A record amount of solar power was generated on Friday as Britain basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C, the National Grid has said. It said 8.7 gigawatts (GW) had been generated at lunchtime, representing 24.3% of total generation across the UK. The level tops the previous record of 8.48GW set on 10 May. Duncan Burt, head of control room operations at National Grid, called it the “beginning of a new era”. “We now have significant volumes of renewable energy on the system,” he said. “We also have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand.” Alongside the contribution from solar, 23% of power came from nuclear sources, 30% from natural gas and just 1.4% from coal. Wind, hydro power and biomass were also used. A National Grid spokeswoman said the record level of solar power was achieved largely because of to the clear and sunny weather on Friday. Hannah Martin, head of energy for Greenpeace in the UK, said: “Today’s new record is a reminder of what the UK could achieve if our government reversed its cuts to support for solar. “All around the world, solar power keeps beating new records as costs come down and power generation goes up.” In April, Britain went a full day without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since the 1880s.
BBC 26th May 2017 read more »
Solar panels produced more electricity than Britain’s eight nuclear power stations for the first time yesterday as much of the country basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C. Solar power accounted for 24.3 per cent of electricity being generated at 12.30pm and exceeded nuclear output for three hours from 11am to 2pm. At the peak solar panels were producing 8.75 gigawatts of power, breaking the previous record of 8.48GW set on May 10, National Grid said.
Times 27th May 2017 read more »
As solar power flooded the system on Friday, wholesale electricity prices for the day ahead traded at about £38 per megawatt hour, compared with about £50 p/mwh in spring 2013 before fossil fuel prices went into sharp decline. Increasing supplies of cheap solar power are intensifying debate over the future of UK energy policy as work proceeds on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset – Britain’s first new nuclear plant since the 1990s – which has been promised a guaranteed price of £92.50 p/mwh, rising with inflation for 35 years. Friday’s peak solar output was almost three times greater than the planned 3.2GW generating capacity of Hinkley. Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive of Horizon, a Japanese-owned company planning to buil d another new nuclear plant in Wales, told a Financial Times energy conference this week that the UK would still need nuclear power to provide reliable baseload electricity when wind and solar is unavailable. “If you do not want to replace [existing] nuclear, then you will have to fill in the gap and I guarantee it will not be solar and it will not be wind,” he said. “They can do part of it but not all of it.” Critics of nuclear power claim that increasing renewable output coupled with advances in battery storage can account for much of the coal and old nuclear generating capacity due to be decommissioned in coming years. “It’s increasingly recognised that renewables like wind and solar are among the cheapest options for generating power in the UK, and it is also clear that they can be the foundation of a stable and reliable energy system,” said Alasdair Cameron of Friends of the Earth. For now, National Grid, the UK electricity system operator, relies heavily on flexible gas-fired power stations to smooth out fluctuations in renewable supplies. “We have planned for these changes to the energy landscape and have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand,” said Duncan Burt, head of control room operations for National Grid. “It really is the beginning of a new era, which we are prepared for.” National Grid said last month that it may have to pay wind farms and conventional power plants to reduce output over the summer to prevent high levels of solar generation from destabilising the system. This contrasts with the winter months when gas and coal-fired plants receive extra payments to guarantee adequate capacity on dark and windless days. Further peaks in solar are expected during the summer as more capacity is added. However, installations are slowing sharply after the withdrawal of some subsidies in response to the falling price of solar technology. Deployments of rooftop solar panels fell by three-quarters in the first quarter of this year compared with 2016. The Solar Trade Association, which represents the UK industry, said reduced subsidies and higher taxes were threatening to stall further growth in the sector.
FT 26th May 2017 read more »
Independent 26th May 2017 read more »
Telegraph 26th May 2017 read more »
Energy Voice 26th May 2017 read more »
Solar’s rapid growth is overturning conventions for the managers of the UK’s power grid. In March, for the first time ever, the amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses in the afternoon was lower than it was in the night, thanks to the cut in demand due to solar panels. Alastair Buckley, a solar expert at the University of Sheffield, said of the latest record: “I think it’s a positive sign. It’s free electricity today, for the consumer, and we should make the most of it.” He said that with solar continuing to be installed despite the government’s drastic subsidy cuts in 2016, further records will certainly be broken this summer and for years to come. Buckley said the grid could handle a far greater proportion of solar power than currently seen, because gas power stations could be ramped down. For National Grid, periods of high pressure bringing lovely weather to the UK like this wee k were: “really predictable, so easy to plan for,” Buckley said. Robert Gross of Imperial College said: “This doesn’t pose fundamental problem for the grid – many sunnier countries manage a similar proportion of solar on a much more regular basis.” Government statistics published on Thursday show that UK solar power capacity has grown from 11.3GW in April last year to 12.1GW this year, enough to power 3.8m homes.
Guardian 26th May 2017 read more »
The FT double-page spread on renewable energy barely had a mention of the N-word. Nobody outside the industry now thinks the future of electricity generation is nuclear fission. The cost of building the plants to comply with safety and anti-terrorism standards is rising all the time, fears of a runaway price for oil and gas now look silly, while advances in wind and solar technology are destroying those projections of ever-dearer energy. On the same day as the Big Read on energy, the FT reported the appointment of nuclear critic Nicolas Hulot as France’s new energy minister, sending the shares in EDF down by 7 per cent. EDF, of course, is the contractor for that white elephant in the nuclear room, Hinkley Point. If this unproven design ever gets built and produces electricity, the UK consumer will be obliged to pay over twice the current market price for the output. Hinkley Point was conceived when “peak oil” meant peak supply, and conventional wisdom said that we would start to run out. The term now means the opposite; hydrocarbons are more abundant than we ever dreamt, and peak demand for oil may be less than a decade away. At the same time, the electricity supply market is changing. The assumption that the grid must be capable of supplying whatever is wanted looks increasingly wasteful. Rather than manage supply, technology allows management of demand. A smart meter would help run the dishwasher or charge your electric car when it detected that the cost of juice was low. Unfortunately today’s so-called smart meters, now being rolled out at a hidden cost to consumers of £11bn, are too stupid to do this, and may be vulnerable to hacking. The UK’s energy market is in an unholy mess, with attention distracted by the vacuous debate about switching electricity suppliers. The real costs lie with the “green initiatives” at the other end of the wires. Scrapping Hinkley Point would not solve all of them, but it would be a start. Perhaps best to wait until after June 8 for another U-turn from Mrs May, though.
FT 26th May 2017 read more »