It may have meant lockdown for many of its buildings, but that hasn’t slowed down Portsmouth City Council’s growing fleet of solar panel installations. As the UK broke sunshine records between March and May, the council’s 400 solar systems outshone their previous best to generate enough clean electricity to power 350 homes for a year! The panels, installed on schools, offices, community centres and housing sites, thrived in the long periods without rain and cloud; generating 14% more power per panel than the same months last year.
Solar power is free and clean, allowing the sites on which it is installed to reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions. In fact, the carbon saved from the 1.3 gigawatt hours of power, is equivalent to nearly 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. It is for these reasons that the council aims to pursue the installation of more solar in the future; promoting its deployment and committing millions of pounds to further developments using the technology. As lockdown restrictions ease, the council plans to emerge with a renewed drive to install solar and storage technology across a range of the council-owned sites and has plans for its first solar farm.
Commenting upon the record, Councillor Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing said, “This record is a real statement as to the success of our ongoing solar campaign; which helps to reduce the council’s energy overheads whilst tackling climate change and providing much needed employment in the low-carbon sector. Our commitment to this technology remains strong, with a new multi-million pound procurement framework close to being established to help to deliver solar and storage in the coming years.”
It has been a period of records on a natural scale, as well as for Portsmouth. As the Met Office confirmed the sunniest period between March and May since records began in 1929, with over 600 hours of sunshine, the UK’s solar systems produced more than ever. This has helped to generate huge amounts of clean power, meaning that coal-fired power stations haven’t turned on for more than 50 days; the first time that this has happened for 140 years. Meanwhile, the lockdown has led to much lower consumption of power nationally, as workplaces and industry have been shut down.
Councillor Dave Ashmore, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change made reference to this wider context, “It’s important that everyone does their bit to tackle climate change and Portsmouth City Council is no exception. We recognise that there is more to do, which is why this council has declared a climate emergency and helped set up the Climate Action Board to action further change. Whilst it is undoubtedly good news to see such a huge amount of solar generated; we shouldn’t lose sight that the phenomena driving this, such as record low rainfall and high temperature, may themselves be down to human-made climate change. We should prioritise a green recovery as we come out of the COVID crisis to ensure our planet is fit for future generations.“