Small-scale energy generation using solar panels or wind turbines has grown by 400% in less than 18 months in the UK, with Sheffield seeing the biggest increase in renewable installations per 1,000 people.
A new study from energy consultancy AEA looked at the growth in renewable energy capacity in the UK’s large cities since the government’s feed-in tariff (FIT) launched last April. The scheme offers guaranteed cash payments to households and communities who produce their own electricity.
Top of the table was Sheffield, which increased its renewable energy capacity, of which 99% is solar, to more than 3.5 kilowatts electrical per 1,000 people (kWe is a measure of electrical power). Here’s the top 10:
London added more renewable power than all the other cities, but only ranked sixth on the list when the data was assessed per head.
Solar panels on the rise
Solar panels are the most popular way of generating renewable power, accounting for 75% of feed-in tariff scheme payments, according to AEA. Wind power accounts for 14%.
So far, more than 44,000 solar installations have been registered for the FIT, with small domestic systems making up the majority (38,300).
Overall, Cornwall is the area which generates the most solar photovoltaic (PV) power in the UK, with more than 1,000 solar installations and three megawatts electrical (MWe) capacity. Aberdeenshire generates the most wind power and Perth and Kinross the most hydro electricity.
Solar power benefits
Which? research has found it is possible to make up to £28,000 profit from a 4kWp solar photovoltaic (PV) system over 25 years, under the FIT. To qualify you must use products and installers registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
Our guide to buying solar panels has more on what you need to consider before going ahead with a solar panel installation.
Which? energy expert Sylvia Baron says: ‘This data shows that you do not need to live on the equator to generate electricity from solar panels. The UK has enough daylight to generate good returns.
‘If you are considering cashing in on the generous FIT scheme, we would advise you do so before April 2012, since the tariff is likely to be changed then, most probably decreasing slightly.’
Beware of poor solar advice
A recent Which? investigation uncovered some solar panel companies using dodgy sales tactics and offering poor advice to people looking to buy solar PV panels – see our undercover solar video footage to see some of the examples we found. REAL Assurance, the accreditation scheme for the energy generations system industry, has also expressed concerns about high levels of mis-selling.
Consumer Focus is appealing to customers who have had a solar panel installed to fill in a questionnaire about their experience, to it can start investigating problem areas.