Britain and Germany have broken records for generating solar energy in the last few weeks, according to new industry figures.
Germany generated over half its electricity demand from solar for the first time ever on 9 June, and the UK, basking in the sunniest weather of summer during the longest days of the year, nearly doubled its 2013 peak solar power output at the solstice weekend.
France, Italy, Denmark and other countries are also believed to have generated record amounts in June.
According to UK trade body the Solar Trade association (STA), the total UK installed solar capacity generated from homes, buildings and solar farms is now about 4.7 gigawatts compared to 2.7GW in July last year.
It is not possible to tell exactly how much solar power was generated in Britain because electricity from small-scale household units is not centrally measured, but the STA estimated on Monday that 3.9% of the UK’s electricity demand was met by solar photovoltaic systems (PV) over the 24 hours of Saturday.
This means solar’s contribution peaked at a record 7.8% of daytime electricity, on 21 June, said the association.
“Britain has virtually doubled its capacity in the last year, with 80,000 more installations, including several thousand larger scale commercial ones,” said Ray Noble, a consultant at the UK National Solar Centre.
“There are now 530,000 installations in the UK, of which 510,000 are domestic small scale ones. Last weekend we estimate they generated about 8% of daytime electricity in total,” said Noble.
“We think that this is likely to double again within a year. There is nothing to stop it getting to 30-40% of UK electricity at this time of year,” he said.
The figures were welcomed by UK energy minister Greg Barker, who was criticised in May for removing subsidies for large-scale solar farms. “We have put ourselves among the world leaders on solar and this ambitious strategy will place us right at the cutting edge.
“There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations and we must seize the opportunity this offers to boost our economy as part of our long term economic plan.
“Solar not only benefits the environment, it will see British job creation and deliver the clean and reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.”
Germany, with 1.4m PV systems, generated a peak of 23.1GW hours at lunchtime on Monday 9 June, equivalent to 50.6% of its total electricity need. According to government development agency Germany trade and invest (GTAI), solar power grew 34% in the first five months of 2014 compared to last year.
Europe added 10.9GW of PV capacity in 2013, said the European photovoltaic industry association (Epia), bringing the total installed capacity to over 81GW on the continent.
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