Countryside leads the way with solar panels

17 May 2013

Householder uptake of solar panels is far higher in rural areas than in towns and cities, with mid-Devon the solar panel capital of the UK, according to a survey by environment and engineering consultancy WSP, which has analysed figures published last month by DECC.

The divide between town and countryside highlighted by the survey is striking. Installation rates in London, the Welsh valleys and in the west midlands lag far behind more rural areas in mid-Wales and Devon and Cornwall, and this is consistent across the UK. London ranks lowest in the country for solar panel uptake.

The survey also shows that contrary to general perception, neither affluence nor regional sunshine levels are major influences on solar panel installations.

The government’s most recent uptake figures, published in April 2013, showed that 362,000 homes have installed solar panels in the UK since April 2010, approximately one roof in every 70 or around 7% of households.   

However, rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway, parts of Herefordshire and parts of Devon showed above average panel installation (one out of 40 roofs) – despite also having among the country’s lowest per capita incomes – whereas London authorities make up 23 of the 25 ranked bottom of the league table of all 380 local authorities in the UK. 

Sunshine levels are no guarantee of solar panel uptake either, as the survey shows. The Orkney Islands in northern Scotland have high levels of installation (one out of 40 roofs) despite sunshine levels which are far below those in southern England such as in Devon and Cornwall.

WSP director David Symons commented: “While we might think that cities should be happy hunting grounds for solar sales, in reality houses in towns are smaller, their roofs are more likely to be obscured and there’s also less owner occupation. Flats and apartments also have more than one household, but only one roof. 

“In contrast, houses in the country tend to be larger and have more space, so it’s more economical to put a panel on a roof in the country than in the city. What seems clear is that – when combined with biomass, anaerobic digestion facilities and wind – there’s an increasing trend for the countryside to be the renewable power station of the city.”

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