By Hugh Finlay
British solar power has come a long way since several years ago, in 2011, when it supplied virtually no power. Now in 2017, solar contributes as much as 25% of the country's power to the national grid. And by 2040,it is predicted that solar and wind power will supply most of what the UK needs for its energy needs. As a gas power trader in the company Alfa Energy Ltd. put it "Look at today (a typical summer's day), 15% of our power in the UK is coming from solar as we speak, and its going to get better."
Because of fluctuations in the British weather, the daily solar and wind power produced also fluctuates. But this does not dampen the British enthusiasm for renewable energy, as they realize that other sources of energy such as coal and natural gas, are set to run out sometime in the future.
These fluctuations mean that companies selling power have to figure out a system for predicting how much renewable energy can be produced during a particular period of time. WeatherXchange is a company that has been formed by Stephen Doherty to predict the weather for renewable energy production. He said "The weather market has been a relatively low-growth trajectory with a few bumps since 2000, but in the last few years it's really kicked. We now see a wide variety of hedging by energy companies including temperature, rainfall related to hydro, wind and some solar." As a spokesman for the commodities broker Marex Spectron said "The edge is now in knowing the weather."
By 2035 the UK may need as much as 55 terawatt-hours of electricity, to supply power for the increased use of electric cars, planned by the government. Although the British solar power industry is not as developed as in other countries in Europe, it is expanding. One of Britain's biggest solar companies, Hive Energy, which has created over 300 megawatts of solar power in over 20 sites in the UK, has announced the setting up yet another solar park, supplying 40-megawatts. Hive's CEO said "This subsidy free solar farm will generate a level of renewable energy which will make a significant contribution towards meeting national energy targets and will help to increase the security of the UK's energy supply."
In Scotland a solar farm the size of 40 soccer pitches is being set up, and will provide 20 megawatts of power. The company Elgin Energy already has 24 solar farms in the UK, producing 250 megawatts of electricity. This solar farm will become the biggest in Scotland, overtaking one in Perthsire which produces 13 megawatts. Interestingly, sheep will graze on the site of the solar farm.
Policy director, Stephanie Clark said "Large-scale solar has played a part in Scotland since 2005 and we are now beginning to see more applications for commercial projects coming forward. North east Scotland's skies and longer daylight hours mean the area is attractive to developers. Large schemes like this one are able to use that resource to provide clean electricity which can meet its climate change targets."
Solar does have one up and coming rival: onshore, and off-shore, wind projects are being set up around the UK.