Cornwall Insight: Solar experiences rapid growth

Between April 2020 and March 2022 Cornwall Insight’s Renewables Pipeline Tracker report has shown the total capacity of solar photovoltaics (PV) projects classed as either ‘application submitted’ or ‘awaiting construction’ has increased by 298%, while the equivalent for onshore wind has risen by 17%.

Proportionate growth of onshore wind and solar PV capacity in ‘application submitted’ and ‘awaiting construction’ development statuses, by issue date of Cornwall Insight’s Renewables Pipeline Tracker against Q120 report.

This overall growth translates into an average q/q increase of 26% and 3%, respectively, with the differing planning environments for the two technologies likely bearing an influence on their respective growth rates, Cornwall Insight states.

The increase in the pipeline for solar PV and onshore wind is likely down to a number of factors, including increased government investment and long-term fixed prices from the reintroduction of pot one technologies into the contract for difference (CFD) allocation round four. However, while subsidies are part of the growth, Cornwall Insight have also seen solar PV become more commercially viable and the number of confirmed subsidy-free projects rise steadily over this time.

Lucy Dolton, Senior Analyst at Cornwall Insight said:

“Rising global gas demand over the last 12 months, coupled with the tragic events in the Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia, have had a significant impact on regional and global gas and electricity prices. This underlines the UK’s need to diversify its energy sources. While the UK gets very small amounts of its gas from Russia, supply concerns across the continent are impacting UK prices. If we want to protect our energy supply and prices from geopolitical or economic changes in the future, extending our renewable projects including solar PV and onshore wind will be part of the solution.

“Data from our Renewables Pipeline Tracker report has shown not only how far we have come in just two years, but also the potential for future expansion of solar PV and onshore wind. Both sources have been shown to be more and more commercially viable, with a large increase in subsidy free projects being developed outside of allocation round four.

“Additionally, while other renewables such as offshore wind could take six years to construct, solar farms and onshore wind farms have much shorter construction times and can be completed within six months of construction commencing. Encouraging development of these projects, which already have planning and grid connections in place, will help speed up the diversification of the UK’s energy supply.

“The figures do show a significant gap between solar PV expansion and onshore wind, with q/q growth for onshore wind only at 3% compared to solar PV’s 26%. Restrictive planning rules have been slowing down onshore wind development and we hope the soon to be published energy security strategy and government’s review of the energy National Policy Statements will include a review of the regulations.”




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