Clouds gather over solar power after golden years of success _ environment _ the guardian

The latest solar milestone was particular symbolic, as it was announced on the day that the world’s largest coalmining group, Peabody Energy, applied for bankruptcy protection in the US. Gas yourself And it is less than a month since Longannet, the last coal-fired power station in Scotland, closed its doors after half a century of power generation and the last deep coalmine in Britain shut at Kellingley.

The energy world is being revolutionised by a variety of factors, but undoubtedly the most important are based around the need to beat global warming and move away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner technologies. E85 gas stations in san antonio tx Governments of all hues have incentivised solar, wind and biomass while increasingly tightening regulations and costs around carbon-heavy coal.

Wind power has had the faster take-off in Britain, with the government continuing to provide major subsidies to support huge projects offshore. Gas oil ratio Solar – made up of many smaller facilities including thousands of household rooftop arrays – has been on a slower burn.

The record set when solar put coal in the shade resulted from the enormous decline in coal usage as much as the enormous growth in solar. Gas questions But sun power has more than 9GW of installed capacity in place, out of a total of 80 to 90GW of total power capacity in Britain.

Peter Atherton is a hard-nosed energy analyst at Jefferies investment bank in the City of London with a keen interest in whether Britain can keep the lights on, and even he admits that solar growth in the country has been “explosive”.

And it is not just in Britain. Electricity bill nye worksheet Worldwide solar investment topped $160bn (£113bn) last year – more than gas and coal together. Gas density of air China alone is expected to add 100GW of new capacity in the years to 2020 while India will not be far behind.

The latest edition of the Economist declares solar could be a world-beater: “The intermittency of the sun will remain an issue. Gas laws But if storage costs continue to decline, the possibility of combining batteries on land with energy from the giant battery pack in the sky could be unbeatable.”

The success so far has been driven by a combination of falling product prices – solar panels are 80% cheaper now than they were five years ago – but also by generous subsidies ultimately paid for by the consumer.

The British solar industry barely existed at the turn of the decade, with a tiny 65MW of capacity installed across the country. Electricity kwh The introduction of the generous feed-in tariff (FiT) aid scheme in 2010 kickstarted a revolution. Wd gaster cosplay tutorial By 2011 around 1GW of solar had been installed, with this figure doubling over the next 12 months even though FiT rates had been cut in half.

By 2013, helped in part by the use of another subsidy scheme set up for wind, the renewables obligation (RO), large ground-mounted arrays began to be put in place. Electricity wiki Solar capacity had burst through the 3GW level, rising to 9.2GW by the end of 2015. Gas cap code The industry now believes the figure is close to 10GW and could hit 11GW by the end of 2016.

But over the last year both the RO and FiT support mechanisms have been either removed or wound dramatically further down – with the government arguing the industry should largely be fending for itself while bill payers should be spared unnecessary cost.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said: “Solar, nuclear, offshore wind and shale gas all have an important part to play in our future energy mix – this diversity is essential so we can deliver secure, affordable and clean energy for future generations.

But the solar industry argues it is being abandoned at the worst possible moment – just a few years before becoming self-sufficient, and at a time ministers seem prepared to back much more expensive nuclear or offshore wind power projects.

As many as 2,000 solar jobs are estimated to have been lost over the last 12 months and Decc’s own worst case scenarios warn of 18,700 jobs on the line.

Lightsource Renewable Energy, the largest owner of solar assets in Britain, cut 25% of its staff last week, while other companies such as Absolute Renewable Energy and Eco Juice have just called in the liquidators. Gas utility The biggest collapse came last autumn, when the Mark Group failed, leaving almost 1,000 jobless.

“Solar is highly reliable. Electricity bill cost per month It can be deployed rapidly and it can be accurately forecast ahead,” said Leonie Greene from the Solar Trade Association lobby group.

“The current UK policy of suppressing solar’s potential needs an urgent rethink if we are serious about saving bill-payers money while modernising our power system at the pace climate change demands.”

The key to any debate about solar is cost – but assessing like-for-like figures is complex and hotly disputed. Gaston y astrid lima The price of energy from any new Hinkley nuclear reactors has been pinned at £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) over a 35-year period.

By comparison, Lightsource says it won a “contract for difference” deal in a recent auction under a government scheme at the competitive subsidy price of £79.82 over 15 years. Gas nozzle keeps stopping But Decc estimated in 2013 that large solar will generally cost about £160 per MWh, offshore wind £115 – and gas only £80.

Nick Boyle, the chief executive of Lightsource, is unhappy about the way some solar subsidies were hacked back and the fact that even government now only expects 13GW of capacity to be installed by 2020, but says the row has obscured a much better story.

“No one believed that this industry could be built up so efficiently and so fast. Gas vs electric oven cost To go to 10GW from almost a standing start in a couple of years and at a cost lower than any other European country should be celebrated. When was gas 99 cents in california Solar in Britain has been an amazing success.” SOLAR IN NUMBERS