Solar sector celebrates Independence Day with record monthly output

New analysis has revealed that the UK solar industry reached an energy generation record-high last month by producing 23.9% of the country's electricity demand, on the same day that the industry celebrates its third Solar Independence Day (4 July).

To mark the occasion – which serves to highlight how the technology can deliver businesses future independence from Government subsidy –  the Solar Trade Association (STA) has launched a new initiative to raise standards in the operation and maintenance (O&M) of big rooftop and ground-mounted solar systems.

The STA’s ‘Raising Standards in Solar PV Operations and Maintenance’ scheme will aim to raise awareness that good quality O&M of commercial solar rooftops and solar farms is essential to ensuring their performance, longevity and safe working condition.

STA O&M working group chair Mark Turner said: “With this initiative we want to raise standards and establish best practice across the UK in solar PV operations and maintenance, making sure people are aware that preventative action can avoid costly corrective action later. Solar PV plants have no moving parts but are power plants like any other, and therefore safety has to be our primary concern.”

Independence Day

It is estimated that the UK now has almost 12GW of solar PV across homes, offices, schools, warehouses and on solar farms. Strong installation rates have emerged despite recent changes in Government energy policy, which the solar power industry holds responsible for the loss of more than half its 35,000 jobs. The STA says it is working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in a bid to implement a number of minor changes that could help stimulate the market.

Today’s celebration of solar power aims to publicise the STA’s ‘Solar Independence Plan for Britain’, which sets out how the Government can implement installing up to 25GW of solar in the UK by 2020.

STA chief executive Paul Barwell said: “The UK has successfully deployed almost 12GW of solar across the UK, providing nearly 25% during peak generation. This is what the country and the world needs to decarbonise the energy sector at the lowest price to the consumer. The Government’s adoption of the Fifth Carbon Budget is a good long term signal in this regard.

“Solar Independence Day is about celebrating what a large group of small and medium sized businesses can achieve in a short period of time. We now need just one more push from the Government to help the solar sector reach its objective of zero subsidy by the early 2020s.”

Public-owned solar

In related solar energy news this week, the UK’s first solar farm funded by council-supported solar bonds has been connected to the grid. Developed by council-owned Public Power Solutions (PPS), the Swindon Community Solar farm in Wroughton will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 1200 typical homes and save around 2000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

The £4.8m construction cost of the project is being met by a £3m investment from Swindon Borough Council, plus £1.8m raised from direct investment from the public through Council Solar Bonds.

PPS power solutions head Steve Cains said: “We’re very pleased that this innovative project has been completed on time and on budget and is now generating clean electricity for the people of Swindon – making an important contribution to the town’s target of supplying enough electricity from renewables for all the homes in Swindon by 2020.

“This exemplifies the sort of solar development projects PPS excels at – making the most of innovative funding methods and putting the local community at the heart of our projects.”

George Ogleby

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