Solar Is Making a ‘Comeback’ in the UK

We’ve had one of the most prolonged hot weather spells globally, fires and droughts have been rife. Elon Musk seems to be undergoing his own personal mid-life crisis, Trump is on the verge of impeachment while rolling back the Clean Power Plan, fascism is on the rise and Brexit is turning out to be a major debacle.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the world is in meltdown. Carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy like solar seems to be the last thing on people’s minds. But is it really that bad?

The End of the World is Nigh: Or Is It?

The truth is that news outlets tend to focus on the bad rather than the good. It’s compounded a lot nowadays by social media where everyone seems to be shouting and screaming at each other and points of view have become polarised.

In actual fact, we live in an age where poverty is at it’s lowest point, teenage pregnancies have reduced dramatically, murder rates have dropped and we’re living healthier and longer lives. It’s easy to see why these good news stories don’t make it regularly into the media spotlight.

Let’s take a quick look at renewable energy and carbon emissions. The recent heat waves across the UK, Europe and America as well as many other parts of the world, led to a lot of doom mongering. Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it’s just another sign we are heading for a global warming catastrophe. But the world is not going to end tomorrow.

What you should be looking at are the remarkable changes we’ve made already over the last decade or so.

  • Anyone over the age of 40 will look out over the landscape today and recognise that it has altered dramatically. Off shore we have huge windfarms.
  • Drive around your local area and you will come across solar panels on rooftops and solar farms out in the country.
  • We all have recycle bins nowadays and religiously sort our paper and plastic for weekly collection.

Is Solar About To Become Self-Reliant?

We are biologically tuned to react more to bad news. That’s why we often have a skewed view of what is happening. Take the world of solar, for example. It’s generally accepted that the 2016 slashing of tariffs by the Tories damaged the solar industry and set it back almost irretrievably.

That’s true to a certain extent. The lowering of subsidies did have an impact.

But we ignore the fact that solar, as it has around many parts of the globe, has reached a tipping point. It’s cheaper to install than ever before and one project in the UK in particular may suggest that we reaching a place where large scale solar, at least, has enough to survive without subsidies.

Cleve Hill in Kent is set to deliver 350 MW across 1,000 acres if it goes through to completion. That would make it by far the biggest non-subsidised solar farm and it’s a project that is also going to include solar storage.

If you take into account the number of solar installations on farms and on the rooftops of homes and businesses, there are now nearly a million panels converting the light from the sun into electricity. Over the last decade, supply and demand has gone up and down, often in response to changes in subsidies. What the Cleve Hill installation shows is that solar is far from on its last legs – in fact, many experts believe this will lead to more solar farm projects getting the go ahead.

Combine that with wind and you can begin to see how the mix of renewable sources is already having a huge impact on our energy profile. As the Independent said recently:

“The UK has benefited this year from an unusually sunny summer. In June and early July, PV generation peaked at more than 9GW (gigawatts) each day for a week. At midday on Saturday 30 June, solar supplied 30 per cent of the national demand for electricity. If that day had also been windy then a further 30 per cent could have come from wind.”

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