Strong growth for UK solar capacity recorded

The UK's solar photovoltaic (PV) power capacity grew strongly last year, outstripping government estimates by hundreds of megawatts, despite COVID-19.


That is according to new research by the trade association Solar Energy UK, which found that 545 megawatts (MW) of new solar PV capacity was deployed last year – a 27% year-on-year increase.

Around 60% of the new capacity came from ground-mounted PV systems, and the remaining 40% was installed on rooftops, with the majority of this located on commercial and industrial buildings.

By the end of 2020 – which was the first full calendar year of the UK’s subsidy-free solar era – total solar capacity had hit 13.9 gigawatts (GW), which is almost 0.5 GW higher than government-released figures.

Solar Energy UK chief executive, Chris Hewett, said: “These figures show that the government is playing catch-up in its understanding of the strength of the UK’s solar energy industry. 

“Solar energy will enable people across the country to benefit from clean, cheap power for their homes and technology, such as electric vehicles.”

The speed at which new solar sites were installed during 2020 was in keeping with a record-breaking year for UK solar generation. In April 2020, solar hit a new all-time peak generation record of 9.68 GW, while solar supplied 11% of all electricity in May. 

The strongest growth came from the ground-mount segment, driven by large utility-scale projects.

Excluding the impact of COVID-19, the residential sector also rebounded strongly during 2020, with increased deployment each quarter since the second quarter of 2019, when the Feed-in Tariff scheme ended.

Solar Media Ltd, which helped carry out the research, announced that it has partnered with Solar Energy UK to provide market intelligence on Britain's solar power revolution.  

“The UK solar industry is now operating effectively in a post-subsidy phase with strong growth dynamics,” said Solar Media’s head of research, Finlay Colville. 

“The outlook for 2021 and beyond is expected to see continued deployment at the gigawatt-plus level, with investments now flowing into the sector for both rooftop and ground-mount projects.

“We look forward to working with Solar Energy UK to provide our continued insights on the UK solar market size and pipeline.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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