Special Report

14 reasons why the time for solar is now

The UK market for solar is unsaturated, with less than 8% of the UK’s addressable market having been tapped into so far.

As solar enjoys unprecedented growth, here's all the facts you wanted to know but were afraid to ask…

That leaves at least 14 million homes still to be targeted by the solar PV industry, according to a recent report by the energy data analytics and consultancy LCP Delta – a huge opportunity for the sector.

For the UK to have even a sporting chance of reaching net zero by 2050, maintaining the recent momentum in the solar sector will be vital. According to another report – the IEA’s 2022 Solar PV report – solar generation increased by 22 per cent in 2021 and, as of 2022, solar PV accounts for 3 per cent of global electricity generation.

We have also recently reported this unprecedented growth. The start of this year saw the UK recording its biggest quarter for solar installations since 2015 and latest MCS data showed more than 50,000 solar PV installs in the first three months of 2023 – an increase of 114% increase on the time last year. 2022 had already been a record year.

Winning the popularity contest

With more than 1 million UK homes now having installed solar panels, a new guide looks at 14 key facts about solar panels and the solar industry in 2023, highlighting usage insights as well as answering common questions that explain why this renewable tech is, currently, winning the popularity contest.

Solar panels are now one of the most sought-after home improvements, with many UK homeowners using them to capitalise on the sunny weather to help beat rising energy bills.

As solar energy continues to make the future brighter, here’s the solar panel facts list in full:

  1. An abundant energy source
    173,000 terawatts of solar energy reach the Earth continuously
    – the most abundant energy source on Earth, more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.
  2. NOT a new technology
    The first solar panel was invented in 1883!
    – by American inventor Charles Fritts, who first installed a panel on a New York City roof in 1884.
  3. Key to a low carbon future
    Solar boosted UK renewable energy production to 41.4% in 2022 –
    up 1.8% from the previous year
  4. More than just an option for low carbon electricity
    Solar energy isn’t just used to turn on the lights – 
    solar thermal panels provide hot water
  5. A rapidly growing sector for installers
    Over 111,500 solar PV systems were installed in UK homes last year alone –
    marking a 138% uplift
  6. Popular with consumers
    Solar panels are now the third most popular home improvement
    – after a new bathroom/kitchen, and new windows
  7. It’s not complicated
    No need for planning permission for solar panels –
    as long as they don’t protrude more than 200mm from the roof, and it’s not a listed/conserved property
  8. Future proofing the jobs market
    The UK government aims to create 60,000 solar industry jobs by 2035 –
    increasing solar energy five-fold to a 70GW capacity 
  9. A lower-cost option
    Global solar panel costs have dropped by 82% in last decade
    – costing roughly £6,000 for a solar array on a UK three-bed house with the Government’s zero rate VAT
  10. Adding value to homes
    They increase property prices by 2% averaging £1800
    – and could lower bills by more than £300 a year
  11. No sun? No problem
    Solar panels still work when it’s cloudy!
    – generating around 10-25% of their normal output
  12. Recycling options are growing
    Recycling solar panels is relatively recent and still developing –
    the recoverable assets of effectively recycled panels could yield materials equivalent to 2 billion new panels by 2050
  13. Financial support
    The UK is investing more in residential solar panels – 
    the ECO4 grant scheme is helping homeowners save on solar panels
  14. Global backing
    Solar panel production is being invested in globally –
    while China leads in solar panel production and usage, the Biden-Harris Administration has actually announced it will invest $82 million to increase domestic solar manufacturing and recycling

Researcher Camille Dubuis-Welch comments: “As decarbonisation becomes an increasingly important matter on the global agenda, solar energy technology is finally being regarded with the prominence that it should have always had. Solar panels are one of the main options for green electricity generation and are key to achieving global net-zero. 

With the huge energy price increases the UK has experienced recently, it’s no surprise that the solar sector is seeing increases as large as 400%. Clearly businesses and homeowners are looking for long-term, eco-friendly ways to lower their bills.”

With demand set to accelerate, driven by increased electrification through greater use of heat pumps and electric vehicles, experts predict that UK residential solar PV installations will increase to over 450k a year by 2030.

Solar is definitely set to enjoy its day in the sun!