One percent of the UK covered with solar would meet the country’s power demand

The solar comparison website Eco Experts has claimed that an area the size of Derby could supply the UK’s entire electricity demand if it was covered with solar power. The website was responding to the challenge of calculating how much land the UK would need for solar to meet the nation’s power demand.

The final calculation is more of a rough estimate than anything else, but if even remotely accurate this is very welcome news indeed.

The Eco Experts worked with 2009 figures which give the UK’s total energy consumption as 351.8 billion kWh of electricity. In order to produce that amount from solar, the website calculated that the UK would have to install 102,456,062 well-positioned 4kWp solar arrays representing 409GW of capacity. The area of land covered would be around 2,635 km2. Given that the UK’s total area is 244,820km2 this would mean that only one percent of the UK’s total land area would be required to supply the country’s electricity demand from solar.

The website also found that if larger commercial installations were employed, as opposed to the smaller domestic installations used to complete the calculation, the required space would be even smaller. The price of installation however would be a staggering £717,206,434,000 based on an average installation price of £7,000 per system. This figure is just under half the current UK GDP. For that, you would have guaranteed energy supplies for twenty five years, on the basis of the time given as standard for the ‘life’ of a good solar PV system. The cost incidentally would have been even greater two years ago when it would have been well over £1.2 trillion, thereby illustrating just how quickly the cost of solar PV has fallen.

Naturally this shouldn’t really be considered as a viable solution just yet, until scalable storage solutions are developed. However, it does illustrate the fact that solar power could ultimately be very successful in the UK with enough political will and sufficient investment over a period of time. The solutions to our energy crisis are therefore genuinely obtainable; it’s merely a question of implementing a proper strategy with the necessary timescales built in. A more realistic solution though would be a mixed renewable energy economy in which solar PV, alongside other technologies such as wind, biomass and wave and tidal, would have a major part to play.

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