I attended Scottish Renewables’ ‘Creating a Solar Strategy for Scotland’ event with interest and it’s clear Scotland’s solar market has faced its fair share of ups and downs.
It is reported that Scotland is on track to answer the challenge of its target to meet an equivalent of 100% demand for electricity from renewable energy by 2020. In March 2015, the Scottish Government confirmed that renewables sources generated 49.6% of gross electricity consumption in 2014 but out of an estimated eight gigawatts of solar capacity in the UK, only around 200 megawatts is in Scotland across around 35,000 homes and 600 businesses. Why?
Some of the issues facing the solar market include:
- Grid connection – lack of capacity. Heavy investment is required in the UK’s power infrastructure otherwise the cost of grid connection will be too expensive to make even small rooftop projects viable.
- Policy making – issues such as planning are within Holyrood’s remit but subsidy levels for solar generation are under Westminster’s control. The solar industry has already had to deal with the introduction of the new Contracts for Difference support scheme for large projects and a number of reductions in levels paid under the Feed-in Tariff scheme for smaller projects.
- Funding – the decision to change the solar panel funding regime threatens to undermine investor confidence.
- Storage – solar power produces a lot of energy when it’s not needed – in the summer months – making it more difficult to balance supply and demand.
So why invest in solar at all? Well, it’s not all doom and gloom for solar in Scotland as developers are looking to become increasingly active in Scotland, partly down to the fact that prime sites in England have become harder to find. The dramatic fall in the price of solar panels in recent years has put it in a strong position to compete with other forms of power and the maintenance of panels is light – one speaker at the SR seminar even joked that the rain does the majority of the panel cleaning!
There’s no noise, no emissions and no pollution from solar panels which helps make it more socially acceptable to the public. Add in the long daylight hours Scotland has to offer and it’s clear solar can play an important role in helping meet the ambitious 2020 targets on renewable energy and alleviating fuel poverty, a major issue in Scotland.
There could be a sunny outlook for solar in Scotland after all…
On June 10, 2015