Kuala Lumpur airport lands 19MW solar system

Will Nichols

Largest connected installation in Malaysia comes as countries all over the globe boost solar capacity

A huge solar system at Kuala Lumpur airport is set to save around 2.1 million RM (£380,000) a year for the airport's operators.

The 19MW SunEdison-designed system - the largest in Malaysia - combines ground-mounted, parking canopy, and roof-top systems to maximise electricity savings and return on investment from the project, while using as little space as possible.

"Malaysia has an ideal climate for solar power and therefore we are taking steps to generate clean energy which will be beneficial to everyone in Malaysia," said Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, managing director of Malaysia Airports. "Rooftops, parking lots and 'buffer' areas at airports are traditionally not multi-purpose facilities, but we've turned them into a clean energy generation facility. This initiative also demonstrates our support towards the Government's initiative in introducing renewable energy and also to further reduce carbon footprint."

Solar energy is enjoying something of a boom worldwide as costs continue to fall - prices for installed solar equipment have more than halved since 2010, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). As a result, Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects 2013 to mark the first year more PV has been installed than wind turbines fuelled by huge growth in China, which is thought to have fitted 14GW of capacity over 2013 - far above the 8GW annual record for one country - and is targeting another 14GW over the course of this year.

Meanwhile, a new study by London's Imperial University this week calculated the UK could take advantage of falling solar costs by covering the roofs of 10 million homes with solar panels over the next six years. Ensuring more than a third of UK households are producing energy from the sun would allow the UK to meet around six per cent of its electricity demand from solar power by 2020, a figure that could rise to 40 per cent on sunny summer days.

In the US, Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to hail the country's emergence as a "global leader in solar", while industry figures showed jobs in the sector grew 20 per cent to more than 142,000 last year.

And the Middle East Solar Industry Association has this month claimed the oil-rich region could spend upwards of $50bn developing solar power over the next seven years, installing 12GW to 15GW of solar power by 2020.

Solar PV and concentrated solar power are likely to make up the vast majority of the 23.9GW of renewable energy capacity Saudi Arabia envisages installing by the end of the decade, while Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria plan to have at least 1.5GW, 1.8GW and 3GW of solar power in place respectively by the same point.

In related news, Solarcentury has announced that it has made its largest donation to date to its charity partner Solar Aid, providing £98,000 to support the charity's work to distribute solar powered lights to off-grid communities in the developing world. SolarAid has already sold 847,154 lights since its creation in 2006 and has received consistent backing from Solarcentury, which each year donates five per cent of its profits to the charity.

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