Today (4 July) is Solar Independence Day – the UK’s annual solar celebration showcasing solar homes, solar schools, commercial solar rooftops and solar farms.
Organised by the Solar Trade Association (STA), the day promotes every country’s ‘opportunity to achieve independence from fossil fuels, from imports and associated geopolitical tensions, from unpredictable energy prices and, if the world acts together, from dangerous climate change.’
And Scotland is well-placed to explore photovoltaic (PV) solar farm developments, says Rory Hill of Bidwells property consultants in Perth.
Solar developers, who had concentrated on areas of high irradiation in the South West of England, are turning their attentions to Scotland as an emerging market. As these areas of England reach their capacity for solar farms, developers are looking to Scotland (especially coastal areas with good irradiation) where they hope fewer existing developments will mean obtaining grid connections will be easier and there will be less opposition to planning applications. Scotland is regarded as a key opportunity to make solar farm developments economic without subsidy, offering landowners a new prospect for diversified income.
It’s been an interesting year for solar: UK solar generation beat coal and overtook nuclear for the first time - 8.7 gigawatts were produced at midday on one Friday in May, representing 24.3% of the electricity being used at the time. That’s a record percentage of electricity produced by solar in the UK. Then a UK Government survey was published the same month, showing that 86% of the public approved of solar energy.
However, all these sunny statistics follow a gloomy 81% decline in new solar PV capacity installed in the first three months of 2017 in the UK, compared to the average over 2016. The STA, which produced the figures based on recently released government statistics, found the first three months of this year had seen a catastrophic collapse in the number of solar installations following the continued reduction of subsidies and increased bureaucracy.
But, says Rory, in the face of these challenges, there are definite glimpses of opportunity:
There are a number of substantial planning requests currently being processed for solar arrays in Scotland which is hugely encouraging, including a 250 acre, 50MW site which, if successful, would be the biggest consented site in Scotland.
We are hopeful Scottish Government will provide greater support for renewables in the near future and that new opportunities will emerge for companies wishing to invest in a green energy supply.