Scotland tops 100 MW solar milestone


Figures from British energy watchdogs Ofgem have revealed that Scotland now boasts 106 MW of installed PV capacity – representing a growth of 36% in the past 12 months.

Despite low levels of solar radiation, positive political policies and a domestic appetite for solar has helped the industry achieve encouraging growth in 2013, with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) joining Scottish solar lobbyists in their call to urge the Scottish government to help boost the burgeoning industry.

In 2010, Scotland had just 2 MW of installed solar capacity, from a mere 429 small-scale solar installations. Today, more than 28,000 homes, 56 communities, 22 industrial sites and 465 businesses have solar panels installed, prompting the Scottish Solar Energy Group, WWF Scotland and the Energy Technology Partnership to call on the Scottish government to offer more political support for solar.

"Scotland might seem like an unlikely place for solar, but if you look at a solar radiation map, parts of Scotland receive about 80 to 90% of the solar energy of Germany, the world leader in solar deployment, with 35 GW installed to date," said chairwoman of the Scottish Solar Energy Group, Anne-Marie Fuller. "So there is absolutely no reason we couldn’t be deploying significantly more solar if we really wanted to."

Scotland’s renewable energy aims are ambitious. The country hopes to source 100% of all its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2020, with offshore wind powering the transition. However, according to the director of WWF Scotland, Lang Banks, the Scottish government should not ignore the potential of solar PV power, particularly the use of commercial and residential rooftop installations and the country’s vast swathes of undeveloped brownfield land.

"Scotland has no solar farms, but it has huge acres of land, so it should be very well placed to host them," Banks told local media sources.

Site for sore eyes

South of the border in England, Greg Barker, the coalition government’s minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has been criticized for calling for a crackdown on “monster solar farms” that are seen as a blight on the landscape. Asked to explain his comments, Barker insisted that he has thrown his full backing behind the U.K.’s solar industry, but stressed that in order to win public approval, large scale solar farms must be carefully planned and not detract from the landscape.

"It is because I care passionately about solar and have such high ambitions for it that I do not want public opinion to turn against it [solar] and make it become the new onshore wind," he told the Guardian. "Where problems arise, the solar farms are on undulating land and can’t be screened, or they disrupt historic landscapes. It really upsets people."

The U.K.’s solar target is 20,000 MW by 2020. Currently, the country’s largest solar farm is a 33 MW installation at Wymeswold airfield. However, a number of solar parks in the pipeline are set to overtake it, including a 49.9 MW solar farm from Good Energy, set to be installed at a disused airfield in Norfolk.