a turning point as it moves from being subsidy driven to market driven. Normally this would be the point at which corporations would start to take up more of the market. However, firstly corporates need to be convinced that there are investment benefits.

The BayWa r.e. Energy Report 2019 was released in May 2019 and is the first, systematic, quantitative opinion survey that has been carried out among 1,200 decision-makers in medium-sized and large companies in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Poland. The report was issued in partnership with the RE-Source Platform and surveys and analyses the attitude of corporations towards sourcing of renewable energy. There were questions that needed to be answered as to whether corporations recognised their fundamental role in the renewable transition, what progress they had made so far and what might be holding them back. This report provided answers to these questions by analysing the views of corporations across 6 key European countries on how they view renewable energy.

The RE-Source Platform is a European alliance of stakeholders representing clean energy buyers and suppliers for corporate renewable energy sourcing. This platform pools resources and coordinates activities to promote a better framework for corporate renewable energy sourcing at EU and national level. Organisations behind the platform include SolarPower Europe, Wind Europe, RE100 and the WBCSD.

The BayWa r.e. Energy Report 2019 shows huge corporate enthusiasm for clean energy and cites bureaucracy and complex regulations as holding back full potential. 89% of all companies surveyed agreed that corporations should play a leading role in driving the energy transition. However, 76% identified bureaucracy and complex regulations as major barriers to further investment in renewables. The majority of corporations could see the benefits with almost 90% feeling that the use of renewables resulted in a better public image and 80% feeling it gave them a business advantage. When making the decision to invest in renewables 92% did so to reduce energy costs.

Despite this many corporations across all surveyed countries identified long payback periods and high investment costs as barriers. The perception of investment costs as a barrier were ighest in Poland and the UK.

Matthias Taft, member of the Board responsible for the energy business, BayWa AG. commented:

“The BayWa r.e. Energy report 2019 shows that corporations want to play a leading role in the renewable transition, driven by a desire to advance their sustainability goals, improve their public image and reduce energy costs. However, many continue to be held back by complex regulations and barriers relating to investment and payback. To overcome these, the industry must offer corporations a wide range of renewable supply options and work closely with governments to improve regulatory frameworks.”

50% of the corporations surveyed had set targets for the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Karol Gobczynski, Head of Climate & Energy, Ingka Group, IKEA largest franchisee said:

“Individuals and companies want to take climate action by investing in renewable energy generation and sourcing renewable energy. A simple and inclusive legal framework is essential to accelerate the transition to an affordable and clean energy market. This will enable many more people to live better lives within the limits of the planet.”

Over half of all the surveyed corporations were planning to use renewable energy or install their own renewable energy facilities within the next 5 years.

Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100, the Climate Group said:

“The findings of the Energy Report 2019 show European corporate buyers are increasingly aware of the strengthening business case for renewables. By pioneering innovative approaches and helping to shape regulatory frameworks, RE100 members have been instrumental in making corporate renewable energy use more mainstream. We expect more and more companies to step up their ambition and work with policy makers, regulators and energy suppliers to drastically accelerate clean power deployment.”

Some American firms are now taking climate change so seriously that they are surprising even former critics. The strongest evidence of their commitment alongside energy efficiency measures is the number of new wind and solar projects that they are helping to build around the world. Companies are using power-purchase agreements (PPAs).  They sign long-term contracts to buy clean electricity from firms that develop solar and wind farms at agreed prices, instead of buying the bulk of their power from utilities, which can rarely guarantee 100% clean energy to their customers. Big business has by now spurred the worldwide development of a cumulative 20 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar farms.

Last year firms such as Amazon and Google led the way. They use clean energy to power their vast banks of servers. Enthusiasm is now extending to energy intensive industries too including manufacturers. It is also moving from corporate headquarters to subsidiaries and suppliers, and from developed countries to emerging markets, where the costs of wind and solar energy are falling fastest.


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Some environmentalists are beginning to see businesses as allies rather than enemies in the fight against global warming. Instead they believe that that they could become strong forces behind the worldwide spread of clean energy.

Marty Spitzer, head of climate and renewable energy policy in America for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a charity says:

“There used to be rhetoric and little action. Now I see fundamental changes.”

Other global developments include the mammoth Australian supermarket Coles agreeing to procure power from three utility-scale solar projects that Terrain Solar plans to build in the Australian state of New South Wales. Under a 10-year power purchase agreement, Coles will buy more than 70% of the 220 GWh of clean power that will be annually generated by the plants. The deal will cover 10% of the retailer’s national electricity usage.

Steven Cain, Coles Group CEO said:

“Renewable energy is a major part of the supermarket chain’s commitment to becoming the most sustainable groceries group in Australia. With this agreement, Coles can make a significant contribution to the growth of the renewable energy supply in Australia, as well as to the communities we serve”

Coles is the first major Australian retailer to commit to purchasing renewable energy through a PPA and is also working with property partners to increase on-site renewable generation at its stores and distribution centres.

Thinus Keeve, Coles Chief Property and Export Officer has said:

“We plan to install solar panels on another 38 stores this financial year and we will be working with our landlords and property developers to identify further locations suitable for on-site solar power generation.”

Tesco’s 100 per cent renewables target is a great example of where we should be heading. They have stated unequivocally that “the company is committed to sourcing 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 – to include over 50 per cent from PPAs and on-site generation – and has an interim milestone to source 65 per cent renewable electricity by 2020”. 

The speed with which some of the world’s most high-profile companies have signed up to the RE100 initiative and set targets to source 100 per cent of their power from renewable sources has been remarkable. Essentially, this trend has been driven by not just the desire to reap reputational benefits, but also a recognition that falling renewables costs and the ability to lock in stable and competitive energy prices through long-term power purchase agreements means there is a genuine commercial rationale for such investments.

Will Rail Line in Hampshire Pave the Way for Direct Powering of Trains?

Fleet Station Hampshire

In what’s said to be a world first some trains in the UK are now running on a rail line wholly powered by a solar farm. About 100 solar panels at the trackside site near Aldershot in Hampshire will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route. It is thought that this project could be a precursor to solar powered trains on the nation’s network. This could help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and costs.

The 30kW pilot scheme could pave the way for a more ambitious project capable of directly powering the trains that use this route from next year.

Furthermore Network Rail hopes to use the scheme, developed by the charity 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London, to solar-charge its rail lines across the country.

Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said:

“We have ambitions to roll this technology out further across the network should this demonstrator project prove successful, so we can deliver a greener, better railway for our passengers and the wider public.”

The railway infrastructure on the British mainland is mostly managed by Network Rail and they have set aside billions of pounds to electrify rail lines aiming to use solar power if the pilot project is successful. The UK government is aiming to eradicate the use of Diesel on the rail network by 2040.

Solar panels are already used to power the operations of train stations, including Blackfriars in central London. However, the project near Aldershot is the first time a solar array will bypass the electricity grid to plug directly into a railway’s “traction” system.

The research team behind the Aldershot project appropriately called Riding Sunbeams estimates that solar energy could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool and around 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex as well as solar trains in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester. As well as being a greener form of power than diesel, these solar farms could supply cheaper power than electricity from the natural grid which would in turn reduce costs for railways.

Work began over two years ago to find out whether bypassing the electricity grid could make solar power a more efficient energy source for trains.

Once the project proved that connecting solar power directly to rail, tube and tram networks could help meet a significant share of their electricity needs Innovate UK awarded the project funding from the Department of Transport.


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Because the cost of solar power technologies has continued to fall, subsidy-free solar farms can supply electricity at a lower cost than the electricity supplied via the grid. In recent years plans to electrify Britain’s rail lines had faltered due to concern about the costs but these findings have changed that.

Leo Murray, the director of Riding Sunbeams, said that railways will be able to cut their running costs and benefit local communities at the same time as playing a part in tackling the climate crisis.

“Matchmaking the UK’s biggest electricity user, the railways, with the nation’s favourite energy source, solar power, looks like the start of the perfect relationship.”

If the project passes its real-world testing, larger solar projects could be rolled out across South Western Railway (SWR)’s network. SWR having reduced its emissions by 33% in the past year aims to cut its carbon emissions by 60% overall in the next five years.

Amelia Woodley, head of sustainability at South Western Railway, said:

“There’s “never been a better time” to partner with Riding Sunbeams due to the passing of the net-zero emissions legislation.”

Ollie Pendered, executive director of Riding Sunbeams, said:

“We are very excited to be installing the world’s first project to directly power railway lines with solar energy at Aldershot station. We hope this pilot scheme paves the way for the railway industry, and the UK, becoming zero-carbon.”

Leo Murray added that the same model could be used across the world, particularly in sunny countries in South America, and India.

The UK are not the first country to have solar-powered trains. There are more than 250 in service in India with panels on their roofs though because of the weight of the panels their trains need more energy than usual. The subcontinent plans to establish trackside solar farms to eliminate this problem. Indian Railways, the country’s single largest energy consumer hopes to have the first entirely green railway network in 10 years by installing 30GW of solar generation capacity on some of its 51,000 hectares of vacant land.

This plan is part of India’s drive to replace polluting coal-fired power with cleaner energy sources, including as much as 100GW of solar power.

Demand for traction power on the world’s rail networks is escalating and many traditional grids are at full, or nearly full capacity. 

Using solar PV power is potentially a perfect solution that uses photovoltaic panels in close proximity to rail lines to generate electricity and transmit it directly into system as traction current, and/or distribute it to the grid.

A 2017 report into solar PV rail applications by Imperial College in London reported that this could take advantage of a coincidental match between the peak generating time for solar and a peak demand for traction current, while also bypassing current problems in areas of limited grid capacity.

In addition to this, solar PV arrays typically output DC power at 600–800V, while electric rail operates at 750V, meaning that the cost of connecting solar generation to DC traction networks – such as those seen in urban rail networks throughout the UK – should be competitive with grid connection costs, potentially eliminating the need for public subsidies.

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Is the UK Heat Pump Market likely to double by 2025?

heat pump

In March this year the government declared that fossil fuel heating could be banned in all new homes built after 2025. This opens the door to significant opportunity for low carbon heating. Though companies are waiting for building regulations to be updated there is still solid potential for growth in the UK heat pump market.

Currently the heating system stock in the UK relies heavily on gas systems. 85% of all the heating systems operating are gas boilers and about 1.5m million gas boilers are being installed in the UK each year. In fact, the UK is the biggest boiler market in Europe. At the moment renewable heating represents just 2% of the heating systems in the UK and 1% of this is supplied by heat pumps, air source heat pumps being considerably more common than ground source.


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A review was recently carried out by Delta-ee to consider the opportunities and barriers for heat pumps in order to assess how the market is likely to develop over the next few years. Despite the concern around future support for heat pumps after the Renewable Heat Incentive ends in 2021 and the likely negative impact of Brexit on the heating market Delta-ee foresees the UK heat pump market doubling in size by 2025.

Interestingly, the use of heat pumps, both air source and ground source for hot water and household consumption is well-established in many other countries such as Central and Northern Europe, the United States and Canada. We need to ask ourselves why the UK has been lagging behind in growing this market and when & what can be done to develop this market in the future.

Delta-ee think that increasing uptake in the new build market will be the key to driving growth. With the support of large-scale shared ground loop projects and increased confidence in hybrid heat pumps they believe growth could be more than twice as high to 2025 with the right policies and regulations in place. In addition, if fossil fuel has been banned in new builds, they can see the market really taking off from 2025 onwards.

Many people know something about the benefits of heat pumps both in terms of their pocket and for the environment. Thanks to government measures and positive trends the penetration of heat pumps in the UK heating market is very likely to increase significantly during the following years.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a UK Government scheme created to encourage the uptake of renewable heat technologies amongst householders, communities and businesses through financial incentives. This incentive is the first of its type in the world and the UK Government expects the RHI to contribute towards the 2020 ambition of 12% of heating coming from renewable sources.

The domestic RHI began on 9th April 2014 and provides financial support to the owner of the renewable heating system for seven years. The scheme covers England, Wales and Scotland and is targeted at – but not limited to – off-gas households.

Like other renewable technology the performance of heat pumps is improving all the time which will make them in the future truly competitive in a market currently controlled by gas boilers. Though the initial installation costs of heat pumps will remain higher than those of gas boilers their running costs are set to decrease significantly making them a very attractive option for supplying hot water and heating.

In the UK heating market, utilities supply over 90% of customers. As previously mentioned most installations in the UK are gas boilers but this has begun to change. Some of the largest utilities are offering heat pump installation services and companies in this sector are beginning to feel more confident about joining the UK market.

Government regulations aimed at making new residential buildings ‘Zero Carbon Homes’ will also encourage the installation of heat pumps though it must be noted that there are many options for accomplishing the zero-carbon goal, not just heat pumps.

The Greater London Authority has already adopted the reduced emission factor and because their methodology does not include direct electric heating in carbon savings calculations, heat pumps are likely to be the best option from a carbon perspective and hopefully this will make a positive impact on the market this year.

Over the next few years, the ground source heat pump market will be advanced by large-scale shared ground loop developments in housing association retrofits. An example of this is the project in Enfield, where Kensa has been contracted to install its Shoebox heat pumps in 400 flats. There are many new initiatives such as this, Grant UK for example have designed a wet underfloor heating range to partner with heat pumps.

Experts in the field agree that at least until 2020 the installation of heat pumps will experience rapid growth mostly driven by RHI tariffs and utilities initiative of increasing the size of the heat pump industry in the UK. It is not only engaging UK companies in the industry but also foreign companies that will help to raise standards and produce a more dynamic heating market in the UK.

Find out more about heat pumps here.