The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Solar Reaches Major Milestone: Turns UK Grid Demand 'Upside Down'
The United Kingdom's expanse of solar fields and rooftop panels helped break a major record last weekend.
Due to a particularly sunny Saturday, the amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses was lower in the afternoon than at night.
"Transmission system demand today was for the first time ever lower in the afternoon than it was overnight due to large amounts of #solar," electricity transmission company National Grid tweeted on Saturday.
This shift of peak energy demand to before sunset is significant. Demand for electricity usually peaks around 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. which can put a strain on the grid during these hours.
But solar power has turned the country's grid demand "upside down," as Duncan Burt, National Grid's head of real time operations, tweeted.
"This weekend saw gas and coal fired power stations reducing output to accommodate nearly 8 GW of solar generation," National Grid said. "On Saturday coal units produced a total of 19 GWh (2.6% of generation), 6.2 times less than wind and solar at 118 GWh (16.7%)."
At one point during the afternoon of March 25, solar power contributed nearly 30 percent of the UK's power needs.
The Solar Trade Association described last weekend's event as a "milestone."
"This milestone shows the balance of power is shifting, quite literally, away from the old centralized 'coal-by-wire' model into the hands of householders, businesses and communities all over the UK who want their own clean solar power," a spokeswoman told the Guardian.
The UK's solar PV capacity has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. According to The Energyst, at the end of 2011, total capacity stood at 750 megawatts. But the latest government figures indicate that capacity has increased to 11.46 gigawatts, with another 3 gigawatts in the works.
However, as the Guardian pointed out, new capacity largely collapsed last year after the government decided to cut subsidies to homeowners installing rooftop solar panels by 65 percent.
The Solar Trade Association added in its statement that the UK government has repeatedly underestimated the potential of solar technology.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tim Radford
The year is less than four weeks old, but scientists already know that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to head upwards — as they have every year since measurements began — leading to a continuation of the Earth's rising heat.
By Cathy Cassata
Are you getting your fill of Starbucks' new Almondmilk Honey Flat White, Oatmilk Honey Latte, and Coconutmilk Latte, but wondering just how healthy they are?
1982 American Petroleum Institute Report Warned Oil Workers Faced 'Significant' Risks From Radioactivity
By Sharon Kelly
Back in April last year, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency decided it was "not necessary" to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation's 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency's own research has warned it may pose risks to the country's drinking water supplies.