Scientists at University of Sheffield map out Britain's sun spots

Total solar radiation in kWh/m2 between January and October 2011
Total solar radiation in kWh/m2 between January and October 2011

Scientists at University of Sheffield map out Britain's sun spots

Britain is getting brighter according to solar experts at the University of Sheffield who have also revealed the coastal city of Portsmouth was the UK's sunniest place in 2011.

At the other end of the sunshine scale, Loch Maree in North West Scotland was found to be the least sunny place in the UK last year.

The rest of the top ten sunniest recordings were taken at St Athan near Cardiff, Ramsgate in Kent, the Lleyn Peninsula in North West Wales, Camborne in Cornwall, around Bangor, near Swansea, London and Bournemouth International Airport.

Researchers at the University say the figures show the amount of sun light in Britain has been increasing year on year, except in Scotland where it is becoming less sunny, and that 2011 was 10 per cent brighter than 2010.

Experts were surprised to find that Durham basked in 13.5 per cent more sun light than recorded in previous years, parts of South Wales were some of the sunniest in the UK, and Cornwall was duller than expected.

The enlightening statistics have come from Alastair Buckley, of the University of Sheffield´s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and his team, who have been researching the efficiency of solar panels installed at homes across the UK.

The first map shows the total amount of energy in kWh per square metre carried by solar radiation between January 1 and October 31 this year. The second map shows the average sunlight in the same period between 2002 and 2011. The third map shows the difference between the average results versus this year´s figures.

Buckley said: "We started the solar farm project about 18 months ago and have been collecting solar panel data from the public for about a year. At the moment we have more than 200 people donating data but we would like to expand to more than 2,000 to get even better coverage across the UK.

"We are looking to calculate the efficiency of solar panels when installed at different locations across the UK, so we need to know how sunny it has been in those locations. The MET office allows us access to their weather station data that includes a measure of irradiance, or sunniness.

"We believe that solar PV will be a really important technology in the future, one that will contribute to the UK's future energy infrastructure, so we want to know how best to use our UK solar resource. We also want to identify solar power hot spots - where for some geographic reason it´s sunnier than it should be.

"Real world data from users of solar panel technology is the best way to figure out what works best, it´s much better than making measurements in a lab."

To sign up to the project people with their own solar panels can visit www.microgen-databa­ The Sheffield Solar Farm has attracted 420,000 of funding from the energy industry and research councils.

The project forms part of Project Sunshine, which aims to harness the power of the sun to tackle the increasing food and energy needs of the world´s population in light of uncertain climate and global environment change.

It is hoped that Project Sunshine will change the way scientists think and work and become the inspiration for a new generation of scientists focused on solving the world´s problems.