The UK solar industry said on April 17 that solar energy could significantly reduce costs compared to other energy sources and replace demand for natural gas from Russia.
But a new wave of large solar farms is drawing opposition from rural communities, where farmers fear “rural industrialisation”.
UK Solar says 7 gigawatts of solar equipment have been granted planning permission and are authorised to connect to the grid. That’s even more energy than hinkley Point C, which won’t be completed until at least 2026, a decade after it was approved.
Cam Witten, head of policy at UK Solar, said: “Hinkley point is about 2.5 gigawatts, if memory serves. And we have about 7 gigawatts of solar that we can build and start feeding into the grid in the next two years. It’s a very quick transition, but it’s a triple return.”
Britain has 14 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, up from about 1.5 gigawatts a decade ago. Its rapid growth was fuelled by a collapse in costs, which fell by 85% over the same period.
The new solar farms will generate electricity for less than £50 per megawatt-hour (MWh), enough to supply 2,000 homes for an hour.
The agreed price for Hinkley is £92 per megawatt hour, rising in line with inflation.
In recent weeks the price of petrol has reached £225 a megawatt-hour.
Economies of scale in the UK are increasing the size of proposed new solar farms.
Local farmers who oppose the plan, however, say fertile soil is better for growing a variety of food crops, and that the new solar farms will industrialize the countryside.
Nick Wright, of the local Campaign against Solar Farms, said: “We also need food security. Good soil should not be used for solar energy.”
Some Tory MPS, including former health secretary Matt Hancock, are also opposed to large-scale solar power.