17 August, Thursday


Record-breaking summer for renewable power generation

Economy

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Supplies of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, in the UK have outstripped fossil fuels this summer.
 
On 26 May, solar panels produced more than a quarter of all electricity needed in the country, with windy and bright conditions helping renewable energy generation to smash records.
 
And for the first time on 7 June, wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than gas and coal combined.
 
The falling cost of wind and solar technology makes it increasingly attractive and energy firms have installed tens of thousands of solar panels in recent years.
 
The home roof market has also boomed with an estimated 900,000 systems now online, despite generous government subsidies all but drying up in the last two years.
 
Wind and solar power
 
Wind and solar power are quickly growing in popularity
 
Dunsfold Aerodrome near Guildford, also known as the Top Gear race track, built a 8500 panel solar farm at the beginning of the revolution.
 
The aerodrome's group operations manager said this would not have been possible back in 2011 without the grants available at the time but it has worked out well.
 
Jamie McAllister told Sky News: "Like all big renewable infrastructure projects it is a multi-million pound project but it does work in that it produces energy on site rather than taking it from the grid which is cheaper.
 
"Not only is it a renewable source but it is financially attractive which means it is good for us and good for the businesses based on site."
 
Critics have said the end of subsidies has had an impact but the industry has continued to grow.
 
Ministers recently earmarked hundreds of millions of pounds to develop storage systems instead and analysts agree that storing our own electricity is the key to our solar future.
 
Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, the first onshore wind farm to be built in the south-east of England is pictured in Watchfield near Swindon, on December 5, 2008
 
James Court from the Renewable Energy Association said: "Renewables don't always produce when you want them to so storage will help that problem hugely - both at a larger grid scale but also people in their homes.
 
"We're already seeing this year that you'll be able to buy a battery pack that is smaller than your boiler and you will be able to store the electricity that you generate in your home and that's going to change the entire market."
 
Meanwhile, National Grid has been planning how to deal with the next solar eclipse over the UK, which will take place the UK is expected to be far more reliant on solar power.
 
The electricity management company has estimated that the amount of electricity produced from solar panels will more than double between now and when the eclipse is expected.
 
So they are making plans for how to manage demand for the hour-or-so during which the country will be plunged into darkness at around 7pm on 12 August 2026.
 
Claire Spredding from the National Grid said: "One of our scenarios that we're planning for is that we'll have more than double the amount of solar generation than we have now.
 
"We think we could have around 3.5 gigawatts of solar generation that's on the system at that time that will obviously stop generating when the eclipse happens.
 
"So now we're working on making sure other sources are online at that time to keep up with demand."
 
National Grid is used to planning for major events in their high tech control room.
 
Feeds monitor how much energy is needed and where it is coming from second by second.
 
But the need to think about solar eclipses is new and a sign that renewable energy such as solar is becoming more important.

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