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Solar Power

Solar power is the process of creating electricity using photovoltaics (PV) to capture the suns energy using cells. This is achieved when light shines on the semi conducting photovoltaic cells, which knocks electrons loose to create a flow of electricity.

A solar farm has a large number of photovoltaic panels which generates direct current (DC) which is taken from the panels in small DC cables to a combiner box where the cables are increased in size. These larger cables run through to a power invertor which converts the direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) before running back to transformers and switchgear in an onsite substation. The transformer increases the voltages to 33kV or 132kV where export cables to run to the point of connection which will connect to a distribution network operator (DNO) or transmission system operator (TSO) network.

There is currently 13 gigawatts of installed solar capacity in the U.K. which was primarily installed over the last 10 years. This boom in the construction of solar farms was driven by government feed in tariffs that were put in place in 2010 to subsidise to construction of renewable energy generation projects. There have been many problems associated with the operation of these solar farms since construction. This is thought to be caused as the incorrect specification and installation of products by unqualified personnel who were keen to take advantage of the government tariffs.

The U.K. government removed these feeder tariffs in 2017 which slowed the solar farm construction sector, almost to a stop. The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) was introduced in 2019 and has been in effect from the start of 2020. This is not a direct replacement for the feed in tariff scheme but a new initiative to reward solar generators for electricity exported to the grid.

The SEG initiative, reduced cost of the photovoltaic cells in addition to the increased output associated with larger solar farms in excess of 30MW means several project are currently in planning or under construction.