Solar drives 50% rise in South West renewable capacity

The level of renewable capacity installed in the South West has grown by almost 50% in the last 12 months, according to a new report published by Regen SW.

The total capacity installed in the region has grown from 714MW last year to stand at more than 1GW now. This surge in renewable installs means that the South West now gets 7.3% of it electricity from renewable sources.

Leading the renewable charge is solar; the technology has been responsible for 65% of the region’s new renewable capacity in the last 12 months. Solar’s rapid cost reduction coupled with the South West’s higher irradiance levels have seen 200MW of solar farms connected to the grid since July 2012. To put solar’s performance in context, the next biggest contributor was 39MW of biomass capacity.

However, Segen SW has warned that even if the current level of deployment is maintained, the South West will still fall short of its target of delivering 15% renewable energy by 2020.

“This year’s progress report is encouraging,” said Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen SW.  “However, it should be just the start.  If we continue at our current pace we will finish a long way off our 2020 target. This means we’ll be missing out the chance to create 34,000 high-value new jobs in the sector, the opportunity to become less reliant on uncertain oversees supplies of fossil fuels, and the opportunity of using our local renewable energy resources to generate income and fuel security for local communities.”

Merlin added: “A key conclusion of our analysis is that we need a mix of all renewables’ technologies. While solar PV and onshore wind are currently our best performers, the deployment of offshore wind in the Bristol Channel and off the Dorset coast has the potential to make the largest contribution to the amount of renewable energy we generate, and wave and tidal energy have an exciting future.”

Below is the county-by-county breakdown of capacity installed in the South West:

  • Devon has a total renewable energy capacity of 301 MW
  • Cornwall and the IoS has a total renewable energy capacity of 293 MW
  • Somerset has a total renewable energy capacity of 102 MW
  • Dorset has a total renewable energy capacity of 98 MW
  • Wiltshire has a total renewable energy capacity of 96 MW
  • Former Avon has a total renewable energy capacity of 87 MW
  • Gloucestershire has a total renewable energy capacity of 66 MW

Regen SW’s full South West Renewable Energy Progress Report can be viewed here.