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How the UK's first Gigafactory will change the industry

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Solar power is the best alternative to non-renewable power sources—it benefits from using the earth’s most powerful free resource, sunlight. Solar panels or photovoltaic systems use semiconductor technology to convert solar energy to electricity.

Why is Solar energy the future fuel, and will it work for different geographic topologies with the same effectiveness? For example, will the energy production in the UK match up to capacity generated by a solar panel in Australia?

These are just some skeptical questions that have deterred confidence in solar power. Solar power is an eco-friendly option for electricity production that can power a unit year-round for twenty-five years or more if the panels are adequately maintained. If a home produces surplus electricity (SEG), this can be sold to the centralized grid to generate revenue. The most important benefit of solar power is the reduced carbon footprint.

In the UK, for the longest time, there was a misconception that PV systems will not work in the absence of sunlight, putting a question mark on the efficiency of solar panels in the UK climate. However, PV systems don’t require direct sunlight even if efficiency is higher during sunny days. Too much direct sunlight can damage solar panels faster. In snowy weather, due to a phenomenon known as the “albedo effect”, which means that snow can reflect sunlight, solar panels work efficiently in winters. Unlike common belief, solar panels have a higher efficiency rate in cooler temperatures, making UK weather ideal for solar power.

Price cut

The latest numbers reflect confidence in solar power; around 4000 PV systems are installed in the UK every month. Another reason for the increased popularity is the declining prices of solar panels. In the past decade, PV systems have seen a 60% price cut, increasing affordability for the domestic consumer. As consumer confidence in solar power increases, various projects are popping up. However, the UK still has a long way to go before capacity can match up to other countries like China and Australia.

Giga-factory constructed

Recently the Coventry City Council and the Warwick District Council have approved initial plans for a giga-factory constructed in the English West Midlands. The project has an investment potential of 2.5 billion pounds and will have a capacity to produce 60 GWh batteries within a decade. The factory will be a 530,000 square meter facility that will manufacture high-tech ion batteries for the energy storage and global automotive industry. The project will be built on a small airport in Coventry and is expected to be inaugurated in 2025.

The factory will be built as a public-private project between Coventry Airport Ltd and Coventry City Council. More than clean energy, the venture is set to bring 6000 new highly skilled jobs to the locality along with thousands of other work opportunities related to the broader solar supply chain in Warwickshire, Coventry, and neighboring regions.

The site for the factory was an obvious choice due to the proximity of an automotive supply chain and skills network. The area is considered the heart of the UK automotive industry with manufacturers like Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda and the Chinese owned “London EV company”. Therefore, the project will contribute substantially to skills development, economic growth, and job creation in the area. The Midlands giga-factory will utilize one of the UK’s largest rooftop solar panel arrays to operationalize the factory and will also feature an on-site battery storage facility to ensure it is powered by solar power 100%. In addition, to reduce carbon emissions, even more, the project will adopt an ambitious scheme of zero logistics and transport that will prevent 7 million miles of heavy vehicular traffic.