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  • Writer's pictureKat Buckley

The power of the sun: what’s up with solar power in the UK?

Despite the stereotype that the weather in the UK is all rain and fog (and we love to talk about it), advancements in solar technology and supportive government policies have made solar power a viable and growing energy source. While solar could be a key player in clean energy, at present, it makes up less than 5% of our energy mix.

Is solar power growing in the UK?

The UK has experienced a surge in solar power installations over the past decade. This growth has been driven by several factors:

  • Government incentives: The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) incentivised homeowners and businesses to invest in solar panels.

  • Decreasing costs: The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has fallen in recent years making solar power more accessible.

  • Technological advancements: Improvements in energy storage technologies have enhanced the viability of solar power even in less sunny regions.

Despite this, there’s still plenty of scope for growth. Of the 14 large-scale solar parks proposed for the UK, only two are currently in operation, and just 2.7% of households in the UK have installed residential solar power.

How solar power works

Solar power systems convert sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells, which generate an electric current when exposed to sunlight. The main components of a solar power system include:

  • Solar panels: Capture sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity.

  • Inverter: Converts DC electricity into alternating current (AC), which is used in homes and businesses.

  • Battery storage: Stores excess energy for use during periods when sunlight is not available, such as night time or cloudy days.

  • Grid connection: Allows excess electricity to be exported to the national grid, earning credits or payments for the producer.

What are the benefits of solar power?

Environmental impact

Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source, producing no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. Solar energy helps mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy independence

Solar power provides an opportunity for households and businesses to generate their own electricity, reducing dependence on external energy sources and enhancing energy security.

Economic savings

Solar panels can significantly reduce electricity bills. Additionally, government schemes and incentives can offset installation costs, and selling excess energy back to the grid can generate additional income.

Is the UK ready for solar power?

There are still some challenges to growing solar power in the UK. 

Weather dependence

The UK's often cloudy and rainy weather can limit the efficiency of solar panels. However, solar technology has advanced in recent years and can now still generate electricity under diffuse light conditions.

Initial costs

While the cost of solar panels has decreased, the initial investment can still be a barrier for some homeowners and businesses. Government incentives can help overcome this challenge.

Space requirements

Solar installations require adequate roof space or land. Finding suitable locations for solar panels can be challenging for those in urban areas with limited space.

Energy storage

Effective energy storage solutions are needed to address solar power's intermittent nature. While battery technology is improving, it remains an area requiring further development to ensure a consistent energy supply.

Are you ready to take action and join the climate-conscious community? The best way to push for change is to monitor the UK’s energy sources. Tracking our progress to net zero and keeping pressure on the government to go green is the only way to stay on top of the climate emergency. 

Join the movement! Download UK Zero, connect with others, and let's work together for a sustainable future.

The UK Zero logo beside a phone with the UK Zero home screen showing the UK's energy mix on the 11th May 2023.


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