Boris says UK won't be subjected to Putin blackmail over energy
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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries, including the UK, have been looking to end their reliance on oil and natural gas exports from Moscow. This phasing out of Russian energy is particularly boosted by the impact the war has had on a global fossil fuel energy crisis that was already leading to record oil prices.
As countries look for alternatives, Solar Energy UK has noted building solar farms in the UK could quickly generate 7GW of electricity, which is more than what the upcoming Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor is set to produce.
The industry body told Sky News that these solar farms in question are “shovel-ready” meaning that they have already been given planning permission and authorisation to connect to the electricity grid.
This comes amidst growing concerns among rural communities about installing acres of solar panels, fearing the “industrialisation of the countryside”.
However, the Solar Energy UK believes that the energy that will be produced from these solar panels will be more than twice as much energy as that produced by the Hinkley Point reactor, which won’t be completed before 2026.
Cam Witten, head of policy at Solar Energy UK, said: “Hinkley Point is about 2.5GW, if memory serves.
“We’ve got about 7GW of solar that we can feasibly get built and start exporting to the grid in the next two years. It’s a really quick turnaround for basically three times the reward.”
Over the past few years, the UK has quickly ramped up production of solar panels, going from 1.5 GW of installed capacity a decade ago, to about 14 GW currently.
The key driver of this growth is the plummeting costs of building solar panels, which have fallen by 85 percent during the same period.
Solar farms are currently producing electricity at a much cheaper rate than fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, with new farms producing electricity for less than £50 for 1-megawatt hour (MWh), which is enough to supply 2,000 homes for one hour.
Meanwhile, the Hinkley reactor is set to produce power at £92 per MWh, rising with inflation, whereas the cost of gas has reached staggering rates at around £225 per MWh.
Energy companies are now looking to build bigger and bigger solar farms in an effort to reduce costs further through economies of scale.
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At present, the largest solar farm in the UK is Shotwick Solar Park in North Wales, which boasts a capacity of 72 MW.
However, Sunnica, an energy firm is currently looking to build a 500MW ‘energy farm’ in East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk, and is applying for permission to begin building.
Meanwhile, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is looking to expand the UK’s solar capacity to 50 GW by the end of the decade.
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