Massive growth in UK solar power deployment
The energy price crisis is driving the fastest deployment of solar power than has been seen since subsidies ended.
UK solar capacity now exceeds 15 gigawatts, approaching four times the maximum output of the UK’s largest power station, Drax. More solar panels are being put on British roofs than ever before, hitting a new post-subsidy record rate. A greater amount of generating capacity was installed on UK homes during the first half of this year than over the whole of last year, according to industry data published today.
With capacity of 556 megawatts connected at all scales over the first six months of the year, the industry is in line to exceed the one gigawatt installed in 2016, when government subsidies were still available. New installations, at both the smallest and largest scale, are now entirely subsidy-free.
Capacity totalling 164 megawatts was fitted to residential rooftops from January to June, up from 153MW over the whole of 2021. Quarterly figures show the pace of installation has risen by almost three times year-on-year, with 95MW installed in the second quarter of this year compared to 36MW in Q2 2021. The deployment figures reflect public enthusiasm for reliable, inexpensive and decarbonising solar power, while also being driven by concerns over energy bills. [1,2]
A total of 97MW was installed at a commercial scale (such as on factories and warehouses) from April to June, more than during any quarter since 2019. Like the residential sector, the amount installed during the year to date (192MW) is almost double the amount put in place last year (216MW).
Ground-mounted solar farms gained 140MW of capacity during Q2 this year, almost triple the figure from Q2 last year. The 200MW connected to the grid over the year so far indicates that 2022 will set another record for the sector.
The energy price crisis has made solar an increasingly attractive investment, despite supply chain pressures causing price rises for the first time. For the residential and large commercial sector, prices have increased in line with inflation, by 10-15% – up from about £1,510 per kilowatt for a small domestic installation of 2-5 kilowatts last year to about £1,684. But as the cost of power from the grid has increased by around half since last year, the relative benefit of going solar has only increased.
“Rooftop solar power is as good an investment as it has ever been. The broader fossil-fuelled price crisis means that this is true even though rooftop Solar’s ten-year price decline appears to have halted.
“Overall, our assessment remains positive: Solar Energy UK’s Lighting the Way forecast showed the UK could – and needs – to deploy 15GW of rooftop solar by 2030 – and we are heading in the right direction,” said Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Energy UK. 
“In a time of economic crisis, growth in UK solar has more than doubled in 12 months, and the trend will continue. This is cheap, clean, home-grown energy, providing lower bills, secure jobs and getting Britain off the hook of Russian gas,” he added.
“The UK solar sector has seen strong growth during the first half of 2022 across each of the key end-market segments: residential, commercial rooftop and ground-mount sites. The outlook is extremely positive, with pipelines growing each quarter, coupled with the 2GW of utility-scale sites recently successful in the CfD Round 4 auction. New solar deployment in the UK during 2022 is set to comfortably exceed the 1GW level for the first time since 2016 when government incentives were in place,” said Finlay Colville, Head of Market Intelligence at Solar Media.
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