Solar Energy UK
A government survey has found that the public is happy to see large-scale, ground-mounted solar power facilities built in their local area, dismissing claims that they are unpopular.
More broadly, the latest figures on the public’s views concerning renewable energy, collated by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), demonstrate that solar power is significantly more popular than any other form of electricity generation.
Asked their views on the prospect of a solar farm being built in their local area, 81% of respondents said they would be very happy, fairly happy or would not mind. Only 3% were significantly opposed, while 8% felt that a solar farm would not be feasible locally.
When surveyed in the spring, people who described themselves as being concerned about climate change were significantly happier than others to have a solar farm or wind farm built in their area. More surprisingly, men were found to be more likely to have positive attitudes to renewables, with 58% backing local solar farms compared to 51% of women.
A total of 85% backed renewable energy in general, with the highest levels of support coming from under-35s and people with university educations. Few were opposed, with most of the rest having no particular view.
More than half of the public said they strongly supported solar power specifically, with a third supporting it less strongly. In all, it is endorsed by 87%, with only 1% saying that they were opposed.
Furthermore, nuclear, shale gas and experimental fusion technologies lag far behind solar energy in the eyes of the public. Unlike them, solar is available now, is highly economical and can be installed rapidly. Solar already provides about 4% of the UK’s total electricity consumption, a figure which is expanding rapidly as more and more businesses and householders recognise its benefits.
Chris Hewett, chief executive of trade association Solar Energy UK, said: “These results are another ringing endorsement of the UK’s fast-growing solar power sector. Whether slashing home energy bills, powering warehouses or mounted on land managed for sheep and wildlife, it is no wonder solar power has won the backing of British people. These figures also show how out of touch some MPs are with the public on solar farms. There are no more popular and low-cost ways to generate power than solar and wind.”
BEIS also asked people their views on fitting solar panels to their homes. The survey found that nearly 60% of owner-occupied households that don’t already have them are likely to consider installation within the next few years. Only 6% said that they definitely would not do so.
The key reasons given for thinking about putting solar panels on the roof were cutting electricity bills (85% of owner-occupiers), providing renewable energy for environmental reasons (81%) and being less dependent on the national grid (56%). Although excess power can be sold via the Smart Export Guarantee scheme, this was mentioned by only 38% of respondents.
Asked what would encourage them to agree to a solar installation, most said it would be better financial support. Better information on local planning rules, having a better understanding of solar power in general and working through a community initiative would also help.
Not only is solar the most popular form of renewable energy, but the survey results also stand in stark contrast to views on other forms of electricity generation. Nuclear power was supported by only 37% of respondents, with fracking for shale gas securing only 17%. Although fusion power had support from almost half, the technology is far from becoming a viable commercial proposition, despite huge public investment.
Solar energy supplies about 4% of the UK’s total annual electricity consumption, with 20% or more being common around midday in summer. Solar already provides 20% or more of the UK’s power around midday in summer. Current record production is estimated at 9.68 gigawatts – or about two and a half times the maximum output of the UK’s largest power station, Drax.
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