Solar power breaks UK record in Sheffield as air pollution falls due to coronavirus

Solar power has broke the UK’s all-time peak generation record, as electricity demand reduces in COVID-19 hotspots.

In a lockdown silver lining, a peak of 9.68GW was recorded by the University of Sheffield’s UK solar power generation tracker at 12:30pm on Monday 20th April, surpassing the previous record of 9.55GW set on May 13 2019. 

At the time of the peak, solar energy was meeting almost 30% of UK electricity demand, according to STA chief executive Chris Hewett.

“Ideal weather conditions and lower levels of pollution than normal mean solar is providing record levels of cheap, clean power to the grid,” said Hewett.

“At a time when most of us are working remotely, we can say that solar is truly keeping the WiFi on,” he added.

The latest record follows news earlier this month that renewable power contributed a record 44.6 percent of the UK’s electricity during the first quarter of the year. 

EnAppSys, an energy consultancy firm, believe the figures represent “a significant milestone for Britain’s power industry.”

EnAppSys director Paul Verrill said: “The COVID-19 outbreak had only a slight impact on overall demand in Q1 as the ‘stay at home’ requirements only came into force towards the end of March. We expect a greater impact in Q2 – especially if the lockdown continues until the end of June.”

With most shops, factories and offices closed or under severe restrictions, the UK, is experiencing significant changes in national energy demand. 

Energy experts note, for example, the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement on Monday 23 March caused an immediate 5-10% reduction in electrical demand.

Other European countries, such as Italy and Spain, have all seen an average 10 percent drop in energy usage with bars, restaurants, offices, and factories, which remain closed as social distancing measures continue.

In particular, fossil fuel sources of electricity have been severely impacted by reduced requirements.

The abundance of solar power has led to the longest coal-free period in 2020, with more than 11.5 days passed at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, coal, usually one of the cheapest options, has become the most expensive fuel as a result of this month’s oil crash, according to Oil Price.