Sunny Side Up – the UK's National Solar Centre Opens

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Centre for improving solar technology, research and skills starts up in Cornwall

The National Solar Centre opened this week. It is planned to be a centre of excellence for solar research, innovation and training in the UK. The government have announced plans to increase the amount of solar power generated in Britain from 2GW at present to around 22GW – a greater than tenfold gain. The centre, based in one of the UK’s sunnier spots at St. Austell in Cornwall, will be a major building block in the process to achieve that aspiration.

The £972,000 centre, run by the world-renowned Building Research Establishment, is focussed on the following areas:

  • improving design of solar panels and associated technologies
  • collecting and analysing data and creating research reports
  • providing training to the industry
  • producing guidelines for best practice
  • linking to research establishments throughout the UK
  • facilitating financial and legal structures to enhance the attractiveness of the industry to investors

The Solar Centre will partner with other stakeholders, such as the construction industry, finance providers, insurers and local authorities to enhance the UK’s prominence in this sector of the global renewables industry. Jonny Williams, Project Manager, says, “The aim of the BRE National Solar Centre is to provide independent, research-led evidence to support the growth of the UK solar power industry.”

Energy Minister Greg Barker officially opens the BRE National Solar Centre, Cornwall; photo courtesy BREWatford
Energy Minister Greg Barker officially opens the BRE National Solar Centre, Cornwall; photo courtesy BREWatford

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, who opened the Centre, says, “Solar has a key part to play in our energy mix, and later this year we will be launching the UK’s first Government solar strategy, to capitalise on growth so far and explore ways to take it even further.”

The centre is supported by DECC and Cornwall Council and has received funding from Convergence European Regional Development Fund. Major partners in the project include the Eden Project, the Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust, Plymouth University and Exeter University’s Tremough campus.

The facility will have indoor and outdoor testing areas, which are not operational yet, but will be in the near future. Cornwall was chosen because it receives the greatest annual sunshine of any UK county and is therefore ideal for the centre.

National Solar Centre

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