Solar’s share of the generation mix surged to a new record high on Sunday (6 May) as the UK was soaked in sunshine over the bank holiday weekend.
The latest milestone came between 1.30pm and 2pm when solar generation supplied 28.5 per cent of all demand. Not for the first time, the technology was the main source of power for the grid, with gas coming in second at 24.8 per cent.
Solar also set a new record for generation over a 24-hour period, meeting 11.1 per cent of Great Britain’s electricity needs across the whole of Sunday.
The previous records were both set on 2 July 2017 when solar accounted for 26.1 per cent of generation during one half-hour slot and 9.2 per cent of generation over the entire day.
Solar output peaked at 9.28GW on Sunday, falling just short of the all-time high of 9.38GW recorded on 26 May 2017.
Graham Harding, managing director of developer British Solar Renewables Group, said the latest records demonstrate the “significant progress” which renewables have made over the last few years, as well as showing what they can achieve in future, provided they are given “appropriate support”.
Harding said new solar records are likely to be relatively rare over the next couple of years as installations drop off following the early closure of the Renewables Obligation scheme.
He welcomed the commitment of energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry to allow onshore wind and solar to compete for Contracts for Difference in future auctions, saying this would “level the playing field” for the technologies.
Even without access to subsidies, Harding said there will still be growth in solar capacity, although, for the time being, this will be limited to larger projects with corporate power purchase agreements or private wire arrangements and favourable characteristics such as an existing grid connection.
He said the removal of subsidies has had the upside of driving developers to better understand how to create value from solar farms on a purely commercial basis.
“It would be unrealistic for any business to have its whole business model underpinned permanently by government subsidies,” Harding explained. “Therefore, there has to be a move to grid parity and commercial operation.”
Nevertheless, he warned the continued absence of subsidies would mean “a lot less activity” over the short term.
The UK recently climbed three places in a global ranking of the most attractive destinations for renewable investors, partly due to the emergence of subsidy-free solar.
In September, Anesco opened the UK’s first subsidy-free solar farm near Flitwick in Bedfordshire, and a few months later Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy revealed plans to build a giant 350MW solar farm near Faversham in Kent, also without subsidies.