. With ongoing development in solar energy’s there have been marked improvements in efficiency over the last few years but as an energy source it still remains relatively expensive. Solar Energy UK states: “the country’s solar capacity now exceeds 15GW, approaching four times the maximum output of the UK’s largest power station, Drax.” reported July 2022.
Two of the more common uses for solar power is creating electricity and hot water: Solar PV captures the photons from the sun’s light through photovoltaic (PV) panels to convert it into electricity and Solar Water Heating which uses tubes or panels to gather solar energy which can be used to heat water. This is then stored in a thermal store or hot water cylinder to provide hot water. A drawback that effects both systems is the efficiency of the solar system drops during cloudy and rainy days.
Apart from its domestic application the UK has also seen an increase in Solar Farms construction and as of 2020, there are just under 500 solar farms in the UK. One of the largest is Shotwick Solar Park in North Wales which can produce 72.2 MW per year and covers 250 acres.
Scottish Government’s, Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, 2023 states: “We recognise solar has an important role to play in decarbonising our energy system, particularly when combined with other renewables. We see a strong role for solar thermal, as well as domestic and commercial solar PV combined with battery storage systems - which have the potential to help reduce consumer bills.”
While many councils support renewable energy schemes, there have been public concerns about the amount of land and water area solar farms are expanding into and their impact on local communities, farming and tourist regions.
Solar panels are made from rare materials like gallium and indium and more common ones such as silicone, aluminium and glass which can be recycled. The UK will also need to develop an effective system for recycling solar panels at the end of their operational life which can be about 30 - 40 years.
Using renewable energy such as solar helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels’ generated electricity in the UK. If implemented with other renewable energy developments, this will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the country moves towards Scotland’s goal of Net Zero 2045.