Power to the People: The No-Bills UK Energy Revolution

CSP-email-half-a-solar-uk-01-9piojThe Government has already put forward plans to shelve the solar Feed-in Tariff. Now, it’s announced plans to put £2billion of investment into a new Chinese-owned nuclear power station in Somerset. These changes will temporarily lessen financial incentives to go solar, but only until the arrival of home storage systems like Tesla’s Powerwall. We’ve done the maths – and we think it’s the big energy companies that should be running scared. Because with solar and storage, we won’t need them anymore.

Some sun sums

The UK uses approximately 94.9 billion kWh per year. When we factored in how much energy the average solar panel can produce (120kWh/yr/m²), and how much would proportionately be lost through storage, we think it’d take 791km² – about 28km by 28km –to run our whole country on the Sun and storage alone. That might sound like a lot, but actual built-on area in the UK amounts to 5529km². That’s not even ‘urban’ area, including roads, gardens and reservoirs, which in turn amounts to 16,565km². In other words, spread it around the country, and it starts sounding pretty doable. It’s a huge mission with a hefty pricetag – but if we don’t do something drastic about climate change, we could be paying the ultimate price.

The inconvenient truth

Despite the constant economic alarm over dwindling oil, gas and coal reserves, many leading experts think it’s likely we’ll never run out of fossil fuels – a possibility that is in fact much more sinister. As top energy analyst, Jeffrey Rissman, said last year in an article for LiveScience, “The limiting factor on humans’ fossil fuel use will not be the exhaustion of economically recoverable fossil fuels, but the exhaustion of the Earth’s capacity to withstand the harmful byproducts of fossil fuel combustion”. In other words, as Chicago University recently concluded: even if we manage to access, extract and burn every last gram, the carbon produced would be enough to raise the Earth’s temperature by a mind-melting 16.2℃. For context, scientists generally agree that a 3.6℃ rise would be devastating to the human race. So save up your suncream.

It’s not just fossil fuels that are posing us problems. Top of the political agenda right now is nuclear energy. Our Chancellor, George Osborne, has just announced a £2 billion deal, as part of a £16 billion private Chinese investment in a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset. Nuclear power is renewable, but incredibly expensive to keep under control. And as we all know so well – they’re even more expensive when we fail to do that.

Nights, in shining armour

If your intentions are noble, it’s easy to tout renewables ahead of fossil fuels or nuclear. But what makes solar so much better than other renewables? Well, if you’re talking about potential for saving the environment, it’s rooftop-mounted solar panels that cause least interference to the natural world. They only take up empty space, and even then, exclusively in a man-made setting. The only problem with using the Sun for energy is that you only have it for half a day at a time. Although that is guaranteed (even in the UK…), and still more reliable than many other renewables, like using wind power.

But the problem posed by nighttime to solar users will soon be one of the past. The arrival of affordable, space-efficient storage systems, like Powerwall, will mean you can use captured solar energy day and night – ultimately to become completely independent of the national grid. And it’s here from next year.

The bottom line: No more energy bills!

You read that right – become energy independent and you become free of energy bills. By handing power to the individual, we can simultaneously eradicate fuel poverty, boost our economy and save our planet. Earth as we know it faces a fight for survival, but for the first time, the power is in the hands of the people – thanks to solar and storage. The energy revolution has begun.


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