Solar Farms in UK Countryside would Cut Power Bills, Provide an Alternative to Russian Gas

Published on: 20 April 2022 04:34 PM
by KnowESG

According to the industry, installing solar panels and building solar farms in the UK countryside would help cut electricity bills and replace the need for Russian gas faster than other energy sources. But the rural community has opposed the project, fearing that it would lead to the "industrialisation of the countryside".

Solar Energy UK stated that solar installations of 7GW have planning permission and authorisation to link to the electricity grid, which can produce more energy than the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor in the UK.

Cam Witten, head of policy at Solar Energy UK, said: "Hinkley Point is about 2.5GW if memory serves. We have about 7GW of solar that we can feasibly get built and exported to the grid in the next two years. It's a quick turnaround for basically three times the reward."

A decade ago, the UK had around 1.5GW of installed solar capacity, but now the nation has 14GW. The solar farms could generate electricity for less than £50 for one megawatt-hour (MWh), enough to supply over 2000 homes for one hour.

The price for electricity from the Hinkley Reactor was £92 per MWh. Meanwhile, the gas expense is currently around £225 per MWh. All these are rising with inflation.

The Shotwick Solar Park in North Wales is currently the largest solar farm and has an installed capacity of 72 MW.

Sunnica is also applying for permission for building a 500MW energy farm in East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk. The facility would have an area equivalent to 2000 football pitches and have over one million panels with battery storage.

Nick Wright, a local farmer who is part of the campaign called Say No to Sunnica, said: "A scheme of this size is the industrialisation of the countryside. We need food security as well, and this is the incorrect place for solar. In the UK, we have 600,000 acres of south-facing industrial roof space, brownfield sites, and arable land that is less versatile than this. Prime quality soil shouldn't be used for solar."

Some MPs, including Matt Hancock, have opposed the expansion of large-scale solar, and the recent government policies have shied away from an explicit target for solar energy. On the contrary, the government has ambitions to increase the capacity by up to five times by 2035 and plans for new nuclear reactors and 50GW of offshore wind.

Oxford Solar PV will soon begin producing panels made of a material known as perovskite. The first generation is 20% more efficient than silicon-based panels currently on the market. Smaller installations on the roofs of schools, industries, and business buildings could be very cost-effective.