EDP’s Puff Piece For Solar
By Paul Homewood
h/t Dave Ward
Do you sometimes get the impression that renewable energy gets a free ride from most of our media these days? The EDP is certainly no exception; take a look at their latest puff:
Norfolk is home to over one million solar panels, with the potential to produce 265MW of renewable energy. At full capacity that’s enough to power over 80,000 homes – a fifth of all households in the county.
Our interactive map shows where the main solar farms are, with west Norfolk and the north coast being particularly favourable locations.
Nick Woods, of the Solar Trade Association, said that the county as a whole is one of the best places in the UK for solar farms.
“The radiance in Norfolk for solar farms is very good and one of the best in the country along with Cornwall and the south east,” he said. “It is all do to do with the radiance and not the amount of sunlight which makes Norfolk ideal along with the large amount of untouched space.”
One company, Lightsource Renewable Energy, has installed over 175,000 solar panels at six farms in the county over the past three years. The company has farms in King’s Lynn, Thetford, Ryston and Yelverton.
CEO of Lightsource, Nick Boyle, said their investment in the county was due to Norfolk having a vibrant energy sector.
“With plenty of sunshine throughout most of the year, Norfolk and the East of England have an important role to play in the future of the UK’s solar industry,” he said. “Norfolk is home to a vibrant energy sector and we are proud to support it, offering major energy users in the area the opportunity to source a portion of their electricity from our solar farms via a private wire connection, reducing strain on the National Grid and boosting their corporate social responsibilty credentials.”
The solar industry has expanded drastically over the past five years with the cost of solar dropping by 70pc. Last year the government announced that they would be cutting subsidies for the solar panels, claiming that solar should largely be able to support themselves. But Mr Wood said that self-sufficiency is still years from reality.
“Due to the government scrapping subsidies we may see a slowdown in the next two to three years in farms being built,” he said. “As an industry we are a few years away from independency without the subsidies and will no longer be able to develop at the rate we have been.”
But more solar farms continue to be built in the county. When the Scottow Enterprise Park on the former RAF Coltishall site is completed later this year, it become one of the biggest solar farms in the country.
Almost 200,000 solar panels have been installed next to the runways with a total capacity of 50MW of energy.
When it is completely hooked up to the hangers on enterprise park, it is expected to generate more than £10m for Norfolk County Council over the next 25 years.
Significantly there is no comment section, which is unusual for them. But there is a poll, which gets a favourable result by asking skewed questions:
So, let’s have a look at some of the claims, and see what critical questions the EDP might have posed:
1) Norfolk is home to over one million solar panels, with the potential to produce 265MW of renewable energy. At full capacity that’s enough to power over 80,000 homes – a fifth of all households in the county.
As usual with renewable propagandists, they talk of capacity, and not output.
According to DECC, solar only produces at about 11% of its capacity on average. Worse still, in winter, when power is at a premium, it only runs at 4%, and of course nothing at all at peak times in early mornings and evenings.
The other trick is to talk about “the number of homes”, ignoring the fact that domestic consumption accounts for less than a third of national consumption.
When all users are factored in, the reality is that solar would provide less than 5% of Norfolk’s electricity needs.
2) It is expected to generate more than £10m for Norfolk County Council over the next 25 years
The solar farm is not being operated by the Council, but by a company called Scottow Moor Solar Ltd, who will actually be paid for the power produced.
Norfolk County Council are understood to have paid £4 million to the MOD for RAF Coltishall. The income of £10 million over 25 years represents £400,000 pa, presumably for lease payments.
While this is a reasonable return, it is presumably not inconceivable that they could have made at least as much from leasing the site for other purposes, or selling for property development.
Indeed, thinking aloud, one wonders whether the Council undertook a full and proper business case analysis, to ensure that they were maximising returns for tax payers. Is this an issue the EDP have investigated in the past?
3) The issue of costs.
Reference is made to “Last year the government announced that they would be cutting subsidies for the solar panels, claiming that solar should largely be able to support themselves. But Mr Wood said that self-sufficiency is still years from reality.”
But the EDP has been pathetically inadequate in questioning this issue further.
Most existing solar farms in Norfolk are, and will continue to be, in receipt of subsidy payments via Renewable Obligation Certificates, currently worth in the region of £40/MWh. This effectively doubles the amount they would receive from the market.
Future developments, including Phase 2 of Scottow, currently under construction, will be paid under Contracts for Difference. These guarantee an index linked price for 15 years, and the latest auction last year is paying out £83/MWh to solar farms, more than double market price.
If those 80,000 homes, “fully powered by solar”, had to pay for this solar power themselves, they would find their electricity bills rising by about 40%!
There is, of course, no mention at all from the EDP that solar power is extremely intermittent. Perhaps they should ask where the back up power will come from in winter, or when it is dark.
They might then like to tell us how much extra this will cost bill payers as well.
It is easy to see why the majority of the EDP readers think renewable energy is so wonderful. If they were given all the facts, they might have a different view.