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Solar Power Record–But What About The Winter?

May 27, 2017

By Paul Homewood

We’ll no doubt see many headlines like this, every day we get a bit of sunshine this summer:


A record amount of solar power was generated on Friday as Britain basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C, the National Grid has said.

It said 8.7 gigawatts (GW) had been generated at lunchtime, representing 24.3% of total generation across the UK.

The level tops the previous record of 8.48GW set on 10 May.

Duncan Burt, head of control room operations at National Grid, called it the "beginning of a new era".

"We now have significant volumes of renewable energy on the system," he said. "We also have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand."

Alongside the contribution from solar, 23% of power came from nuclear sources, 30% from natural gas and just 1.4% from coal.

Wind, hydro power and biomass were also used.

A National Grid spokeswoman said the record level of solar power was achieved largely because of to the clear and sunny weather on Friday.

She added that it would have been significantly harder to reach if it had been cloudy.

Britain has been getting more of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, as it seeks to meet European Union targets and phase out coal power plants.

However, environmentalists have criticised the government’s decision to cut subsidies to the solar power industry in 2015.

Hannah Martin, head of energy for Greenpeace in the UK, said: "Today’s new record is a reminder of what the UK could achieve if our government reversed its cuts to support for solar.

"All around the world, solar power keeps beating new records as costs come down and power generation goes up."

As usual with the BBC, they don’t tell you the full story. Although solar power peaked at 12.30, it quickly fell away, and by 5pm was only generating 4GW.

To make up for this variability, CCGT had to be ramped up and down.


Interestingly, according to the PV_Live website run by Sheffield University, installed capacity is 12.06 GW, so even the record peak yesterday only generated at 74% of capacity.


As for cloudy days, the chart below shows how irregular daily peak generation has been over the last month.


But the real story with solar power is that it produces virtually nothing during winter months, when power is most required.


Solar rarely got above 10 GWh/day during last December and January, averaging 8.6 GHW/day.

According to BEIS data, demand in Q1 averaged 1.03 TWh/day ( and doubtlessly would have peaked higher in January). In other words, solar power, at best, contributes 0.8% of demand in the depths of winter.

Given that no practical technology exists to store enough surplus solar power in summer months for use in winter, solar remains no more than an expensive irrelevance.


All charts from Sheffield Solar:

  1. Joe Public permalink
    May 27, 2017 12:40 pm

    From the Sheffield Solar site “*Modelled* using 875 live sites ”

    GB had >900,000 sites.

    Aunty’s headline might be “UK achieves solar power record as temperatures soar”, but probably more true is ‘UK achieves solar power record as total capacity 26% greater than previous year’

    • May 27, 2017 3:07 pm

      Absolutely correct. The national Grid has no idea how much solar power is being generated from the million small scale rooftop solar installations. Likewise the National Grid has no idea how much electricity is being consumed. It is a far cry from the sensible days when the National Grid knew very precisely how much electricity was going to be consumed and could plan generation accordingly to maintain voltage and frequency stability. We are entering uncharted territory and nobody in charge seems to care.

      • Derek Buxton permalink
        May 28, 2017 9:55 am

        It is surely far more than not caring, it is deliberately creating disaster. I cannot understand why some jobsworth on the grid can be allowed to dictate how much energy we can use. Their job is to supply what we need not what they want to give us. Once, the grid were an asset and were keeping within a small margin for both Voltage and quantity, legally! Now they seem to be allowed to please themselves, with whose authority? Dropping the legal limits was a stupid mistake……or deliberate to ruin the Country!

    • catweazle666 permalink
      May 27, 2017 4:36 pm

      From the Sheffield Solar site “*Modelled* using 875 live sites ”


      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 28, 2017 3:51 pm

        I doubt it. Their models are very accurate, unlike many I could mention.

  2. Jack Broughton permalink
    May 27, 2017 1:06 pm

    When Duncan Burt says that they can manage supply and demand he means ccgts can follow the load. No thought about the inefficiency, and damage, caused by this, nor of course the massive cost penalty.

  3. May 27, 2017 1:17 pm

    Will it be all over the BBC news next winter on the days when wind and solar generate virtually nothing?

  4. John Plummer permalink
    May 27, 2017 1:22 pm

    Oh how desperate must be the faithful believers in the catastrophic man-made global warming religion for this “news” to be presented as a headline.

  5. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    May 27, 2017 1:35 pm

    Trump News today:

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 27, 2017 1:58 pm

    Solar isn’t metered centrally, if you hover over the solar dial on the grid status page – it’s a model estimate by Sheffield Uni, and believed optimistic.

    Anyway, even if at 1 point it generated 1/4 of low demand, so what – in any other but the alternative reality of the BBC & climate bigots, this demonstrates how pointless it is, it fails to deliver most of the time – AND the cost is disproportionate and the panels were made with fossil fuel energy and contributed to toxic wastelands.

  7. Curious George permalink
    May 27, 2017 3:02 pm

    Oh sunny England. Now it needs a midnight sun.

  8. May 27, 2017 5:16 pm

    My daughter has solar panels and used to bragg about it. She doesn’t mention it now since I moaned as a pensioner that I was subsidising it all. She cooks a good meal so all is well, so long as I do not mention Climate Change! The AGW virus infects us all.
    I am tempted to give her Donna Laframboise’ book : “The delinquent Teenager” for Christmas; but I doubt she will read it.
    It should be required reading in all secondary modern and above schools.

  9. Coeur de Lion permalink
    May 27, 2017 6:17 pm

    According to gridwatch the near sinusoidal curve touched between 8 and 9 GW at about midday. Did I not hear a triumphant BBC statement that this was ‘more than nuclear’? Being kind and multiplying 9 by the base 12 hours and dividing by two to give rough area under the graph yields 54Gwh. Meanwhile poor old nuclear plugging away for 24 hours solid at 8GW yielded 192.

  10. HotScot permalink
    May 27, 2017 8:32 pm

    Well I think this is fantastic news.

    What better an advert for a warmer world than we can all generate our own cheap energy rather than relying on our government to rip us off by using energy generation as yet another stealth tax.

    The greens will be running round like headless chickens if anyone uses it in a debate:

    “You want to eliminate fossil fuel use? Then embrace a warmer world and more solar energy”. And of course:

    “Embrace increasing CO2 as the planet has greened by 14% over 30 years”.

    The alternative?

    Some spotty computer gaming nerd making Sh*t up on a computer about the future? The Americans can’t secure their own defence systems from an autistic kid with a gameboy hacking them, and the rest of the world fell prey to a simple extortion virus.

    What makes dipstick ‘scientists’, who know nothing about computers, so certain they can predict a system as complex as the planets climate system? They can’t predict next months weather far less a hundred years hence.

    But apparently it’s easier to predict climate change than it is weather. In which case I’m sure they can predict how the common cold will have evolved in 100 years. Which is fine, but we’ll still be sneezing for 100 years.

    Sorry, rant over. I feel better now.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      May 28, 2017 9:59 am

      Good one, a rant I cannot possibly disagree with.

  11. May 27, 2017 9:38 pm

    Capita are down due to data centre power outage 36 hours, and backup generators failing.
    What kind of thing would pressure the electric network and cause such a power outage ?

  12. May 28, 2017 2:19 am

    In all things in life the upside, especially a peak is easy to handle. It is the down side that really counts as that is about survival.

    Now I like to make the analogy between different energy sources as it is very insightful. An energy source that all humans use everyday is food. Now this is like renewables and an unreliable source. We have developed over many centuries techniques to store this energy source until we need it. In the modern world this includes strategic reserves of essentials like a year’s worth of stored grain, but the overall price is an EROEI of 10:1 against.

    Until I see from our green fantasists any mention of cost effective electricity reserves for long periods of time when there is minimum solar power and calm winds (like is often is the UK with winter high pressure weather systems) then I really can’t take anything they say with anything more than a pinch of salt.

    Don’t even get me started of what dominates and rules all of our lives EROEI as solar power is a prime example of green fantasists’ madness where overall including manufacturing energy it is close to 1:1.

  13. May 28, 2017 8:27 am

    Hands up – who wants to pay lots for an electricity source that doesn’t work in the dark (up to 17+ hours a day in the UK winter) or in poor weather, and thus depends on other more reliable means of generation being available?


  14. Max Sawyer permalink
    May 28, 2017 10:59 am

    Good to know there is plenty of solar power available when most of it is not needed.

  15. Paul Fox permalink
    May 28, 2017 11:12 am

    Thousand of people want solar pv. But are confused by exactly how it works. What is not pushed is the savings made by generating your own electricity. The feed in tarif cuts were obviosly welcomed by the power companies who make the payments. They want us to generate electricity and send surplus back to them for little money. This xan then be sold off at a higher price. We are all being ripped off as usual. If the feed in tarif was set at the average unit price of electricty ie 14p this would make sense to potential new customers.

  16. Gerry, England permalink
    May 28, 2017 3:55 pm

    How well did solar power do overnight? Or do you need those special 24/7 Spanish solar panels to generate at night?

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