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UK Hit New Solar Power Record Monday

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Cool, sunny weather and tumbling air pollution levels helped boost the UK’s solar farms to a new generation record on Monday.

Solar PV panels contributed 9.69GW of electricity to the grid on Monday afternoon, surpassing the previous record of 9.55GW achieved in May 2019. At the peak, solar panels were generating almost 30% of the UK’s electricity.

The bumper yield from solar farms is partly down to the clear air the UK has experienced during lockdown. Air pollution levels have been dropping as coronavirus restrictions take cars off the road and suspend polluting industrial activities.

According to the Solar Trade Association (STA), clear air, cool temperatures and sunny skies are the optimal conditions for solar PV panels, maximising their efficiency. The trade body expects further green energy records to be achieved in the coming weeks if the lockdown continues.

STA chief executive Chris Hewett said: "Ideal weather conditions and lower levels of pollution than normal mean solar is providing record levels of cheap, clean power to the grid. At a time when most of us are working remotely, we can say that solar is truly keeping the WiFi on.”

Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said the new solar record proves renewables are “once again raising the bar.” 

"This is an astonishing feat and indicates only the beginning of what the industry is capable of. However, for this to continue into the future, the renewables and clean technologies industry needs assurance that in this trying time the fight against climate change remains a top priority for the government,” she said.

The record follows news that renewables were the UK’s main source of power during the first quarter of the year, accounting for 44% of generation between January and March, compared to just 32.8% from fossil fuels. The boom in renewable generation was attributed to windy weather, including severe winter storms Ciara and Dennis, and the early effects of coronavirus restrictions, which dampened electricity demand and led to the grid prioritising cheaper renewables.

Expect the records to keep falling this year. Renewables have been so productive during the low-demand days of lockdown that wind power created an electricity surplus on Sunday 5 April, leading to negative electricity pricing and customers on Octopus Energy’s Agile tariff being paid to use energy.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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