One thing we have learnt this week – solar has overtaken coal

800px-Shelby_Farms_Solar_Farm_Memphis_TN_2013-02-02_008This week it was announced that solar has overtaken coal for electricity production in the UK.  Not only that, but on April the 9th there was no coal fired generation for the first time since 1882.  These figures are unofficial but likely to be true. This is an astonishing turnaround.  When those of us were lobbying for a German style feed in tariff we thought this day would be decades off (especially with carbon capture and storage).  For years coal has dominated our power profile although no coal fired power stations have been built in the UK since the early 70’s.  In fact it was the miners strike in in 1974 when I was kid and the resulting three day week that gave me my interest in energy matters.

Solar has overtaken coal not just because of the rise of solar capacity, but also due to the decline of coal.  I saw a very interesting documentary looking a Scottish and Southern energy.  They looked in one programme at an old coal fired power station.  The problems with it were multiple.  For starters it used to be run all the time as baseload.  In latter years when there was lots of wind etc. it really was switched off.  This is less good for the kit and was wearing it out faster.  In addition it was old – and there is a warning here for nuclear- people were loosing the knowledge to repair it.  Its since closed.  Even before the governments’ coal phaseout announcement by 2025 the trend was clear.  Soon solar will have overtaken coal permanently and its rapidly closing on nuclear and gas.  The future really is renewable.


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