The UK has a legally binding target to achieve net-zero by 2050 and has committed to fully decarbonising the electricity network by 2035. Doncaster City Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019. This results in many low carbon and renewable developments being needed across the UK.
The UK Government realises the true potential solar provision can have in renewable energy generation, acknowledging not enough is being done to both promote and allow for increased solar provision across the country. In response to this, the Government has published a paper ‘Powering Up Britain – Energy Security Plan’ (April 2023), which states:
“The UK has huge deployment potential for solar power, and we are aiming for 70 gigawatts of ground and rooftop capacity together by 2035. This amounts to a five-fold increase on current installed capacity. We need to maximise deployment of both types of solar to achieve our overall target.
Ground-mounted solar is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation and is readily deployable at scale. The government seeks large scale ground-mount solar deployment across the UK, looking for development mainly on brownfield, industrial and low and medium grade agricultural land. Solar and farming can be complementary, supporting each other financially, environmentally and through shared use of land. We consider that meeting energy security and climate change goals is urgent and of critical importance to the country, and that these goals can be achieved together with maintaining food security for the UK. We encourage deployment of solar technology that delivers environmental benefits, with consideration for ongoing food production or environmental improvement. The government will therefore not be making changes to categories of agricultural land in ways that might constrain solar deployment.
The government considers that there is a strong need for increased solar deployment, as reflected in the latest draft of the Energy National Policy Statements. We recognise that as with any new development, solar projects may impact on communities and the environment. The planning system allows all views to be taken into account when decision makers balance local impacts with national need.”
The government will also be publishing a solar roadmap in 2024 which will set out a clear step by step deployment trajectory to achieve the five-fold increase of providing up to 70GW of solar by 2035 to demonstrate the government’s clear commitment to the sector.
Solar is, therefore, readily deployable at very large scales, one of the cheapest forms of renewable electricity generation, can be sited above biodiversity enhancements such as wildflower meadows, can be done in unison with farming and is at the core of the Governments aims to increase renewable energy production.
Renewable energy is characterised by its intermittent generation profile across multiple sites. This is an inherent characteristic of renewable energy generation and an inevitable consequence of having multiple sites across the country, engaging a number of different technologies, each of which have different generation profiles throughout each day and night, and the seasons. In some instances there may be an ‘excess’ of electricity being generated and supplied to the grid; more than is required at a particular time. At other times there may not be enough. Once operational, the Energy Storage Scheme (ESS) would have the ability to respond rapidly to the short-term variations in demand and fluctuations in the output from renewable energy sources.
ESS projects provide a solution to this. ESS sites, like Almholme Energy Hub, receive electricity from the grid at times of peak generation and can be used to manage that generation profile, releasing electricity back into the grid at times it is needed most.
Without these kind of ESS facilities the electricity generated by renewable energy developments would essentially be curtailed at a time where there is an indisputable urgent national need for energy. The consequence of this is the need to manage an occasionally insufficient and intermittent supply, leading to increased prices, increased additional carbon emissions through additional generation required from non-renewable sources, and reliance less secure sources from abroad, or fossil fuel fired generation which is still used to support the network at times of stress.