Scorching through Google Maps’ 3D satellite function, Top Gun-style, the other day, I found myself bearing down on Hampden Park. And saw familiar out-of-town places: Sainsbury’s, Halfords, B&Q, Dunelm Mill, King’s Church and Bannatynes – those temples to last-minute DIY missions or spiritual enlightenment – in a new light.
Viewed from above, their logos and functions fade and they take on the appearance of a great herd of pale grey hangars, jostling for position in the flatlands beside Cross Levels Way. The ambition of their construction – the sheer scale of the retail parks and factories, warehouses and health clubs is impressive. But is something missing – in Britain’s sunniest town at a time when scientists tell us we’re entering a full-blown climate breakdown? Could those great expanses of metal roofing and south-facing walls be smothered in solar panels?
A 2016 report for the BRE National Solar Centre seems to think so: “There is an estimated 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial roof space in the UK. If utilised this could provide approximately 50% of the UK’s electricity demand”.
Journalist, ECO Research Group