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UK solar capacity hits 15.6 GW

UK government statistics show that the country added 871 MW of solar capacity in the first 11 months of 2023. However, the Solar Energy UK trade association says that more than 1 GW of solar was deployed last year.

Image: Rene Böhmer, Unsplash

The United Kingdom's cumulative PV capacity reached 15.6 GW at the end of November 2023, according to statistics from the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ).

In the first 11 months of the year, the nation added 871 MW of new PV systems. This is a marked increase from the 496.8 MW added in the first 11 months of 2022, and the 323.9 MW added during the same period in 2021.

However, Gareth Simkins, a spokesperson for the Solar Energy UK association, told pv magazine that the United Kingdom's new solar capacity was higher in 2023 than DESNZ’s figures indicate and likely surpassed 1 GW.

The last time the United Kingdom deployed more than 1 GW of solar in a calendar year was in 2016.

Simkins attributed the accelerated delivery pace to a range of factors, including a surge in energy prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He also pointed to annual contract-for-difference auctions, falling panel costs, the ongoing liberalization of planning rules, and efforts to decarbonize.

The latest DESNZ auction tendered almost 2 GW of solar across 56 projects in September, and the nation's upward trajectory looks set to continue. It marked the first time solar capacity surpassed wind in a UK auction, but was followed by concerns that a range of improvements must be implemented to make sure the bids are connected.

Simkins said that there was a minimum of 190,000 MCS-scale installations in the United Kingdom last year, in reference to projects below 50 KW in size, primarily on homes. This marks an increase from 138,000 arrays in 2022, approaching the peak of 203,129 installations recorded in 2011, under the UK feed-in tariff regime.

“So more and more solar going on rooftops, and with several very large solar farms of 800 MW or so in the pipeline, we can be confident that the government target of 70 GW by 2035 will be met,” Simkins said.

Simkins said that Solar Taskforce, a consortium of solar industry stakeholders set up by the UK government in March 2023, is close to completing its roadmap to 70 GW. The guidance is currently scheduled for release in March 2024.

Author: Patrick Jowett

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