Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Solar Beats Coal for Entire Month in UK for First Time

Energy
Solar Beats Coal for Entire Month in UK for First Time

The UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than coal in May 2016, the first-ever calendar month to pass the milestone, Carbon Brief analysis shows.

Solar generated an estimated 1,336 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity in May, 50 percent more than the 893 GWh output from coal. The finding follows on from Carbon Brief’s earlier analysis showing solar beating coal for the first full day on April 9 and for the first week from May 3.

The UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than coal in May 2016, the first-ever calendar month to pass the milestone, Carbon Brief analysis shows. Photo credit: Greenpeace UK

While these milestones are largely symbolic, they do highlight the major changes going on in the UK electricity system. For further context, analysis and data details see the previous coverage from Carbon Brief.

UK Monthly Electricity from Solar and Coal

The chart below shows that solar generated 50 percent more electricity than coal during May 2016. This was due to a combination of low coal output and the impact of longer days as summer approaches.

Total electricity generation from UK solar and coal during the calendar months April and May 2016, gigawatt hours (GWh). Sources: Sheffield Solar and Gridwatch. Chart by Carbon Brief.

Solar and Coal Shares of UK Total

Solar generated nearly 6 percent of the UK’s electricity needs during May, against less than 4 percent for coal (see note below for details of this calculations). In January, the figures were just 1 percent for solar and 17 percent for coal.

There has been a huge reduction in coal-fired power generation in the UK since the start of 2016, as the chart below shows. Nearly a quarter of electricity generation in 2015 was from coal but since the, power market economics have shifted in favor of gas and several coal plants have opted to close.

Shares of total UK electricity generation met by solar and coal during January to May 2016 (%). Sources: Sheffield Solar and Gridwatch. Chart by Carbon Brief.

UK Weekly Electricity From Solar and Coal

Solar has generated more electricity than coal in each of the past five weeks. Note that coal generation increased around the start of June as a result of low wind power output.

Total electricity generation from UK solar and coal during each week between April 1 and June 2, gigawatt hours (GWh). Sources: Sheffield Solar and Gridwatch. Chart by Carbon Brief.

UK Daily Electricity From Solar and Coal 

Although solar has cumulatively outpaced coal in each week since the end of April, coal has topped solar on some days in May, as the chart below shows.

The UK passed a historic milestone in mid-May as coal output hit zero on seven periods across the week commencing Monday, May 9. Total daily coal output was near zero during May 12-14. The zero-coal periods were reported by the Financial Times, the Press Association, the Telegraph and others, citing Carbon Brief analysis.

Total electricity generation from UK solar and coal on each day between April 1 and June 6, gigawatt hours (GWh). Sources: Sheffield Solar and Gridwatch. Chart by Carbon Brief.

Notes: The figures for shares of total UK electricity generation are estimates. They only include solar generation and other forms of generation that are connected to the transmission grid network. Embedded generation from wind or other sources is not centrally metered and data is not available. However, this missing data will not alter the relative positions of solar and coal generation.

Figures for solar output in the UK are estimates produced by Sheffield Solar. The project recently updated its estimates of installed UK solar capacity.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

228 Cities Around the World Take the Lead on Climate Action

South Korea’s Plan to Have World’s First Carbon-Free Island

100 Solutions to the World’s Most Pressing Challenges

Cleveland Soon to Be Home to the Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm in Fresh Water

David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
Trending
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less
Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering, holds up his lab's sample of the whitest paint on record. Purdue University / Jared Pike

Scientists at the University of Purdue have developed the whitest and coolest paint on record.

Read More Show Less

Less than three years after California governor Jerry Brown said the state would launch "our own damn satellite" to track pollution in the face of the Trump administration's climate denial, California, NASA, and a constellation of private companies, nonprofits, and foundations are teaming up to do just that.

Read More Show Less