Solar panels ineffective in UK climate

14th October 2016 | Commercial Energy

The Adam Smith Institute has produced a report which says that solar panels are “highly ineffective” in the UK climate: although solar power produced more energy than coal between April and September, we should not expect this to last. The report uses 10 years’ worth of weather data to analyse the technology’s capabilities and conclude that it doesn’t do what we want/ hope it does.
It says that solar panels are highly ineffective in UK climates and generate less than a tenth of their possible output annually, producing nothing for more than 30 weeks of the year and only managing 50 per cent of their generation capability for eight days.

And whether a combination of wind and solar could smooth out this seasonal intermittency, the report says that even combined, they would only exceed 60 per cent of their capability for a day and a half each year and would be 20 per cent for more than half of the year. This would mean having to be supplemented by more reliable sources.

Currently, the solar fleet produces less than 2.5 per cent of UK electricity generation, and the problem is that there is insufficient storage for energy generated in the summer to provide in winter. It adds the lifetime output of a 5MW solar park cold be matched in 36 hours by a nuclear power plant taking up 50 times less ground space.

Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said, “We know that UK solar panels only generate electricity at nine per cent of capacity, but our paper shows that even this average level is a mirage. Power comes in stops and spurts and not when we want it. If we had ways to store large amounts of energy cheaply then it wouldn’t matter when the sun shines, we could just save up what we’ve generated in batteries. In the future, cheaper and more efficient generation and storage will solve the problem, but for now there is no way of squaring the circle. Relying on solar and wind will force us to back up the supply with dirty fossil fuels, or the lights will go out.”

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