nearly 20 per cent of Scotland's electricity needs could be met through solar power, say experts.

A report presented at the Scottish Parliament heard that fitting solar panels on 250,000 homes north of the Border could contribute significantly to the Government's renewable energy targets.

Researchers, including scientists from Edinburgh University, business leaders and public sector experts, have contributed to the report, which sets out how Scotland could benefit from solar power.

The study was supported by the Scottish Institute For Solar Energy Research, the Scottish Solar Energy Group, the Energy Technology Partnership, AES Solar and the Scottish Universities Insight Institute.

Dr Neil Robertson, of Edinburgh University's School Of Chemistry, said: "The plummeting cost means large-scale solar power is coming to Scotland whether we realise it or not.

"The key priority is to recognise this, so we can start planning to maximise the social, environmental and business benefits it will bring us."

The report concluded 16.6 per cent of Scotland's electricity demands could be met by fitting solar panels on a quarter of a million roofs, and could ease the plight of one in three Scottish households that struggle to provide themselves with enough heat and hot water.

Experts say harnessing energy from the sun on the roofs of south-facing buildings could have significant economic, environmental and social impacts.

The report's findings were outlined at an event to raise awareness of solar technology and its benefits. Organisers called on Government, industry and academia to work together on solar energy strategies.

The scientists say many people are not yet aware solar power can be generated effectively in Scotland and point out that Germany - with a climate similar to Scotland - produces more energy using solar panels than any other country.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the current target was for the equivalent of 100 per cent of the country's demand for electricity to be met from renewable sources of energy by 2020.

She added: "We support the growth in solar energy alongside other renewables as part of a wider, balanced electricity mix.

"Individual proposals would be subject to appropriate planning checks, taking into account any impacts on matters such as the built and natural heritage, nearby properties and aviation."

Since 2001, the cost of generating electricity using solar panels has fallen more than 70% and on current estimates it is expected to become the cheapest way of harnessing renewable energy by 2025.

However, previous attempts to boost the solar power industry have ended in controversy.

In December 2011, Westminster halved grants for households that install solar panels to 21p per kilowatt-hour, saying the old tariff rate of 43p was unsustain­able. Under the "feed-in tariffs" programme, people with solar panels are paid for the electricity they generate.

Solar companies subsequently took the Department of Energy to court and successfully argued the cuts were illegal, forcing the UK Government to pay tens of millions to households who installed the panels between December 2011 and March 2012.