Yes it's bright, but don't be dazzled

Quite a lot was made in the news yesterday of what was reported to be the first solar farm to be built without requiring any public subsidy.

Obviously the companies concerned reveled in all the publicity they could get. And the UK Government were there too. Fairly obviously, the subliminal message they wanted to get across was that if this solar farm didn't need any subsidy, neither would any other.

But if that were true, we would expect hundreds, if not thousands, of new applications for subsidy-free solar farms to be in the pipeline.


I had to read through quite a number of reports before I found what made this solar farm special. This is from the Financial Times:

The Clayhill farm has been built near the town of Flitwick next to an existing solar project which did, however, benefit from a subsidy under the renewables obligation mechanism. Analysts said basing new projects next to existing schemes was crucial to drive down costs.

“That makes a big difference because obviously a lot of the common infrastructure you need is already in place,” said Peter Atherton, a consultant for Cornwall Energy, a consultancy, said.

Financial Times - 26 September 2017

What this means is that subsidies are still needed for solar PV farms, but that the costs are coming down, at least to the extent that subsidy for the original solar farm can now be stretched to cover both it and this second adjacent development.

We should also remember that all new power generation requires subsidy in some form, including gas. But what's happening with renewables is that the cost of solar PV is coming down in a similar way to the way that the cost of wind power is coming down, see here.

The future of our generating needs is clearly in renewables. We just need the UK government not to cut off the subsidies that renewables still need in order to be constructed ... and certainly not while they are still saying they want to pour far larger subsidies into non-renewables like nuclear power.

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