The two things Brits most often say about UK weather are unpredictability and constant raininess. There are an average of 1339.7 hours of sunshine per year, which is only 30% of the maximum recorded on Earth. Climatologists call the climate of the British Isles temperate maritime. There are no sudden temperature changes here. The maximum temperature in the UK was recorded on August 10, 2003, in Kent +38.5 °C. The minimum was -27.2 °C on December 30, 1995, in the north of Scotland.
Despite so much rainy weather, the UK is in the top 10 countries for generating electricity using solar panels. The UK was one of the first countries to use renewable energy sources. This came after one experiment in which the UK went off coal-fired electricity for more than five days, marking the most extended period in the country’s history since the Industrial Revolution. Today, the demand for solar panels is growing in the country, while traditional power plants are being closed.
2021 was a special year in the history of UK solar energy.
First, solar energy accounted for 25% of the global figure. Secondly, there were launched trains powered by solar energy. Finally, in 2050 the researchers plan to open a solar power plant in orbit based on 2021 data. These are far from the only gifts that solar energy has given to the UK in 2021. Let’s look at this news in more detail.
About 24.3% of the UK’s total electricity demand has been covered by solar power. This was reported by representatives of the State Electricity System of the country National Grid UK. Solar generated 8.7 GW on May 26, 2021, breaking the previous UK record set on May 10 of 8.48 GW. The Futurism edition told about the successes of British solar energy.
“We have a significant amount of renewable energy in the system, and this trend will continue, so our ability to predict events is becoming more and more important,” said Duncan Burt, head of dispatching at National Grid. Paul Barwell, executive director of the Solar Trade Association, agreed with Burt. “This is a huge achievement. It sends a very positive signal to the UK that solar is playing a significant role in decarbonizing the US energy sector,” he said.
Barwell added that this is the first recorded case in the UK where solar panels generate more energy than nuclear installations. However, natural gas and coal are still the leading energy suppliers in the country.
The sustainable growth of the solar energy sector was made possible, in particular, by reducing the cost of solar panels. In addition, more people were employed in the US last year in the solar energy industry than in the coal, oil, and gas industries. For a clearer picture, let’s look at the statistics of solar energy generation by the most popular regions of the UK.
Scotland‘s Solar Energy Statistics in 2021
In 2021, Scotland received 76% of its electricity from solar sources. In 2018, this figure was 59%, in 2019 – 68.1%, in 2020 – 73.6%. The last coal-fired power plant in Scotland closed in 2016.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, solar produced an estimated 982,842 MWh of electricity in 2021 in Scotland. This is enough to meet 3,045,000 British homes or 126% of Scotland’s total residential demand.
Scotland has increased the share of renewable energy sources from 10% to 76% in the electricity generation mix over the past fifteen years. What’s more, the country hit its 2020 emission targets five years earlier than expected and intends to maintain that momentum going into the future.
Scotland’s transition to renewable energy has been successful without budgetary and financial implications thanks to the development of new technologies. This achievement is proof that there is no longer a need to choose between environmental and economic considerations.
Northern Ireland‘s Solar Energy Statistics in 2021
Northern Ireland managed to significantly increase the share of renewable energy in net electricity consumption in the 12 months from July 2020 to June 2021: up to 44.0%. This is 7.4% higher than in the previous twelve months.
The region achieved such indicators thanks to the support of agrarians. Farmers from the city of Waterford ordered two solar installations with vertical bifacial modules, which are already installed in the fields. Farmers estimate that their electricity costs have been reduced by 40%. Therefore, shortly, the government of Northern Ireland plans to provide the population with green and cheap energy.
Wales‘s Solar Energy Statistics in 2021
Unfortunately, in 2021, Wales has performed poorly in terms of solar power generation, among other regions of the UK. Renewables currently provide 32% of Wales’ electricity needs. In June 2021, the Welsh government set a goal to raise this target by 40%. However, professional writing is doing better, as the number of graduates with honors is more than in other UK areas.
In addition, the government has set three more tasks:
- By 2030, at least one gigawatt of renewable energy must be produced by power plants owned by municipalities.
- Every new clean energy project must share local co-financing by 2022.
- By 2030, Wales must generate 70% of all electricity from renewable energy sources.
While these plans seem feasible, the government needs to work out the details carefully.
United Kingdom Solar Power Production Up 33%
In 2021, the UK set a record for solar energy generation. According to Bloomberg, this was facilitated by a sunny spring and low energy consumption.
An unusually sunny spring, combined with low energy consumption due to quarantine measures, helped this “clean” energy source provide 33% of the country’s electricity on May 30, according to a quarterly report by Drax Electric Insight. During May, UK solar energy generated about 2.6 GW per day, almost a quarter more than in May last year.
The high solar and wind energy level led the UK government last year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has developed a “clean zero” plan, under which the United Kingdom must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to near zero by 2050. The plan involves a phased transition to such products and life activities methods, in which it will be possible to minimize harmful emissions into the atmosphere. So, according to the plan, by 2035, all new cars in the country will have electric motors, and people will supply heating in houses without coal.
United Kingdom Opened Solar Filling Stations
Thanks to the strong performance of solar energy for 2021, the UK has launched the first electric vehicle charging station in the country. Previously, drivers could charge electric cars at the usual gas stations and other places. Here the station is intended exclusively for electric vehicles. Drivers can charge up to 36 cars on it simultaneously, and the power will be 350 kW.
Gridserve owns the station. It will be powered by solar panels placed on the station’s sheds and a network of hybrid solar farms. In addition, a 6 MWh battery is located there, which will provide the ability to charge during peak load. Supposedly, the battery can store energy equivalent to 24,000 miles in an electric car, even on windy winter nights.
According to experts, its power is enough to charge the car with enough energy for a trip of 200 miles in 20 minutes. The starting price for electricity will be around £0.24 per kilowatt. The company claims that this is the lowest rate on the market for heavy-duty car charging stations.
The station opened less than a month after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to push back the ban on the sale of combustion-engine vehicles from 2035 to 2030 were reported by the media. Thus, the solar United Kingdom is striving to switch to environmentally friendly cars completely.
UK Opened First Solar-Powered Railway
The UK did not stop there and opened the world’s first solar power plant, feeding the railway line. About a hundred solar panels will supply renewable energy to sections of the road near the city of Aldershot.
Part of the trains in the country run on a railway powered entirely by solar energy. About a hundred panels support signaling and lighting on the track near Aldershot in Hampshire.
The country’s authorities have allocated billions of pounds to electrify the railway lines and, if the pilot project is successful, intend to do it with the help of solar energy. The UK government aims to end the use of diesel on the rail network by 2040.
The authorities are confident that renewables can power 20% of Liverpool’s Merseyrail network and 15% of commuter lines in Kent, Sussex, and Wessex and trains in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London, and Manchester. Also, the authorities note that in addition to the fact that solar power UK produces a more environmentally friendly form of energy than diesel fuel, they can supply electricity cheaper than traditional sources.
UK Plans to Build a Solar Power Plant in Earth Orbit by 2050
In the UK, a government-commissioned study will explore the potential for building an orbital solar power plant by 2050, according to New Atlas. This was prompted by statistically positive indicators of solar energy generation in the UK for 2021.
Frazer-Nash Consultancy was commissioned to conduct a viability analysis of the project. This is a concept called space-based solar energy. The idea proposes using giant arrays of solar panels to generate electricity and transmit it to Earth in microwaves.
The idea is developed because solar power plants on Earth have several disadvantages, such as sunset, cloudy weather, etc. In orbit, all these shortcomings will disappear. The sun will never set, solar arrays can always be placed at the perfect angle, and there is no atmosphere to block or scatter light.
The question is how to bring this energy back to Earth. One answer is to send it as a microwave beam to a collector on Earth, where it is converted into electricity to be fed into the grid. This idea is far from new. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov first proposed it in 1941 in his story Logic, and in 1973 Peter Glazer patented the design of an energy transmitter. In 1976, physicist Gerard O’Neill proposed placing solar stations on orbiting colonies.
However, the problem was that the construction of such giant solar power plants in orbit was costly, so it was constantly postponed to the future. Today, this concept has dropped significantly in price with the advent of commercial space companies. The British government has decided to revive the old idea as an alternative energy source with zero emissions. Frazer-Nash Consultancy must determine how feasible and cost-effective the idea is.
According to the UK space agency, the study will look at both engineering and economic aspects. Particular emphasis will be placed on technology that will allow such large-scale structures to be assembled in orbit. “We will be developing an engineering plan to deploy a live SBSP system by 2050. The company is forming a panel of experts that will include leading SBSP experts, space and energy organizations,” Frazer-Nash Consultancy said in a statement.
If you look at the UK from space, the country will seem like a small dot on the globe of the Earth. However, if we consider the country from the point of view of contributing to ecology conservation, it is priceless. Today, the UK is one of the best countries developing solar energy.
Thanks to the achievements in 2021, the country has managed to achieve what others seem unattainable, namely, to build ecological railway stations, solar stations for electric vehicles, and resume work on a project to install solar batteries in Earth orbit. Statistics for 2021 suggest that 25% of the global creation of solar energy is not the extreme point. If the UK manages to recreate ideas for installing solar stations in space, their figure could reach 100%. Now the economic crisis and the conservation of the Earth’s nature lie in the UK’s hands.
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