The Planning Resource, which reports on planning, housing and regeneration in the UK, has reported that the South West is set to lead solar power installation in the country. The region currently has 750MW of applications in the project pipeline.

Planning applications for two parks, with 2.2MW and 1.5MW peak capacity respectively, were submitted to Cornwall County Council in July 2010 alone. The council has also met with 30 companies to discuss the parks and anticipates receiving 50-100 planning applications as a result.

Cornwall’s natural resources planning team manager Adrian Lea believes that, as well as the feed-in tariff (FiT), the increase in applications for solar parks has been driven by the European Commission's global irradiation report, which revealed that south-west England has the highest levels of irradiation in the UK.

“Solar panels last for 25 years, as do feed-in tariffs. If developments are proposed on lower-grade agricultural land we would advise granting temporary permission. However, connectivity to the grid could be a problem with the surge in power generated,” explained Lea.

Since the FiT was introduced on April 1, 12.12MWp of solar panels have been installed at 4,822 homes, up from 3.8MWp in 2007, 4.42MWp in 2008 and 5MWp in 2009. Solar panel makers are also responding to the demand, with Sharp announcing it will double annual production at its UK plant to 500MW in December. The Wrexham plant, which currently employs 750 people, has seen the UK's share of its output rise from 1% to 10%. Solar installer Solarcentury has also almost doubled its workforce since the beginning of the year.

Although this is great news for those in the South West, it remains to be seen just how successful solar power will be in the rest of the UK. From preliminary investigations, the Solar Power Portal has found that the amount of installations in the South East is a long way behind the South West; however this is likely to change within the next couple of months.