A new report has found that renewable energy production in South West England has now risen to over 1GW in installed capacity. This is potentially enough to power up to 700,000 homes.

This translates to a 50% increase in the last 12 months, about a third of which comes from Devon alone. A significant uptake in solar PV panels is seen as one of the key drivers for this jump. This is due partly to the availability of government subsidy and a reduction in the cost of production. According to Regen South West’s report, solar production currently accounts for around 251MW of renewable energy.

Although around 7.3% of the South West region’s electricity is now being generated from renewable sources, there is still some way to go before the government’s target of 15% by 2020 is met.

Despite this endorsement from the South West, there continues to be disquiet from several quarters including local politicians. Their main concern is that solar photovoltaics could be taking up land which might otherwise be used for agricultural purposes. Other practical issues include the visual impact on the countryside, the difficulties of intermittent supply and additional costs from insurers due to the fragility of some systems.

While acknowledging the need for large open spaces for solar PV, the report anticipates that in the future, providers will work alongside communities in reducing their footprint. It’s expected that they will focus instead on using brownfield sites and commercial roof space in an attempt to allay concerns.

The advantages for businesses that choose to make the switch to renewable energy are clear. By taking their environmental responsibilities seriously, businesses could enjoy a marketing boost. Companies installing solar photovoltaic systems can potentially earn considerable amounts of money from feed-in tariffs which could go some way towards off-setting the cost of switching to renewable business energy systems.  Closing on a bright note, Regen SW also stated that they thought that up to 34,000 new jobs could be created in the renewables sector.

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