Norfolk is home to over one million solar panels, with the potential to produce 265MW of renewable energy. At full capacity that’s enough to power over 80,000 homes – a fifth of all households in the county.
Nick Woods, of the Solar Trade Association, said that the county as a whole is one of the best places in the UK for solar farms.
“The radiance in Norfolk for solar farms is very good and one of the best in the country along with Cornwall and the south east,” he said. “It is all do to do with the radiance and not the amount of sunlight which makes Norfolk ideal along with the large amount of untouched space.”
One company, Lightsource Renewable Energy, has installed over 175,000 solar panels at six farms in the county over the past three years. The company has farms in King’s Lynn, Thetford, Ryston and Yelverton.
CEO of Lightsource, Nick Boyle, said their investment in the county was due to Norfolk having a vibrant energy sector.
“With plenty of sunshine throughout most of the year, Norfolk and the East of England have an important role to play in the future of the UK’s solar industry,” he said. “Norfolk is home to a vibrant energy sector and we are proud to support it, offering major energy users in the area the opportunity to source a portion of their electricity from our solar farms via a private wire connection, reducing strain on the National Grid and boosting their corporate social responsibilty credentials.”
The solar industry has expanded drastically over the past five years with the cost of solar dropping by 70pc. Last year the government announced that they would be cutting subsidies for the solar panels, claiming that solar should largely be able to support themselves. But Mr Wood said that self-sufficiency is still years from reality.
“Due to the government scrapping subsidies we may see a slowdown in the next two to three years in farms being built,” he said. “As an industry we are a few years away from independency without the subsidies and will no longer be able to develop at the rate we have been.”
But more solar farms continue to be built in the county. When the Scottow Enterprise Park on the former RAF Coltishall site is completed later this year, it become one of the biggest solar farms in the country.
Almost 200,000 solar panels have been installed next to the runways with a total capacity of 50MW of energy.
When it is completely hooked up to the hangers on enterprise park, it is expected to generate more than £10m for Norfolk County Council over the next 25 years.