Solar Guide, the free online resource for homeowners and engineers regarding all solar-related issues, says the recent news that Cornwall Council has given the thumbs-up to the first medium-sized solar power plant in the UK is a clear sign that the UK is set to follow in fellow European countries footsteps and become more reliant on solar PV (Photovoltaic) panels for wide-scale electricity generation.
The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) for the generation of renewable electricity has sparked a wave of new interest in solar from homeowners, businesses and communities. The uptake of solar PV installations in the UK has been record breaking in the three months up to August as homeowners look to reap the financial benefits of lowering their energy bills and receiving payments for generating their own electricity and potentially receiving even more if they export unused electricity to the power grid.
However, the confirmation of the UK’s first solar plant at the Wheal Jane mine site near Truro is a much bigger leap for the solar industry as the technology starts to become a consideration for communities in the UK as an high-proportion power source.
Cornwall Council gave the planned 1.35 megawatt (MW) solar plant the go-ahead on Monday which is expected to generate enough power for 300 households and attract up to £1bn to the Cornwall area. The arrangement of two-metre high panels will save an estimated 35,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 25 years in comparison to more traditional energy supplies.
Cornwall, being Britain’s sunniest region, is expected to receive 1,000 hours of sunshine per solar unit. Project developer 35 Degrees has teamed up with solar panel manufacturer Solon SE for the project after the government’s announcement last month that a new policy would allow local councils to sell excess green energy to the local grid like the export tariff in the Feed-in Tariff.
Stephen McCabe, Managing Director of 35 Degrees, said: “This is the first major milestone for the UK in directly harvesting the inexhaustible energy of the sun to address major issues such as energy stability and carbon reduction. It is also the first building block in bringing a new growth industry to Cornwall and the UK. We are excited to be leading the way in this venture.”
The project has been estimated to cost around £4m to develop with a four to six week construction period.
The plant may be the first of its kind in the UK but in other European countries, like Spain and Germany, these large-scale solar arrays are seen more frequently.
Solar Guide founder David Holmes said the Cornwall solar plant is a huge step for the industry and will boost confidence internally.
“Companies who have invested a lot of money into solar will see this move from Cornwall Council as a huge confidence booster that they’ve invested in a sustainable industry,” said Holmes.
“Solar has always received sceptical opinion with not many people believing solar PV could be a genuine alternative to traditional electricity supply. However, the Feed-in Tariff has changed this sentiment.
“A community taking up solar PV to power hundreds of homes is a massive step for the industry and is proof the belief and demand in solar PV is there.”
And Holmes said it isn’t just positive feedback for the industry; the government should be aware that this is a big moment as it looks to reduce carbon emissions and meet emissions targets.
“The Feed-in Tariff has received a lot of criticism since the launch in April, but the government should look at the Wheal Jane mine site project and realise this is a huge moment that shows the UK is accepting solar PV and renewable energy as an alternative.”
For more information about the benefits of solar technology, visit www.solarguide.co.uk.