Southwest England leads way for British solar generation, research shows

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Mapping analysis of England’s renewable power output by thinktank Green Alliance has found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the southwestern county of Cornwall is the top producer of solar PV in the country with 487 MW of installed capacity.

The research is the first time that England’s clean energy capacity has been broken down by region, and reveals that the country’s recent burst of solar installations were largely centered on the southwest, with Devon, Somerset and Hampshire all boasting more than 300 MW each of installed solar PV capacity.

For wind power, the trend was similar, but in reverse: the windier parts of the north east boast the most wind capacity, with the one outlier being Cornwall – both sunny and one of the windier parts of the British Isles, Cornwall nevertheless has very little in the way of wind power.

"The distribution shows that counties are playing to their strengths," Green Alliance senior policy adviser Amy Mount told the Guardian. "Most wind power is clustered in the windiest sites, generally coastal areas, and the south get more sun than the north. While funding for renewable is constrained, developers will favor the sites that maximize their technology’s potential."

This data from Green Alliance comes on the day that the Renewable Obligation (RO) support scheme for ground-mounted solar installations comes to a close as part of the government’s concerted strategy to roll-back subsidy support for solar PV.

However, recent data has shown just how much of an important role renewables have begun to play in the U.K.’s energy mix. Official statistics published by the government revealed that solar electricity generation grew 86% last year to reach 7.6 TWh – the highest growth of any renewable technology. Renewable generation as a whole reached 83.3 TWh, which represented a 29% increase on 2014. In terms of total electricity generation, renewable energy now provides 24-7% of the nation’s power.

The same dataset also revealed a 4% fall in the U.K.’s annual carbon emissions, with coal burning now at its lowest level for 150 years. The government has pledged to close all of the U.K.’s coal plants by 2025.