Huge solar potential in European coalfields

A new study from the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), indicates that solar power has enormous growth and job potential in the coal regions of Europe.

The use of coal for electricity generation is the main emitter of Greenhouse Gas Emissions worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, these emissions have to be reduced by more than 70% by 2040 to stay on track for the 1.5–2 °C scenario suggested by the Paris Agreement.

A study was conducted to see to what extent the use of photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation systems could help with this transition in the coal regions of Europe. It assessed the solar PV potential in selected regions where open-cast coal mines are planned to cease operation in the near future.

Different types of solar PV systems were considered, such as ground-mounted systems developed on mining land, and the installation of rooftop solar PV systems on existing mining buildings.

More than enough solar

The results show that solar PV systems could fully substitute the current electricity generation of coal-fired power plants in these coal-mining regions.

In fact, there is the potential to produce more electricity than decommissioned coal, contributing a total 874 TWh from solar, enough to replace the electricity output of the current coal power plants operating in these regions.

Moreover, the study showed that by utilising just half of the available technical potential in coal and mining regions, solar would produce electricity at a lower cost than the current retail prices.

Good for jobs too

In addition, the JRC study found that if the retirement of coal and lignite mines as well as the coal-fired power stations goes hand-in-hand with the installation of larger PV systems over the next 15 years, the installation of 580 GW of solar PV power capacity could provide about 135,000 construction jobs per year, and an additional 50,000 operation and maintenance jobs.

The decline of coal = the rise of solar

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe said: “Solar has enormous potential in coal regions in the EU, that can bring new industry, jobs and clean affordable energy to those affected by the decline of coal, ensuring no one is left behind. Now, we look forward to continuing our work with the EU’s Platform on Coal Regions in Transition, where solar can play a major role in advancing a just energy transition for all.”

Download and read the study ‘Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Generation: A Lifeline for the European Coal Regions in Transition’.

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