Solar good news

Steve Cains, Director of Power Solutions

One of the wettest winters on record has suddenly transitioned to an exceptionally warm, dry and sunny spring. Something to be welcomed as the world has also been transitioning to a different lifestyle of social distancing and working from home; where video calls with colleagues and clients compete for attention with our kids’ needs for home education and entertainment.

Thank goodness then for some decent weather at last, especially for many PPS employees who are lucky enough to be surrounded by Wiltshire’s glorious countryside.

The fine weather has also been good news for solar power, with recent weeks seeing the UK achieve some exciting new benchmarks.

Soaring solar generation

From mid-April, to where we are now in early May, the UK has enjoyed its longest period ever without coal generation on the grid, breaking the previous record of 18 days set last June. This Guardian article is updating the total daily.

This same period has also seen solar generation in the UK hit a record of over 9.6 GW on April 20, when it accounted for almost 30% of UK electricity demand.

Of course this is not only due to high levels of sunshine increasing the amount of solar power on the grid displacing coal, but also a drop in energy demand due to lockdown. But it is an important indicator of what can be achieved in the UK’s journey to Net Zero if, as seems likely, many of the lifestyle changes we have been forced to adopt continue once lockdown is lifted.

(Interestingly, the US is also enjoying a similar boost for green power versus coal – with a record 40 consecutive days where renewables have exceeded coal generation, according to a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.)

These new milestones have been born out at some of the solar farms PPS developed and now manages. Common Farm, a 5MW solar farm owned by Swindon Borough Council, has generated almost 20% more green electricity this year compared with the previous one (measured from April to March).

That’s almost a gigawatt more power produced, due not only to higher levels of irradiation but also to greater efficiencies in the way we’ve been managing the project. It’s good news for Swindon’s residents, many of whom are benefiting from a direct financial investment in the solar farm through Abundance, as well as enhancements to the council’s bottom line from its ownership.

Plummeting prices

More good news for solar comes from a new study by BloombergNEF, which shows that, alongside onshore wind, utility-scale solar is now the cheapest form of new energy generation for two-thirds of the world’s population. The study also shows that the cost of battery storage technology has almost halved since 2018 accompanied by a substantial increase in average project sizes.

It all bodes well for solar to play a key role in the green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, with local authorities taking the lead, just as they have done in tackling the pandemic. As recent analysis from Oxford University shows, projects linked to climate change are both quick and straightforward to implement and offer higher returns than conventional economic stimulus projects.

At PPS we are here to help local authorities and Public Sector organisations make the most of renewable energy and storage opportunities from your assets. We may be working from home at the moment, but we’re still offering a complete service, so do get it touch.

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