Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Warmth of the Sun and Stretching the Pound

Look carefully and you can see that the entire row of houses above that have installed solar panels on their roofs.

 As we travel along the canals and walk through the towns and villages I have been struck by how many homes and narrow boats have solar panels on their roofs.  They are a lot more common here than in the US.  Reading about it I discovered that for many homeowners these solar panels provide most if not all of their electric utility needs.  This allows them to make their wages go farther in the current bad economy.  A great way to stretch a pound sterling. ;-)

The EU has agreed to the goal of deriving 15% of its electricity needs from renewable forms of energy by 2020.  Using the most recent figures I could find (2011) the UK uses 344,700,000 MWh/yr of electricity which comes out to 622 watts/person/hour. (In comparison the US used 3,886,400,000 MWh/yr or 1402wats/hour/person.

Fifteen percent of that use in the UK translates to 5,170,500 MW/yr that needs to come from renewable sources by 2020.  At the end of 2011, there were 230,000 solar power projects in the United Kingdom, with a total installed generating capacity of 750 megawatts (one million watts) of electricity (MW). By February 2012 the installed capacity had reached 1,000 MW, about 20% of what will be needed. In 2012, the government said that 4 million homes across the UK will be powered by the sun within eight years. The government expects Britain to have 22 gigawatts (one billion) of installed solar power capacity by 2020.If you believe the predictions (I usually look askance at government numbers being the cynic I am) they will meet and exceed their target. (Remember I am a math midget so you probably want to double check this. :-)

Part of what the government is counting on is a solar farm is under construction and projected to provide 180,000 GWh/y that will take care of all of Scotland's energy demand and another solar farm  being constructed in Leicestershire.

The thing I find most encouraging is that IKEA has announced that solar panel packages for homes will be sold in the UK as of this July, following a successful pilot project in one of their UK stores.  If IKEA sells it, they will buy. :-)  

Solar cells, as one would expect, do better in direct sunlight.  But, today's panels also produce power from just diffused light (daylight) and not just direct sunlight. 

So, if solar power is feasible in the UK where being overcast is a common thing (when it isn't raining) :-)  then logic tells me the US should find it feasible, too.  Maybe there is an investment opportunity here somewhere?  :-)


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