Just 1% - Solar Panels And Electricity In The UK [Infographic]

Just 1% - Solar Panels And Electricity In The UK [Infographic]

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What is the total land area required to provide enough electricity for the whole UK solely from solar PV panels?

This is the sort of question we like to think about here at The Eco Experts. While Solar PV still only provides a small fraction of the total electricity generating capacity for the UK, its share is rapidly increasing. So just how many solar panel installations would it take to provide for all our electricity needs and how much space would they take up?

To find the answer we used on the following information:

  • In 2009 the UK consumed 351.8 billion kWh of electricity.
  • Under optimal conditions (south facing, no shade) a 4 kWh solar panel system (large home system) can produce 3,433.60 kWh per year and takes up 25.72 m2 of space.
  • This means the UK would need 102,458,062 of these installations to meet all power needs.
  • These would take up 2.63522135 X 109 m2 of space which works out to 2,635 km2.
  • The UK is 244,820 km2.
  • So the UK would need to devote 1% of total land area to solar panels to meet all power needs.

Not really that much space when you think about it. In fact, the numbers above assume the use of relatively small scale home installations. If larger commercial systems were used, the required space would be further reduced.

How much would all this cost? Well a typical 4kW solar panel system can be installed from around £7,000. This means the 102,458,062 installations would cost somewhere around £717,206,434,000 or a little less than half of UK GDP. While that may seem like a lot, keep in mind solar panels can last for 25+ years and that this has fallen from well over £1.2 trillion it would have cost just two years ago. Plus, if the UK decided to invest in that many systems we could probably get some sort of bulk discount.

Of course, solar panels only produce power when during the day time. So if the UK were to get all it's power from solar panels we'd need a way of storing all that energy to use at night. Thus solar panels will likely never fully replace all other forms of power generation. Still it goes to show you that we can power the country, while reducing carbon emissions without taking up a lot of space.

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