Solar Energy Development: Scotland’s Limited Ambition

Solar electricity panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. 

Solar PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the material, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms, creating a flow of electricity. While these cells don’t need direct sunlight to work, they perform better in sunshine. So, the stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is generated. Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on to your home’s roof. But it’s also possible to install panels in your roof (replacing some of the tiles) or mounted in frames on the ground.

Scottish Power

A team at the University of Maryland, USA, is aiming to develop more efficient solar panels in a unique way. Their goal is to use biological molecules to make electricity that can then be harvested and used to power devices or stored in batteries for later use. 

Searching for a way to produce energy for the increasing demands from industry and households has a knock on to the creation of other problems. There is a cost to our environment with the development of renewables.

Lahari Saha, at the University of Maryland is working to make electricity by harnessing plants’ abilities to convert sunlight into chemical energy using biological molecules, like chlorophyll, that excel at absorbing sunlight. The process involves leveraging molecules’ fluorescence.

“Any sort of molecule that fluoresces, gives off light. If we excite the fluorophore, it can transfer its energy to metal nanoparticles, and if the particles are close enough to each other, they will knock off electrons and generate current,” Saha explained.

The process is not just limited to molecules that fluoresce, Saha explained, they just need to have high absorption of light such as chlorophyll, beta carotene, or lutein. Each of these are relatively inexpensive and easy to derive from plants

Saha is hopeful that her solar panels will be primarily plant-based molecules and other materials that are relatively prevalent like copper, making them easier to recycle when the time comes. Plus, by selecting materials with greater longevity, she hopes the solar panel will last longer before it is time to dispose of them.

Solar Energy Development In Scotland

In Scotland, solar technology is a tiny part of the renewables energy sector.

The Scottish Government’s Draft Energy Strategy Transition Plan says hardly anything about Solar


We are setting out a draft vision for Solar and are seeking views on this, and options for setting a solar deployment ambition, as part of the Strategy and Plan consultation process.

Through the solar vision, we are setting out action to reduce barriers to enable and encourage greater solar deployment.

We are keen to see the number of solar installations offering community benefits increase and continue to encourage the sector to consider what packages of community benefit it can offer communities local to developments, in line with our Good Practice Principles

Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan

Policy and legislation over this parliament to enable a net zero energy system

Policy and legislation over this parliament to enable a net zero energy system

The Statement by Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 10 January 2023 when presenting Scotland’s Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan said, as regards to solar power:

“For Solar, this strategy consults on what a future ambition should be, building on our current 411 Megawatts of capacity”.

The Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan consultation closes on 4th April 2023. Here is the question in the survey about solar

3. Do you agree the Scottish Government should set an ambition for solar deployment in Scotland? If so, what form should the ambition take, and what level should it be set at?

“Scotland has 411 MW of operational solar capacity, with a further 767 MW of estimated pipeline capacity. This pipeline of projects, which increases the current capacity by over 150%, shows the significant appetite for greater solar deployment in Scotland.”

The benefits of solar power is that once installed there is very little maintenance required. This is in contrast to what is needed with other forms of renewable generators. Scotland has a wonderful opportunity to develop a Solar Energy Sector which would cause far less disruption to our land and marine environments. It would have far fewer installation and future maintenance costs. And yet where is the ambition from Government to develop this sector? – it’s blowing in the wind.

Image credit Kenny Armet

Fiona Grahame

Categories: Science

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