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Blog In the UK, Solar Power Is Leaving Nuclear and Coal in the Dust

Written: January 18, 2018 | Read Time: 3 min read

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Last weekend in the UK, a new record was set for solar power generation, hitting a quarter of the electricity mix on the hot Friday afternoon. It seems this could be a trend for the UK and beyond, as last month’s record noted 8.7GW of solar power generated, surpassing nuclear and coal combined!

For a working week day, this is quite impressive. Solar power officially became the second most used generating technology behind gas, making up around 25% of the UK’s electricity. It’s an exciting time to see that just over 12GW of solar power in place across the UK are generating the same production capacity as eight new-generation nuclear reactors.

“This is a colossal achievement in just 5 years, and sends a very positive message to the UK that solar has a strong place in the decarbonization of the UK energy sector,” said Paul Barwell, Chief Executive of the Solar Trade Association.

The high interest in solar energy in the UK has exceeded all expectations, with panels feeding power directly into homes and across the local electricity grid. Solar is seriously cutting demand on the national system, and possibly helping the UK reach a record low this year. The National Grid’s control room has begun to observe just how significant forecasting weather patterns will be for the nation.

“We have planned for these changes to the energy landscape and have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand. It really is the beginning of a new era, which we are prepared for and excited to play our part,” said Duncan Burt, a representative of the National Grid’s control room.

Although the Government closed off funding for solar projects through its Renewables Obligation scheme in 2015, developers took advantage of the grace period to roll out new sites, which they did up until Spring last year. Subsidized solar projects are no longer as necessary, since solar has become a lot more economical. It is now more possible than ever that the UK can move forward without the help of the Government for a handout.

“In energy price terms, solar is low-cost and mostly produces cheap electricity during peak demand hours from 07:00-19:00. This means at peak times it keeps down wholesale power prices, which make up around 45pc of a household bill,” said Jamie Stewart, senior power expert at market data provider Icis. Although new projects may hit a lull for the next year or two in the UK, quality innovation is happening behind the scenes. With so much to celebrate in the past five years, expect even greater things from the UK in the next five years.

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