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Thursday 22 December 2011

Solar Power, Yes Please.

Over two years ago, on 15th October 2009 to be precise, i wrote a blog post all about climate change (Blog Action day 2009: Climate Change).
In that post i mentioned my feelings about solar power and the fact that here in the UK it seems to be the forgotten option when it comes to renewable power.

This topic has, once again, raised its head again over recent days.
Yesterday the High Court, here in the UK, ruled as unlawful a decision by the UK Government to change and reduce the subsidies on solar power. These are subsidies that are paid to the small consumer, typically a householder, to encourage solar power generation.

Meanwhile, two Parliamentary committees have also criticised the UK Government over the same issue.

Many commentators think that the Governments decision could sound the death knell for the production of solar panels in the UK, with the loss of many much needed jobs.
Apparently the reason behind the decision is that the installation of solar panels has proved far more popular than anyone predicted. Thereby, costing the Government more money in subsidies.

Whilst i do understand the Governments predicament, especially, in these testing economic times. Surely, we should be encouraging the use of solar power generation, not trying to put people off?
The fact that solar panels on private dwellings have been so popular shows that the general public want to install them. So, why not help them continue to fit them?

I have argued, to anyone who will listen, that we should be concentrating far more on solar power than on wind power to produce the nations renewable energy in the future.
The Government have pumped billions of pounds into wind turbines. Wind turbines that only work when there is a wind and, as we have seen recently, don't actually work that well when there is "too much wind".
Then there is the issue that, in many peoples opinion, wind turbines are a blot on the landscape. I actually quite like them myself, but do totally understand the objections. Solar panels, on the other hand, disturb nobody, make no noise and don't present a hazard to birds either.

I accept that the sun doesn't always shine here in the UK. But, ordinary daylight can still be used to generate solar energy, albeit not as much as on a sunny summers day.

So, for me, there is no issue here. Solar power should be encouraged.
The energy companies and the Government should be looking at ways of generating electricity through solar power and private householders should be encouraged to fit solar panels to their houses. This would then provide cheap natural power to the nation and help protect UK jobs as well.

But, putting on my cynical hat, i can see other reasons why wind power is usually put above solar power.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no plan by the big energy companies to use solar energy as a source of power generation. They all seem to be stuck with this fascination with huge wind turbine farms, both on land and at sea.
I do realise that for them to do this they would have to go down the route that other countries have taken and have solar panel "farms". I have seen this kind of thing in Spain. It takes land to do this and maybe that is the argument against it?

But, maybe another other reason is that wind turbines can't really be fitted to houses very easily?
Planning permission can be a real problem in this area. It can be with solar panels too, but they are nowhere near as visible, or ugly. Wind turbines, after all, are like an extension to a house, or building. Therefore requiring planning permission. Whereas, solar panels are fitted onto the house.

So, if you can't easily fit wind turbines to your house, but solar panels are easy to fit. Why would the energy companies want to encourage you to fit solar panels to your own house, helping you to generate your own electricity and therefore, reducing your need for the energy company in the first place?

If we were all able to afford and fit solar panels to our houses and buildings, we wouldn't need the energy companies at all would we? Or, at least, only for emergency power as a kind of back up.

Of course, the energy companies were created when the UK Government sold off and privatised the energy systems back in the 1980's. Which leads me to wonder, if we still had a Government owned energy system, would we still have this problem with renewable energy systems now?

I'd like to think that if we still had the old system we'd all be encouraged to fit solar panels and save ourselves some money. This way would also encourage householders to conserve energy. Because, if you're generating electricity yourself, you're bound to take more interest in how you use that energy.

This would, in turn, reduce the CO2 emissions of the UK, helping us meet our Kyoto and other targets.
It would also reduce our reliance on energy imported from abroad. Whether that be coal, gas from Russia and even electricity from France. We could not then be held to ransom by other countires and subject to their own price increases.
Surely, that can only be a good thing?

I suspect though, that this will not happen due to the power that the energy companies seem to have over the Government in the UK. They seem to be able to do whatever they want, with very little, or ineffectual Government interference.
All the time the status quo is maintained, the public will keep seeing their own energy bills rise far above the rate of inflation. As they have been doing over recent years.
The price of energy is now a major chunk of household expenditure. Something that never really used to be the case.

In my opinion, it doesn't need to be this way. Solar power needs and deserves to be encouraged and the ordinary householder needs to be given the means, at a sensible cost, to generate their own electricity.
But, what we need is a strong UK Government and some forward thinking to help provide the conditions for this to happen.

Power needs to be returned to the people.


  1. You've pretty much identified the issue: Power companies can control and profit from wind turbines that they own. But once solar panels are purchased, they don't benefit large corporations, only maybe a local technician to service and maintain them from time to time.

    There's (probably) the real reason behind the politicians pulling the carpet out from under solar subsidies. That they're paying out "too much" in the subsidy is likely a convenient smoke-screen. Check where the politician's money comes from, and you can probably trace it to the owners of the wind farms.

  2. Ken: I'm glad i covered the bases & explained myself. I also agree with your reasoning & that's what i suspect as well.