Solar Independence Day: Six ways solar is revolutionising sustainability

As Britain enjoys a bout of summer sun, solar farms are preparing to open up to the public for Solar Independence Day.

Friday to Saturday (3-4 July) mark celebrations of Solar Independence Day

Friday to Saturday (3-4 July) mark celebrations of Solar Independence Day

The celebration of solar power also aims to publicise the Solar Trade Association’s (STA) ‘Solar Independence Plan for Britain’, which sets out how the government can implement installing up to 25GW of solar in the UK by 2020.

However, it is not all sunshine for the solar industry. The Government recently cut subsidies for small solar farms, a move which has received criticism from solar professionals.

But today, up and down the country, solar installations will be welcoming the public and politicians to demonstrate the benefits of solar in the Great British summer.

So edie has put together this list of six amazing ways solar power is revolutionising sustainability.

1) Solar really gives power back to the people


That’s according to Paul Barwell, CEO of the STA, which estimates solar power will supply up to 15% of the UK’s electricity demand on Friday, with much of it coming from small scale or community solar.

Solar power also remains one of the most popular forms of renewable energy, according to Barwell: “At more than 80% public support, solar has been shown in government opinion polls to be the country’s most popular form of energy.”

In the UK as many as 60% of people would consider adding solar panels to their home in the next five years.

Installing solar panels has also provided a way to redistribute energy production. The STA estimates that there are as many as 660,000 solar homes in the UK utilising solar power for cheaper energy bills and 30,000 small installations such as on businesses or schools.


2) Solar brings communities together


Hardly a week goes by at edie without another community solar initiative being launched. Both local and the national authorities have been pushing community-owned renewable energy as a way to reduce the cost of energy bills and create more clean energy.

Community renewable energy projects have sprung up across the UK, from the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative to the 1.8MW solar farm in Bristol, the European Green Capital of the year.

The Government even moved to make it easier for large commercial rooftop solar schemes to go ahead earlier this year, by allowing businesses to install up to 1MW of solar capacity without the need for planning permission.


3) Companies are using it to clean up their act


Businesses around the world are using solar power as a key source of power to reduce their carbon emissions, from Google’s investment in a massive solar farm in California to Waitrose’s solar installation on its Leckworth Estate farm, businesses are investing in solar power systems, large and small.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has pledged more than €100m for solar power as part of its push for 100% renewable energy and Marks and Spencer recently completed the installation of the UK’s largest roof mounted solar panel array in the UK. The M&S array will aim to generate up to 5,000MWh of electricity for the firm each year.


4) It’s driving remarkable innovation


Solar powered technology is producing unbelievable new technologies that not long ago would have seemed like science fiction.

In Australia, a team of students claim to be close to completing the Southern Hemisphere’s first road-legal solar power car. After the Sunswift team completed the fastest ever electric vehicle over a distance of 500 km, they set about constructing the first road-legal solar car.

Even more incredible is the Solar Impulse 2 currently making its way around the world. The solar plane is close to half way through its remarkable round the world flight, using only the power of the sun to generate the energy needed to fly.


5) Solar can do more than power our homes


Solar-thermal technology is being used for more than powering homes. In Australia, a commercial greenhouse that grows tomatoes is using desalinated water produced by solar-thermal power to save 700m litres of freshwater each year, as well as offsetting 14,000 tonnes of CO2.

The farm’s solar-thermal process will see computer-controlled mirrors focus sunlight onto a tower where the energy is used to convert water into steam, which then desalinates seawater, while also generating electricity.


6) It’s being used all over the world


Solar power is being used in projects across the world, from the world’s largest floating solar farm planned in Japan to major solar projects across the African continent.

Solar power has helped rebound investment in renewable energy, accounting for almost half of total clean energy investment in 2014. Last year it attracted almost $150bn worth of investment, up 25% on 2013.

You can check out some of the most remarkable solar projects here with edie’s interactive map.

Matt Field


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