For First Time Ever, Solar Dominates UK Power Supply

CC BY-SA 2.0. Solar Trade Association

Thanks largely to its massive expansion in wind power capacity, the UK recently had several days where it burned no coal at all.

But, unfortunately, the wind hasn't been blowing so hard of late.

Luckily, it appears solar has stepped up to the plate. In fact, according to Solar Power Portal, solar became the dominant source of power for the UK's energy grid for three straight hours on Sunday afternoon.

Specifically, solar was generating between 26.7% and 28.5% of demand during that three hour period, while nuclear and gas were somewhere around 25% each. Meanwhile, coal hardly factored at all.

True, this was thanks to unusually sunny Bank Holiday Weekend. And yes, critics will note that such intermittency is in itself a challenge when you seek to balance the grid. But as renewable energy capacity grows, as our ability to store energy improves, and as the grid gets smarter and we can better balance demand with supply, it's a fair bet that these records won't just come more frequently—they'll be a much smoother ride for the grid operators too.

As for owners of traditional, fossil fuel-powered generating capacity, it may not be such a smooth ride. Also reported by Solar Power Portal, the wholesale price of electricity dipped below £5/MWh. As Mike has reported before, these sudden drops in electricity prices offer renewables an advantage because solar and wind have very low marginal costs in terms of on-going generation of energy.

It will be interesting to see what happens next time the sun starts shining in back in Blightey. (Yes, you can never quite be sure when that will actually be...)