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Carmaker Jaguar announced the completion of the UK’s largest rooftop solar array, with 21,000 panels on the roof of their engine factory in Staffordshire providing a capacity of 5.8MW. Photograph: Jaguar Land Rover press office
Solar farms must not spread unrestricted across the British countryside and become as controversial as onshore wind turbines, a minister warned on Friday.
Instead, solar panels will be rolled out on millions of homes, businesses, schools and government buildings, said energy and climate change minister Greg Barker.
Barker, one the greenest Conservative ministers, launched the government's first solar power strategy at the end of a week in which senior Tory sources revealed their plans to heavily curb or even dismantle windfarms after the next election.
The number of large solar farms, often housing more than 100,000 panels, has doubled in the first three months of 2014 but some have attracted local protests.
At the opening of a new Sunsolar panel factory in Birmingham, Barker told the Guardian: "I do not want solar farms to become the new onshore wind. Solar power enjoys huge popularity, so we have to be careful. I do not want to see unrestricted growth of solar farms in the British countryside."
Barker has previously called large farms "monsters" and, due the subsidies they receive, "gold-diggers".
But he said there was a great opportunity elsewhere for solar power, which has fallen in price by two-thirds in the last four years. Barker said he expected the 500,000 homes with solar panels to double by the end of 2015.
He also announced streamlined planning rules to make it simpler to put panels on large industrial and commercial roofs. Putting panels on just one in six roofs would generate electricity equivalent to two nuclear power stations. On Thursday, carmaker Jaguar announced the completion of the UK's largest rooftop solar array, with 21,000 panels on the roof of their engine factory in Staffordshire providing a capacity of 5.8MW.
Barker also announced a programme to put up to 4m solar panels (1GW), on the roofs of government-owned buildings across the UK before the end of the next parliament in 2020. A new unit in the Cabinet Office, under Francis Maude, is working on this programme, which will be funded by the private sector.