UK solar has smashed out a new generation record of 9.68GW this week thanks in large part to a significant slump in air pollution levels resulting in clearer skies.
According to live data from the Sheffield Solar Live PV tracker – which is run by the University of Sheffield – solar generation reached a peak and new record high of 9.68GW at around 12:30pm on Monday the 20th of April, meeting almost 30% of UK electricity demand at the time.
“Ideal weather conditions and lower levels of pollution than normal mean solar is providing record levels of cheap, clean power to the grid,” said Chris Hewett, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association. “At a time when most of us are working remotely, we can say that solar is truly keeping the WiFi on.”
The Northern Hemisphere is obviously entering its sunnier and Summer months, where solar generation normally sees a surge in generation thanks both to better conditions but also an increase in deployment of new solar capacity during the previous months. As such, each new year of Summer weather often brings with it new records.
The new generation record surpassed the previous holder set on the 13th of May 2019, when peak generation hit 9.55GW at the tail end of the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring.
However, the Northern Hemisphere’s sunnier weather was supplemented this time around by what the UK’s Solar Trade Association described as “significantly lower levels of pollution than usual” caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, which has seen pollution levels in cities and countries around the world take a dramatic nosedive as people stay off the roads, and industry slows to a halt.
“In a time when positive news is few and far between, it is reassuring to see renewables continue to signal towards a brighter and more hopeful future,” said Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the UK’s Renewable Energy Association. “Less than two weeks after breaking the record for power generation in Q1, renewables have once again raised the bar with solar power reaching an impressive 9.68GW peak this week.
“This is an astonishing feat and indicates only the beginning of what the industry is capable of. However, for this to continue into the future, the renewables and clean technologies industry needs assurance that in this trying time the fight against climate change remains a top priority for the Government.”
Importantly, the new solar generation record comes at the same time that the UK coal sector is in the midst of yet another period of coal-free generation – with 13 days and 8 hours (at the time of writing) having passed without any coal generating electricity.
This falls in line with the last time solar set a record generation, when Great Britain’s electricity sector last set a record of 18 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes of coal-free generation – the longest run without coal for Great Britain since 1882 – which ended on June 5 2019, thus incorporating the solar record as well.