Recent figures show that the BN postcode area has been kicking out solar PV capacity. More than 9435 buildings across the BN area now have solar. That’s around 36MW of clean solar power

Brighton Energy Coop owns 3.3% of our region’s solar capacity (with 1.35MW) – our new projects take us over the 4% mark! (check them out here).

The regional figures come from BEIS registers of registered FIT installations – horrific spreadsheets nearly a million rows deep, that detail every solar installation in the country that’s registered for FITs (you can download a much more manageable dataset I’ve put together for the Brighton area here).

Home Owners are Brighton’s Solar Kings (and Queens)

What they show is that a vast majority of the above capacity sits on domestic roofs (note the figures don’t include solar farms). Nearly 9000 homes have solar PV them in the Brighton area, classified as 4kwp or less. This creates an impressive 30.219MW – just from peoples’ houses.

This highlights the radically different energy ecosystem that has grown up since FITs kicked off in 2010. Suddenly – from a more or less standing start – thousands of people independently produce electricity. Repeated across the country this adds up to more than 900,000 buildings who have become electricity producers.

The figures also show that the majority of solar was put up in 2011. In 2015 the solar capacity also dramatically increased. 2017 is likely to be the worst year in the Brighton area since FITs began (the figures are from the end of September).

This is what the UK government calls an ‘intellegent’ renewable energy policy.

Larger Roofs lack solar

While plenty of house roofs have solar, many larger roofs go without. Only 5.221MW of solar has been installed on sites classed as ‘commercial or industrial’ – or 205 buildings. It is blindingly obvious to anyone with even a passing interest in renewables that there is a great deal of empty rooftops; the FIT system has largely failed to movitate these rooftop owners to get PV up there.

(As an aside – I brought this up with then energy secretary Greg Clark when he visited BEC in 2013. He waved it off saying Feed in Tariff rates were ‘sufficient’. Not sufficient enough to incitivise large roof owners then – or now, as the figures clearly show. A more practical approach might be to offer reduced business rates for those hosting solar, something particularly viable since the end of FITs is now in sight, removing obstacles around state aid rules).

Community groups and schools work with a roof sizes, and have 0.9MW registered, on 37 buildings in the BN postcode area, again illustrating this difficulty.

Solar Inequality – some postcodes 80% less solar than others

The government spreadsheets also highlight discrepancies between BN postcodes (see an interactive map of which postcodes have what installed here)

BN1, 2, 7 and 8 (roughly the central and east of Brighton, Lewes and Ringmer) each have more than 500 installations within them.

Areas such as Portslade (BN42) and Worthing (BN11) have installation rates up to 80% less to these ‘solar hot spots’. BN21 – central west Eastbourne – is noticeably low on solar installations – only 146 solar installations in what is predominatly an urban area.

There is, therefore, a degree of what might be called solar inequality across our region – some postcode areas have a relatively high level, while others are substantially less.

This does not appear to be an urban/ rural split (BN27 – a predominantly rural area around Hailsham – for example – has 490 installations within it), the difference is more likely to be based on differences of wealth.

Regardless, the region has made great strides in going renewable, thanks to the efforts of large number of people. As the above figures show, it’s homeowners who have led the way: hats off to you all.

Perhaps its time that local authorities took an interest in developing renewables in our area and devise new frameworks and policies to support the great solar rollout; developing more power to the people can only be a good thing.

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