If solar were fashion, we’d say it was having a moment. Over the past few years we’ve gone from near zero solar photovoltaic panels to 2.5GW of capacity. Of this 1.9GW is installed on rooftops and 0.6GW on giant solar farms, with planning secured for a further 0.9GW of utility scale projects.
Ordinarily, I’d greet these farms supplying renewable energy with a cheery, “Welcome to the grid!” Unfortunately, my real response on seeing one on a beloved rolling south Devon hillside was more profane. Developers tend to say they’re of “low visual impact”. Actually they’re positively industrial, guaranteed to bring out your inner Nimby.
Why now? Solar panels (produced in the Far East) cost a third of what they did three years ago. And there’s been a change with Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), too. Generators used to get two ROCs for every MWh of solar-produced electricity. They can be bought and traded among energy suppliers. But in March 2013 these were scaled down to 1.6 ROCs per MWh. Cue a scramble to generate more capacity.