Record temperatures on Wednesday saw UK solar capacity generate enough electricity to power two million households for a day, according to estimates made by energy supplier Good Energy.
The company estimates that solar panels across the UK generated 21,831MWh of energy on 15 April 2015. Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Will Heinzelmann, research and product analyst for Good Energy explained how he came up with the company’s solar generation output tool.
He said: “This particular tool came about from my desire to provide a true and accurate picture of live renewable generation in the UK. The data is based on two things: DECC data, looking at the monthly solar installation figures and how that is distributed around the UK; and then the interesting part is that it uses live data on PV performance from different places around the UK.
Heinzelmann recognises that the figures provided by the tool are likely to be an underestimate of the true kWh generated by solar due to the lag time involved in the government’s official solar figures. However, Heinzelmann stresses that the tool is an estimate, explaining: “It’s not 100% accurate but it provides a good idea.”
For Good Energy, it’s important to translate solar’s impressive performance into something that the public can relate to. Heinzelman notes: “You do read a lot of negative press around solar PV and that’s largely because the public are not being presented with statistics that are manageable to them as individuals, figures that are understandable – therefore it’s easy to form a negative perception. Telling someone that ‘it was a sunny day yesterday and solar powered two million homes’ – just quantifying it into something that people can understand – makes a huge difference.”
The role of solar in the UK energy mix is only set to grow as the technology continues to confound even the most optimistic cost reduction predictions. Heinzelmann explained why PV will remain a core building block of the company’s energy mix, stating: “For us, Good Energy is a 100% renewable energy supplier, so we are see solar as a really important part of our energy mix. We forecast that 21% of our energy will come from solar in 2014/15.
“We are a solar developer ourselves, most recently we had an 8.3MW site come online in Cornwall, our fourth solar site. To us solar plays a really valuable part, it has a lot of characteristics that make it ideal for us as an energy supplier: it’s very predictable and it matches really nicely with the average consumption of a user – when the sun is shining people are awake and using energy, when the sun’s not shining they’re asleep not using energy.”
Heinzelmann concludes: “I think solar represents about 1.5% to the grid as a whole over the year – that of course is probably outdated now – but obviously on a nice sunny day PV generation has a pretty huge impact on the grid. We’re seeing solar play a more important part in the UK energy mix.”