Birmingham is the largest Local Authority in Europe. With over 406,000 households, we have the potential to become one of the most powerful domestic producers of solar energy in England, beating the public’s renewable demands. The common complaints against solar power, such as Britain’s gloomy weather and lack of heat, are simply not relevant. Britain’s insolation level is proportional to the island’s place in the globe. In fact, Birmingham exists on a peninsula of slightly higher insolation than the rest of the Midlands.
So how should Birmingham benefit from this gift? As a nation, Britain is crowded, we’ve simply no room for large photovoltaic solar farms like Nellis in America or Okhotnykovo in Ukraine. Britain’s answer is to install unobtrusive solar panels on our roofs. This puts the power in the hands of the people, making their bills cheaper, cutting their CO2 and even earning them money. On a large scale, however, the rewards are even greater.
In this time of economic turmoil and uncertainty, the solar industry is one of the few sectors which has shown impressive growth, significantly lowering costs, promoting entrepreneurship and creating jobs. Birmingham could benefit from this, as it has a total roofspace of 37 km2, of which about a third is optimally aligned. This could produce as much as 1.295 TWh in a year according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). To put this in perspective, Birmingham’s largely under-insulated businesses and households use 4.9 TWh a year. Home-grown solar power, combined with a reduction in energy usage, could reduce the city’s dependency significantly.
Not only that but, according to research conducted by the EU, this would guarantee almost 1,300 highly skilled jobs for 20 years. Every year, these workers would earn a total of over £38 million. On top of this, each job directly related to solar power produces another 2.3 jobs in other sectors, such as sales, mineral extraction, land survey and landscaping. Even assuming the average pay grade is quite low on these auxiliary jobs, which there is not cause to believe it is, their combined income would still reach a whopping £77 million per year. Over 20 years, this workforce would earn £2.2 billion, a significant boost to the economy. And this is in Birmingham alone.
What about the householder? Well, if every home-owner and businessperson who was eligible had could earn to about £1198 per installation every year in savings and exports. With energy bills set to rise by over 20% by 2020, but the amount of electricity we use decreasing, each household or business would save more and more each year.* What’s more, with Birmingham’s pioneering Birmingham Energy Savers scheme, you can get assistance and advice like nowhere else in the country.
*Figures from Ofgem 06/08/09
Economics aside, clean energy always has a personal, good-will factor. Reducing your footprint is like lifting a weight off your shoulders. To give an example, if the aforementioned solar panels were installed instead of relying on dirty gas, it would save Birmingham 556,850 tonnes of CO2 allowing it to achieve its carbon reduction targets years ahead of schedule. To put that into perspective: it is as much CO2 as would be produced drivi ng a MINI coupé around the Earth 121,887 and a half times.
Data gathered using: www.carpages.co.uk/co2,
The time to switch to solar is now. Birmingham is the perfect place to pioneer a clean, green future for Britain. It will create highly skilled, well paid jobs for Brummies, give people the power to generate their own energy and benefit the environment. This is Birmingham’s chance to forever throw off its dirty industrial shackles and forge onward to a clean, energy safe and highly employable future. The tools are there, we just need to seize them.