SOLAR panels in Oxfordshire could generate enough energy to power the whole of Oxford in the next two years, an energy firm has claimed.

The amount of energy from county solar panels linked up to the National Grid is set to increase 16-fold by the end of 2017, according to Southern Electric Power Distribution.

The company said there could be as much as 360 megawatts – enough to power more than 100,000 houses – produced by the panels at any one time.

Spokesman Waseem Zakir said: “At present we have 22MW of photovoltaic generation connected to our network across Oxfordshire.

“Over the next two years we have scheduled connections which will bring this total up to 360 MW.”

He said the average solar panel park produced 15MW, meaning Oxfordshire would have the equivalent of 24 parks.

Similarly, it takes roughly 25 acres of land to produce 5MW, meaning an estimated 1,800 acres of solar panels to produce that much energy.

Assuming 1MW powers about 300 homes, that amount of solar panels could power the whole of Oxford and West Oxfordshire.

But Mr Zakir said that level of energy is not guaranteed: “That figure represents the maximum output from all the solar panels that developers have applied to connect to our network in Oxfordshire.

“Maximum output means the solar panels working at their peak efficiency during optimum light conditions, although not necessarily bright sunlight.”

Southern Electric Power Distribution was unable to tell the Oxford Mail how many solar panels were planned for the county before the paper went to press.

Developers have said the 2017 figure would be the peak of the solar panel surge because there was no more space for large solar parks or farms in Oxfordshire.

Tim Purbrick is a director at Hive Energy, which has a 57-acre park in Steventon and previously tried to build a second in Besselsleigh.

He said: “There is very limited capability on the network in Oxfordshire.

“The Green Belt is an issue and a real problem. It doesn’t really mix with solar panels.

“We are looking at other sites but they are very small, but more of them. It’s more solar gardens rather than solar farms.”

George Paton, who runs the 230-acre Landmead Farm near East Hanney, the largest operational solar park in the country, agreed.

He said: “The days of 100- acre parks are gone, it’s more about 24-acre places that are more economically viable.

“We have seen all the developments we will build and complete in Oxfordshire.

“It’s completely full. Getting planning permission is getting far, far more difficult.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England Oxfordshire has repeatedly objected to the development of solar parks, saying they destroy the Green Belt.

Director Helen Marshall said: “Renewable energy is important, but not at any cost.”