Modern day fuel sources may soon be a thing of the past if the Department of Trade and Industry's launch of its £4m scheme to supply solar power to 400 UK homes is a success.

The scheme, announced today by energy minister Brian Wilson, will turn 400 homes across the country, from Northern Ireland to East Anglia, into energy-efficient environmentally friendly sun-powered homes.

Although solar energy is nothing new, with mobile phone manufacturer Orange and computer maker LG both incorporating the power source into their 'homes of the future', it is the first time a widescale government-backed scheme has been launched.

"I want to see thousands, rising to tens of thousands of roofs covered by solar panels every year over the next 10 years, rivalling the large programmes in Germany and Japan," said Wilson.

The joint venture by BP Solar and builders Persimmon will see a total of 23 developments carried out, as part of the government's full-scale plan to create a £1bn market for renewable energy by 2010.

"Solar energy is not only environmentally friendly but acts as a cheap power source, which means people can run their technologies for far less than they are paying now," said a spokesperson at the UK Solar Energy Society.