With global solar power generation hitting record levels in 2022, the world is finally seeing the light.
In the UK, the energy crisis paired with the plummeting cost of PV panels mean small-scale installations are booming. And it’s just as well: the government is gunning for a fivefold increase in solar capacity by 2035 – up from the current 14GW to a whopping 70GW, enough to power every home in England twice over.
But the untapped potential of myriad domestic and commercial rooftops isn’t going to get us there alone, and larger-scale land-based arrays are proving a source of controversy. Industry body Solar Energy UK (SEUK) estimates that hitting our 2050 net zero targets would mean turning over as little as 0.4% of all land in the UK to solar farms. Nonetheless, the government looks set to ban arrays on agricultural land, in what critics say is a misguided effort to shore up food security.
That puts floating solar firmly in the mix for larger-scale projects. “Anyone who has dug into the numbers on reaching climate targets knows that there’s no silver bullet – we need a mix of all kinds of technologies,” says Ian McKee, communications chief at green energy provider Good Energy.
To that end, renewables developer Trinzic has launched a campaign calling on the UK government to back 30GW of floating solar installation by 2030, through a mix of policy reform and grant incentives. It’s a big ask as just 3GW is currently installed across the globe.
“It’s ambitious but achievable,” says Trinzic’s director of renewables, Aram Wood. “We’re seeing signs that the market – both freshwater and marine – will expand rapidly from the current installed base.”
Time will tell if the idea holds water.