A national heatwave helped break several solar power-generation records over the weekend, as sun power briefly outshone gas as the UK’s top source of electricity.
Solar power broke a weekly output record between 21 June and Thursday 28 June, with the sun creating 533-gigawatt hours of power.
It also produced more than 75GWh of power on five of those seven days, another record.
The record for peak solar generation was 9.42GW, set in May of this year.
These records are largely symbolic, however, natural gas and nuclear sources generating more power over the period – particularly at night and at times when the sun didn’t shine on Britain.
The figures do demonstrate how far solar technology has come in the last decade, from generating almost no power ten years ago, to surpassing natural gas briefly on Saturday afternoon.
Duncan Burt, director of system operations at National Grid, said: “During the past 12 months alone, we have seen renewable generation records broken and we expect this trend to continue, as technology advances and we find new ways to accommodate and manage more wind and solar power on our network.”
The number of new solar panels in the UK has fallen dramatically in the last year as renewable subsidies are cut and the incentives for householders to install solar panels on their homes star to disappear.
At present, there is no sign of a replacement scheme, but some think that solar power could be approaching the point where they are economically viable without subsidies, particularly on a commercial scale.
Avoid ‘moonshot’ green technologies
Elsewhere in the renewable sector, the boss of Scottish Power welcomed the UK’s decision to ditch the £1.3bn Swansea Tidal power project and urged other governments to abandon ‘moonshot’ green technologies.
Ignacio S Galan, chair of Iberdrola, which controls Scottish Power, said the Swansea decision should be the end of support for expensive, unproven technologies.
“Now is not the time for expensive ‘moonshot’ projects that do little to make renewables more affordable, while possessing only limited potential for global growth,” Galan said.
“It is time to put a line in the sand. We should accept that some renewable technologies will never get to a level where they can compete with wind and solar.”
Galan said that governments should continue to support wind and solar power because these technologies had already proven that they could come down in cost and would continue to do so.
Iderdrola is a major player in solar and onshore wind energy generation.
A spokesperson for the company behind the Swansea scheme, Tidal Lagoon Power, said tidal lagoons could prove cost competitive.
“Having once bemoaned the incumbency of fossil fuels, it’s disappointing that some in the renewables sector have adopted this bad habit,” they said.