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Latest figures cement Devon and Cornwall as UK solar capital

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 31, 2013

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The Westcountry is the solar panel capital of the country, according to the latest Government statistics.

Devon tops the national table for photovoltaic panels – which convert sunshine into electricity – with 17,564 installations on peoples' homes, producing 61,683kw of energy.

Cornwall is second with 9,584 domestic schemes which generate 35,572kw of electricity. Wiltshire was a distant third with 5,234.

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of renewable energy specialists Regen SW, said the high take-up reflected the fact Devon and Cornwall had the best "sunshine resource" in the country.

"A standard photovoltaic system has fallen in cost to around £6,000 to £7,000," he explained. "That might save a total of around £900 per year between people using the electricity they generate and selling the energy they don't.

"On an electricity bill of £1,250 a year that's a pretty radical change, although people will have had to make the outlay up front.

"People in Devon and Cornwall have found that by using these technologies they can offset a very large part of their energy bills for the future."

The figures are based on feed-in tariffs – the cash people receive for selling excess electricity back to the grid – which dropped in value earlier this year. The change sparked a rush of installations which has since slowed.

But Mr Hyman said it was worth homeowners re-examining the figures. He added: "The rates of return are really quite good again and that's because installation prices have dropped.

"Although people are getting paid less subsidy for what they generate, that's been made up for in falling costs, and that's both good for the taxpayer and good for the homeowners.

"With rising energy costs, renewable technology is becoming more and more viable. In a few years we'll probably find they can compete on their own merits, without any subsidy, although we are not there yet."

The quarterly statistics, for the period up to the end of September, were issued by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

They also showed there were 133 domestic wind turbines in operation in Devon and seven hydro-electric schemes. In Cornwall, there are 112 turbines and 13 small hydro-electric schemes.

Nationally, there are 400,319 solar photovoltaic installations, a rate of 152 for every 10,000 properties. The rate in Devon and Cornwall is 390 schemes per 10,000 homes. The local authority area with the lowest number of solar panels is the City of London with just 5.

Controversy around renewable energy schemes had centred on large wind and solar farms rather than panels on people's roofs.

Earlier this month a DECC report showed almost half (44%) of the UK's large-scale solar energy farms were sited in the South West.

The report – Roadmap to a Brighter Future – hailed the 25-fold increase in so-called solar photovoltaic capacity in just three years.

It also predicted a four-fold increase in solar power from now until 2020, with Energy Minister Greg Barker even contending Britain "can go faster and further".

However, Mr Barker cautioned that new solar installations "must be sensitive to public opinion and mindful of wider environmental and visual impacts".

The fate of four new solar farms was decided by Cornwall councillors at its strategic planning meeting late last week.

Members approved a 49-acre solar park on farmland at St Stephen, near St Austell, and an almost identical size scheme at Ladock, near Truro.

A controversial 40-acre project, which would have seen 25,000 units built on land at Treswarrow Farm, near Port Isaac, was refused because of its location on high-value agricultural land.

Another application for a near 50-acre solar farm at Summercourt, Mid Cornwall, was also rejected by councillors because of its "cumulative impact" and the loss of prime farmland.

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8 comments

  • IvorWard  |  November 02 2013, 8:20PM

    The references for my comment: (1) http://tinyurl.com/qesjhsw (2)http://tinyurl.com/cxg5bc8 (3)https://http://tinyurl.com/p39a2yz (4)https://restats.decc.gov.uk/cms/national-renewables-statistics/ (5)http://tinyurl.com/5sdaufm

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  • IvorWard  |  November 02 2013, 8:19PM

    Cottage Farm Organics says: "Do you have a death wish (for your kids generation)? Then don't invest in renewables and stick with the dirty and declining fossil fuels." From that statement I assume that you think it is OK to sacrifice my mothers life and the lives of many other poor people on the altar of some imaginary benefit to some future generation. In the last year there were 24,000 excess winter deaths (1), my mother narrowly avoided being one of them. In the same year £ 2.2 BILLION was thrown at Venture Capitalists to subsidise Renewable Energy. (2) This amount, if used wisely instead of being handed to mostly Foreign Companies could have insulated the 96% of solid walled homes that have no insulation ; insulated the remaining 31% of homes without cavity wall insulation and insulated the remaining 33% of homes without loft Insulation. If the £4 Billion that was spent on the actual wind turbines , all to foreign manufacturers like Siemens and Vestas , had then been spent on insulation and low demand lighting in Factories we would have saved in total about 7 to12% of electricity consumption for the forseable future (3). As things stand all renewables actually contributed 10.8% (4) of our electricity in 2012. Only 5.3% of this was wind power. (5) I haven't got time at the moment to go through your rather strange statistics but you can see from the above that by diverting the money wasted on renewables to insulation we could have saved more electricity ( by about 2 to 7%) than has been generated by wind turbines. If you are particularly worried about the demon plant food CO2 then it is estimated that 25% of our emissions can be saved by insulating and using less electricity. Not only does this reduce emissions, it reduces the price of energy to householders and businesses, enables them to live more comfortably, hence less medical demands in winter and a reduced spend on the NHS. Further to this we could have used the 4 MILLION tonnes of concrete and steel used in turbine bases and access roads to build real roads, hospitals and schools. We would also not have had to mine the rare earths and copper to make transmission cables and turbine magnets. Furthermore 87% of current housing will still be in existence in 2050 whereas 100% of wind turbines will have to be replaced at least once by then. Furthermore all the insulation materials could be UK sourced eliminating sea transport emissions. i.e Rock wool and fibre glass. Luckily if technology permits we may eventually be able to grind up the carbon fibre turbine blades and put them into insulation as well where they will serve a more productive, and immensely longer. life . We can save our emissions by saving electricity, which will also save our landscapes and wild birds and bats from murder by pointless renewable energy schemes. If the money was spent on research into modern nuclear reactors which actually use up the waste from the old fast breeders we could have a carbon neutral (whatever that means) power supply by 2050 without a single solar panel or turbine ever being built. I am sure that will make my children much happier than living in the shadow of 30,000 wind turbines.

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  • DipStick  |  October 31 2013, 8:02PM

    @ Cottage Farm Organics: fossil fuels are being manipulated UP in price. Carbon tax as it's called, designed to more than double the cost of energy from fossil fuels. Nothing to do with global warming and all to do with Agenda 21 from the UN. Basically, use less rather than supply enough for your people (water, power, whatever). Cameron is the UK 'ambassador' for the UN's efforts here in the UK. So stop blathering on about renewables because all reliance o them is doing is driving up the cost of power which means that 10's of thousands of old people will DIE this winter from the cold. Anyone saying they support the current energy policy is obviously quite happy for that situation to occur, they're quite happy to see 10's of thousands of old poeple die because they are trying to 'save the planet'!! If you're so set on being supplied by bleddy windmills and solar cells the try living JUST connected them, no mains grid at all. Oh, and your car is very 'polluting' so you'll have to give that up and use your legs/bike instead. Go on, stop being a bleddy hypocrite and do it over the winter! DS

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  • Cottage Farm Organics  |  October 31 2013, 6:39PM

    Green measures are responsible for £112 of the average £1287 family dual fuel bill. Of this, £37 is down to renewable subsidy (£30 ROCs and £7 FiT) – less than three percent of the average bill. £47 pounds goes to ECO and other energy saving measures that reduce bills for those in fuel poverty, perhaps including Ivor's mother. Fossil fuels are costing us dearly, between 2004 and 2010 dual fuel bills rose by £455, of which £382 was due to soaring gas prices Globally subsidies for fossil fuels are $409 billion compared to $66 billion for renewable energy. Crude oil price has rocketed by 500% from $20/barrel to $100/barrel since 2007. Do you have a death wish (for your kids generation)? Then don't invest in renewables and stick with the dirty and declining fossil fuels.

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  • IvorWard  |  October 31 2013, 4:20PM

    To Cottage Farm Organics. I presume from your comment that you are quite happy that my 93 year old mother is paying to subsidise land owners and house owners who can afford £6000-£7000 up front. You don't mind all the flat dwellers paying the subsidies. I assume you don't mind all the people in apartments subsidising land and house holders either. In fact all the poorest members of our society whose electricity costs are a disproportionately large part of their outgoings are subsidising the solar panel installers and installees. If that is the case I don't suppose you would mind sending my mother some free food because she has had to cut back on food to keep warm. Think of it as saving the planet with a subsidy....Should give you a warm fuzzy feeling. If people want to have solar panels ...Fine... but don't expect the poorest people in the Country to pay for it. These subsidies are the most regressive form of taxation. More money is being transferred to the rich from the poor by these subsidies than in any other Government swindle since the Land Enclosures of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

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  • IvorWard  |  October 31 2013, 4:00PM

    Quote: Merlin Hyman, chief executive of renewable energy specialists Regen SW, said the high take-up reflected the fact Devon and Cornwall had the best "sunshine resource" in the country. From the Met Office: ""South East England combines the highest average daytime temperatures found in the British Isles with the highest sunshine averages on the British mainland. This means that the coastal resort towns of East and West Sussex enjoy more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in Britain. "" From the Met Office: ""Southern England includes the sunniest places in mainland UK, these being the coastal resorts of Sussex and Hampshire. The Isle of Wight also features in the list of high sunshine averages. On the coast average annual sunshine durations can exceed 1750 hours."" From the Met Office: ""Cornwall is one of the sunniest areas in the UK, with over 1541 hours of sunshine per year, with the highest average of 7.6 hours of sunshine per day in July."" So Sussex and Hampshire get an average of 1750 hours and Cornwall gets 1541 hours of sunshine. Latitude almost identical so the angle of incidence is the same. If Mr Hyman is telling porkies about this I don't suppose we can believe much else that he says.

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  • Cottage Farm Organics  |  October 31 2013, 3:35PM

    ... and I will say it again. This is great. Fortunately, the government are aware of the dire consequences of not investing in renewable energy, which is why they set up the subsidies, and its all working pretty well. Fossil fuels are about 5 times more expensive now than in pre-crisis times. Soon they will overtake the cost of renewable energy, making subsidies unnecessary. Obviously, since they are NOT renewable and thus subject to depletion. What's so hard to understand about that? We could follow wringer's advice and not invest in renewables, in which case rising fossil fuel prices would make energy bills utterly unaffordable. By contrast, once a renewable energy installation is up, the energy itself is almost free. How marvellous!

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  • wringer  |  October 31 2013, 11:57AM

    ...and I will say it again. This is propaganda. The only reason, the sole reason, the one reason why land owners put these things up and on their land is because of the subsidies. they are not being green they are being greedy. they make money. the out of county companies that sell them the systems make money. the out of country manufacturers who make the panels make money. we are all paying for this out of the huge subsidies on our bills. cut the subsidies and then see how green all these landowners are. as for listening to local people that is rubbish. if local views were listened to there would be no more panel parks and turbines put up in cornwall. tourism is being slaughtered by this. Merlin Hayman a direct question to you - how near do you live to a solar farm and where is your nearest wind turbine?

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