175 MW of New UK Solar Capacity Deployed in Q1 2021

UK solar capacity graph

SINCE JANUARY this year, 175 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity was installed across the UK up to the end of March 2021.

The new figures, released by Solar Energy UK and Solar Media Ltd reflect significant growth over the winter period. It brings the UK’s total installed solar PV capacity to more than 14 GW – generating enough electricity to power over 3 million homes.

Rooftop Solar Growth

Ground-mounted solar parks form 70% of the new capacity, while post-subsidy rooftop markets also continue to thrive. Rooftop solar capacity has seen 14% year-on-year growth. This means subsidy-free solar PV in the UK now exceeds 1 GW, or 7.3% of total installed capacity.

On a rolling basis, 660 MW of new solar capacity was installed in the 12-month period to 31 March 2021, and the UK could be on track to deliver a gigawatt of new solar capacity this year.

UK solar capacity showing trend

Placing the last 12 months’ deployment in context demonstrates the impact of the Spring 2020 lockdown, as well as that of the end of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme in 2019. This prompted a rush to install projects in time to meet the subsidy deadline.

However, market confidence in solar is clear: in total 975 MW of PV have been installed in the UK since the end of March 2019, when the FiT ended, and installations rose rapidly after the end of the lockdown.

Future Solar Capacity

Annual solar deployment levels are expected to increase over the next few years and global solar costs continue to fall. Meanwhile, information obtained by Solar Energy UK under a freedom of information request shows that nearly £140 million of funding has been awarded to PV projects by the government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. This could see around a further 160 MW of PV installed on public sector buildings alone in 2021.

The Local Authority Delivery element of the Green Homes Grant scheme, as well as the recent change in building regulations relating to new homes, means there should also be significant deployment of solar on residential rooftops in the coming years.

Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett said: “The UK solar industry is going from strength to strength. Great Britain had its cleanest ever grid electricity over the Easter Weekend, with solar providing 21% of generation at one point.”

“The growing pipeline of subsidy-free projects reflects the confidence investors have in solar technology, and the UK can look forward to solar delivering an increasing amount of clean, affordable power.”

Subsidy-Free Solar

Finlay Colville, Head of Research at Solar Media Ltd, adds: “The UK solar industry is now operating efficiently and profitably in a zero-subsidy environment, confirmed by the strong deployment figures recorded during the first quarter of 2021.”

“Annual growth is now being seen across all three of the main market segments of residential, commercial rooftop and ground-mount installations.”

“Furthermore, the pipeline within each segment continues to grow robustly, especially for large-scale solar farms. 2021 could still be the most significant year for solar in the UK, if the industry succeeds in deploying above 1 gigawatt of new PV installations, fully absent of any government incentive schemes.”

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