Solar surpasses output from nuclear power stations for first time
Solar panels have set a new record for electricity generation, providing nearly a quarter of the demand.
As much of Britain basked in warm and sunny weather, solar produced some 8.7 gigawatts at midday on Friday, representing 24.3 per cent of the electricity being used at the time, the National Grid has revealed.
The previous record was set on 10 May when 8.48GW was generated by solar, which tends to peak at about lunchtime.
Duncan Burt, who is in charge of National Grid’s control room operations, where they match supply and demand, said: “We now have significant volumes of renewable energy on the system and as this trend continues, our ability to forecast these patterns is becoming more and more important.
“We have an expert team of forecasters who monitor a range of data, to forecast just how much electricity will be needed over a set period.
“We have planned for these changes to the energy landscape and have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand. It really is the beginning of a new era, which we are prepared for and excited to play our part”.
Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said this was the first time that solar has generated more electricity than nuclear with only gas supplying more.
“This is a colossal achievement … and sends a very positive message to the UK that solar has a strong place in the decarbonisation of the UK energy sector,” he said.
Environmentalists also welcomed the news, saying it showed how important the sector was becoming to the UK economy.
Hannah Martin, Greenpeace UK’s head of energy, said: “Britain has just hit another milestone in its effort to harness the increasingly cheaper energy coming from the sun.
“Today’s new record is a reminder of what the UK could achieve if our Government reversed its cuts to support for solar and backed the clean technologies that could provide jobs, business opportunities and plentiful clean energy for decades to come.
“All around the world, solar power keeps beating new records as costs come down and power generation goes up.
“In the US, more people were employed in generating electricity from solar last year than from coal, oil and gas combined.
“Britain cannot afford to miss out on the economic and environmental rewards of this energy revolution.”
And Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at WWF, said: “As we enjoy the sun, it’s great to learn that the UK just hit a new high for solar power generation.
“Each record set by renewable power generation is another welcome milestone towards a cleaner, greener future for the UK.
“Solar power and other renewables are getting cheaper and more efficient as we install more of it around the country. And it doesn’t just power our homes, but also our economy, with almost a quarter of a million people now working in the low-carbon energy sector.
“Whoever forms the next Government after the election must prioritise a plan for reducing emissions from all sectors – electrifying our transport, and working towards more efficient homes and buildings – with eight out of 10 British people in favour of clean energy, it is not only what the country needs, but is also what it wants.”