Solar energy production set for boom

Solar power farming is set to boom in Britain, according to Gloucestershire renewable energy company Ecotricity.

The company has predicted that the rate of installation of solar panels will increase five-fold this year because of feed-in tariffs – a system of guaranteed payment for each unit of electricity created, regardless of whether or not the electricity is used by the producer.

The system came into force in April and pays up to 41.3p/kWh for all generated power and an additional 3p/kWh for surplus energy exported to the national grid. The payment is guaranteed for 20-25 years.

Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder, told The Times newspaper that feed-in tariffs made solar farms economically viable.

Mr Vince added that the location of the company’s first 25-acre, 5MW solar farm would be announced in late spring early summer and that by 2020 UK farms would be generating 500 megawatts of electricity from solar panels, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

“We are planning to build grid-connected solar farms all over the country. We are looking on the east coast, the south west, the south east and around here in Stroud.

“We don’t want to go too far north because the sunshine drops away. Halfway up the country would be the cut off, a bit north of Birmingham,” Mr Vince told The Times.

He rejected concerns that solar farms would blight the landscape and spark opposition from countryside campaigners.

“[The panels] won’t stand more than 2m (6.5ft) tall so you won’t see them if you look across the landscape because they will be obscured by hedgerows. You would see them if you were standing on a hill but the visual impact is very minor compared with wind turbines.”

Picture: Solarcentury