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10 July 2023

‘Untapped Potential’ of Commercial Buildings Could Revolutionise UK Solar Power

Schools, warehouses and car parks in Wales could be at the forefront of a revolution in affordable solar power, under plans discussed at the UK government’s new solar taskforce.

The government has a clear target to increase solar capacity by nearly fivefold to 70GW by 2035 as part of wider plans to power up Britain with cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy sources.

Even when this is met, the UK would be using only a very small proportion of its land mass for solar panels.

Undeniably, this presents Wales with an exciting opportunity for the revolution of solar power within its commercial sector. With an abundant supply of unused roof space across numerous commercial buildings, the potential to transform these areas into renewable energy powerhouses is significant.

By installing solar panels on these buildings, we are not only harnessing the power of renewable energy but also demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, lowering carbon emissions and reducing operational costs. It's a classic case of a win-win situation.

Beyond the immediate benefits to the buildings themselves, such widespread installation of solar panels could drastically change the landscape of energy production in Wales and the wider UK. It could also be instrumental in propelling us towards our national target of achieving net-zero emissions.

Already over a million UK homes have solar panels fitted to their roofs, providing reliable energy for homes, while significantly reducing consumer bills and creating thousands of high skilled jobs across the country.

The Taskforce plans

  • Publish a solar roadmap in 2024 to drive forward the actions needed to deliver the UK’s ambition to increase solar capacity by nearly fivefold by 2035.
  • upskill and expand the solar workforce to meet increasing levels of demand, while creating well-paid long-term employment opportunities for Britain.
  • identify opportunities to secure resilient supply chains and innovation within the global market, helping to generate opportunities for UK businesses to export their expertise around the world.

The Taskforce will be supporting the UK’s solar industry at a time when it is going from strength to strength:

  • over 99% of the UK’s solar capacity – both on the ground and on rooftops – has been installed since May 2010 – equivalent to powering nearly 4 million homes.
  • in 2020, the solar industry supported 11,500 jobs across the country – with that figure now expected to be even higher.
  • in March this year, over 19,000 smaller-scale rooftop installations were made, at a rate of more than 500 a day. If this continues, there will be 230,000 installations in 2023 – beating the current record set in 2011.

Josh Powell, Director at Welsh renewable firm Inspire Green commented:

“The combination of available technology, suitable space, and an increased awareness of the urgent need to shift towards renewable energy makes this a golden opportunity for Wales. We, at Inspire Green, are eager to see how this potential will be harnessed and the positive ripple effect it will undoubtedly have on the nation's sustainability goals.”

Ben Fawcett, Head of Solar at EDF Renewables UK said:

“If we are to achieve our net zero ambitions, we need to drive forward the deployment of all types of solar, from rooftops to small and large utility-scale solar farms. By bringing the government and industry together, the Solar Taskforce is a great step in the right direction as we work hard to unlock the potential of solar in the UK.”

Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive of the Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK’s energy network operators, said:

“I’m looking forward to working with Minister Stuart and his department, as well as partners across the industry on tackling the challenges we face on the road to net zero. We know accelerating and improving grid connections is a big challenge and linking the work of the taskforce up with our industry action plan is going to be crucial.”

Chief Executive of renewable energy standards body MCS Ian Rippin, said:

“The growth we’ve seen highlights the appetite for solar PV and does give some insight into the growing reliance on home-grown energy in the UK. More people are turning to renewable solutions to generate their own power at home and it’s great to see increasing levels of confidence in solar.”

Find out more:

Exploring the Power of Solar Energy – Inspire Green

Funding to support your solar investment – Development Bank of Wales

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