27th June 2011
UK's Biggest Solar Farm

The UK’s biggest solar power farm is now generating electricity for a business park in Oxford.  Generating up to 682 MWh (megawatts) a year means that the park will save 350 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year - the same amount of CO2 that is released by a public swimming pool in one year!

Solar panels either create electricity or heat water.  Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels change daylight into electricity and are made up of hundreds of individual cells.  The word Photovoltaic is a combination of the Greek word for Light and the name of the physicist Allesandro Volta who invented the battery in 1800.  Materials within the panel’s cells react when exposed to light converting that light into electricity.  

The new solar power farm in Oxford is the biggest ever in the UK with 3000 PV panels generating enough electricity to power 36 homes for a year!  In Spain and Germany there are many solar farms and they can be up to ten times bigger with the largest harvesting the sun into 120,000 PV solar panels.  

Most of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is a 'greenhouse gas', which when it is released through the burning of fossil fuels helps to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, making the planet's surface gradually hotter and adding to climate change through a process known as global warming. 

To reduce emissions of harmful gases such as CO2 scientists and engineers have been working on new energy technologies such as solar, wind, hydro (water) and tidal power.  Not only are these new technologies a lot cleaner and better for the environment but they’re also renewable which means that they won’t run out!  With only so many years of fossil fuels left for the world to use we have to start working fast to find alternatives.  Solar photovoltaics have become the fastest growing renewable energy technology in the world and were first used in the 1950s to power satellites and later small products such as calculators and watches.

Keep your eye out when you’re traveling and you’ll see more and more houses with solar panels to heat water or create electricity.  Switching to renewable energy will become more and more important as we move away from fossil fuels which are running out and reduce our carbon emissions.

Most things we do emit CO2 into the atmosphere, even sending a text message creates 0.014g, whereas all web searches worldwide in one year creates 22,600 tonnes!  To find out more about how much CO2 we produce click to see a fun website here.

To find out more about some of the topics in this article see these factsheets -

Climate Change
Global Warming
Renewable Energy: Solar Energy
Alternative Energy
Environment - how can we help protect it?


Photograph by Living Off Grid on Flickr.

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