Solar power and it’s future role in the UK


The weather always seems to be raining in the UK! Or so the Britishconversational obsession with the climate would suggest. Solar powerhas great potential even for countries like the UK with lower levelsof sunshine.

PV units

In theory at least, the price of solar panels should be far lower than their typical £200-£300 per panel current unit price. A solar panel,consists of silicon, the most abundant element on Earth, copper and ahousing unit of stainless steel, aluminium plus glass, the total forall of these components from a wholesale supplier is probably around £50. All the rest of course is the cost of construction and development.

That strongly suggests the price of PV units will continue to fall, andindeed over the last ten years their prices have consistently comedown. As global demand grows the scale or production is increasing.


Theamount of energy that arrives from the sun that gets converted toelectricity is known as the efficiency factor currently technologyhas improved greatly, however the best panels convert around 14% ofenergy to electricity the rest being lost as heat. This is up fromaround 12% a few years ago, so the direction of travel is a good one.

Driving around the UK, it is encouraging to see many households haveinstalled solar, but there is still a long way to go, maybe 3% ofproperties at present have solar installed.


Theability to store energy locally will be a big game changer, becausedomestic usage is mostly in the evenings and at night. The UK doeshave feed in tariffs where energy can be sold to a local powergeneration company however installing PV to be eligible for the feedin tariffs is expensive and that negates most of the benefit.

The future

I can seethat 20-40 years from now the efficiency of PV panels will be muchimproved, battery storage technology will be far cheaper, given thehuge investment and progress in the automotive industry.

Combiningthis with offshore and onshore wind power means the UK should be ableeventually to move to export sustainable energy and to completelymove away from fossil fuels and imported gas and oil for energygeneration.


There arehuge potential economic and environmental benefits which areachievable in the reasonably near future. The UK’s dependence onimported Gas and Oil is potentially reversible meaning we should haveno need of Russian gas or Saudi oil in the long term.

TheGovernment is making progress towards all this, but more can be donenationally and by citizens personally to move themselves over torenewable power.