Rushcliffe Solar

Rushcliffe Solar started as a Transition West Bridgford campaign to encourage greater use of Photovoltaic home power generation systems in Rushcliffe borough, but we are always willing to answer an enquiry from other towns in the region. There are many buildings and entire streets with roofs which have a good view of the Sun and could produce power for the Grid and Income for the occupants. Hit the You Enquire tab to get a free appraisal of the photovoltaic potential for your building. Email:
If you are thinking about it, do not be put off by recent changes in the tariff!: Since April 2012, the tariff was reduced to 21 pence/unit and ones on poorly insulated buildings get only 9 pence/unit. There have been further reductions since. Use the Expertsure calculator to check out your house and see if it is still worth doing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Solar House in West Bridgford

26 July: Some people have asked about the house we use as the example in the poster for Rushcliffe Solar. There is a whole other website devoted to it, Charging the Earth, because of the research work on Heat Pump Augmentation.
   This is the house of David Nicholson-Cole (the author of this piece, and founder of Rushcliffe Solar) and is a 'maximum' PV system - i.e. it's a 3.96 kW PV panel array (in 22 Sharp NU180 panels). This is east facing, but is still on course to generate more than 3,000 kWh in its first year.
  Although the house is electrically heated (using a Ground source heat pump), the Feed in Tariff from the power generated by the roof is enough to pay the entire annual energy bill - heat, hot water, cooking, lighting and power - and provide some income beyond that. The annual power consumption of the house is likely to be about 6,500 kWh by the end of this year, which may divide approx 2,000 power and light, and 4,500 for the heatpump. Bear in mind that the average British small house burns about 25,000 kWh per annum in combined electricity and gas. This is a pretty economical house!
•  So, although DN-C is getting free energy for the next 25 years, why bother with Rushcliffe Solar? The answer to this is that he is keen to energise others to do likewise, because it's good for the planet, the energy future of our society, and it's also a good deal for the householder.
•  The other question is, What are the strange panels on the South wall?..... not your average solar thermal panel, you think? These are custom designed Sunboxes - thermal panels designed to feed heat directly to the Heat pump, and in so doing contribute about a 25%-30% of the annual house heating and hot water requirements. They are designed and built by Mr N-C as a research project, and are unique in the world, as far as we have heard.... although more will be following, that's certain!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ways of Displaying Solar data

24 July: I have been asked to explain more about Display methods - if you have made the investment in a PV roof, you want to take pride in the productivity of your system - making it a bit of a hobby at the same time.
   The minimum you would always have is the standard OfGem meter that sits discreetly next to your circuit breaker panel usually.  That is free. You can take daily readings, as I do off mine. It's valuable to check this once a day anyway to make sure that something hasn't tripped a circuit breaker.
    You can ask your installer for the handheld option which is a portable unit linked by wireless or have a small wall mounted display in the house somewhere.  For this, some will charge, others will include it.
     Handheld units are usually equipped with a USB connection and memory, so you can download to a computer regularly, eg monthly.
     For public systems, eg the Attenborough Nature Reserve visitor centre, it is important to have a prominent wall mounted display to show visitors how the system is performing.

In my case, I opted for the more expensive option of a webrouter, which is a small box that is connected to the inverter at one end and has an ethernet cable to my existing broadband modem. Being connected all the time, it can send an update every 15 mins to a datalogger in Germany that then rebroadcasts the results from my and 32,000 other systems..
Then click to view 'publicly available systems', then enter Peveril into the search field.
To see others, select your country and size of installation for some 'Renewables Surfing'
is a demonstration of mine. Using more of this site, i can see every day for the last ten years or more....
the set up also includes a small weather station giving surface and air temperatures, and irradiation . also sending to the same place.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Second Outdoor Solar Surgery

24 July: Saturday morning, we had the second outdoor Solar Surgery for Rushcliffe Solar on Central Avenue. We collected a lot of interest during the morning, including some who informed us they were definitely going ahead.
 It was the day of Farmers' market and that is a major attraction, and brings many in to Bridgford. Oddly, we collected more addresses on the less crowded day of the Gardeners' market.
Pictured: Rain Luo giving advice to a passing lady shopper... and apologies to same lady for her having to hold her Farmers' Market shopping while we explain.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome to MG Renewables

22 July: We are gradually signing up sponsors who will keep Rushcliffe Solar campaign going through the autumn and into next year. We are grateful to EvoEnergy for being our first sponsor. Now we have more MCS accredited Solar PV installers joining the team.
  Welcome to Gerry and Martin of MG Renewables. I have met them a few times as supporters of the West Bridgford Green events such as the West Bridgford Summer Gathering (in early June each year). They are experts in PV solar, but they also have specialities in Heat Pumps and Solar Thermal installations. Check out the website.
(Sherwood, Gerry Kennedy on 0115 845 6406)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thanks to EvoEnergy for helping us start

21 July: We are most grateful to EvoEnergy for helping us get the RS campaign going. Knowing that we would maintain a completely even handed supplier list, but recognising that a campaign like Rushcliffe Solar could only be good for the whole industry in the region, EvoEnergy treated our staff to a good training course into the secrets of PV installation and pricing. The idea was for us to be a form of Quantity Surveyor for PV installation - knowing industry prices, but being neutral as to who would be contractor.  We also reduce the overheads of the PV suppliers, because the customers are well informed in advance about the Feed in Tariff, the possibilities for their house, and the complicated calculation for Payback.
One very important thing for the course was to deliver ideas about costs that would not mislead people - too high and they would be quite put off, and too low, and they would suffer disappointment when they saw real quotations. We base our price estimates on the use of good quality Sharp NU185 panels.
(Beeston, Chris Brooke on 08448 150 200)

Rushcliffe Solar on Facebook!

21 July: We now have a Facebook Page We have no idea what benefit this will bring, other than widening the awareness of Rushcliffe Solar and the benefits of home electricity generation. If you are reading this blog, and also are a Facebook user, please 'Like' the page, and it will then grow. We can share experience and thoughts on PV generation, and we can discuss initiatives that could take place in other parts of the UK.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Seems like trying too hard

18 July: Driving through south London on Sunday, we observed this amazing example of "Trying too hard" - for such a small house, the eight arranged on the front elevation are surely enough? They do illustrate that when possible (if the house is the right way round) it's better to be putting them on the back. Generally, I find solar panels attractive, but perhaps in this case, it is 'uglification'.
  What amazed me was that the panels on the side wrapping round the chimney were not solar thermal, but were additional PV. These were quite definitely shaded, and would be shaded for much of the day.
  Unfortunately many of the houses in West Bridgford are hipped with chimneys, which reduces the chance of a decent amount of PV solar generating.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Do I need planning permission?

We get asked this question frequently. 
I had an email from the conservation officer of Rushcliffe asking us to expand on this with more detail, and I am grateful to him (Tom Street) for this request.
  For most areas, since 2008, the planning rules have been relaxed so that alternative technology solutions (such as PV panels or solar thermal) are usually deemed to be 'permitted development' unless they project more than 200mm from the roof or wall surface. The Town and Country Planning amendment document explains the rules more fully.
   A polite visit or exchange of letters with the planning officer (not a full fee-paid application) is usually enough to re-assure you that you can proceed.

Conservation Areas are 'areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance'. Designation gives control over the demolition or alteration of buildings and provides the basis for policies designed to preserve or enhance all the aspects of character or appearance that define an area's special interest. (Section 69 of the Civic Amenities Act 1967)

There are 29 conservation areas in Rushcliffe (e.g. Edwalton village). Rushcliffe's website lists the conservation areas, and the rules applying to conservation areas. (They are not against solar panels in principle, you just have to be smarter about positioning them, eg, avoiding defacing prime views of the building). In this case an application would be required, but your solar installer (or Rushcliffe Solar) could help with a photo-montage to display how the panels might look.
  If for some reason you discontinue using your solar panels, you are requested politely to remove them, to restore the appearance of the building. Tom Street is the conservation officer for Rushcliffe Borough and can answer detailed questions on this.

Listed Building  If you have one of these, you have a higher planning threshold to jump, although all Local Authorities recognise the need to respect the movement towards energy sustainability. It may be possible to provide solar power in a discreet way (e.g. in a roof valley). This needs to be discussed with your conservation officer. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Outdoor Solar Surgery

17 July : Rushcliffe Solar had its first outdoor surgery today, in Central Avenue, West Bridgford. We set up a laptop and flat-screen on a desk in Central Avenue, West Bridgford from 10 till 1pm.
    The aim of the open air surgery is to reach out to people directly, with a welcome element of randomness - never knowing quite who would walk past - catching the interest of people who might never go to a website, or hear a small news item.
It was windy and sunny, some joked that with wind like that we should be promoting wind turbines!
Although it's difficult to see the LCD screen in bright daylight, we managed to use Googlemaps to examine the roofs of enquirers, and give them some ideas of what is possible. We took over 20 firm enquiries and will be sending them a report on power and payback during the week.
    We also met a gentleman who advised us on the idea of 'roof-leasing' where a company instals your panels for free, in return for a Pay as you Earn contract. In effect they are renting your roof - your benefit is the free electricity. We shall be finding out more about this and posting it on here, you can be sure!
We were very busy from start to finish. We enjoyed it and will do it again. It was the Gardeners' market, and next week it will be the Farmers' market. Rushcliffe BC have a news item of the event on their front web page.
David Nicholson-Cole and Rain Luo and Sheila Hood were taking part for Rushcliffe Solar. Many thanks to Belle and Jerome for wifi and electricity, the Health Shop for a space on the pavement, and to Sheila Hood from Rushcliffe Borough Council/Energy Savings Trust who joined us for the entire morning, giving extended advice on sustainable living ideas.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rushcliffe Solar making a good start

14 July: We are only a week and a half into the 'real work', and are already dealing with a good number of enquiries - something like 40 positive enquiries resulting from people becoming aware of what we are offering, and asking our advice. Meanwhile, the work of databasing typical streets in West Bridgford continues. We will be sending mailshots to high-potential households soon. We intend to have a table set up in Central Avenue on Saturday 17th July, with instant advice (based on aerial photographs of houses which we have access to), and will continue on later Saturdays. Belle and Jerome will support the project with Wifi and electric supply.
     The project is funded by Rushcliffe Borough Council for the first 2 months, and after that we will have to keep going on an independent basis with referral fees from installers, so that we can maintain salary for our staff. We now have to add more Solar PV installers to our approved list, to help with funding. If the project produces good results, we will hope for another burst of databasing and leafletting etc in Summer 2011 - either deepening our coverage of West Bridgford, or expanding to other towns in Rushcliffe Borough.
    If you decide to go ahead with an installation, it is important to tell the installer that your feasibility study/appraisal was done by Rushcliffe Solar, as this is the only way we can continue once the summer funding expires.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Evening Post report

12 July: Thankyou to the Nottingham Evening Post for alerting its readers to the Rushcliffe Solar campaign. There's one small correction to make, that will help any of the reader who make their next stop to this website, concerning the likely capital cost.
     The smallest practical size to consider is 8 large panels, thats about 1.5 kW output. The largest practical one (under the terms of the tariff) is 22 panels, enough to make 4kW. That larger amount means in summer that you would have made more electricity than your house will use all day by the time you are having breakfast - the rest is all income! (Larger installations are recommended for Schools, Businesses and Government buildings.).
     Because there are unit costs involved (eg scaffolding, inverter etc) the cost is cheaper per kWatt for larger systems. As a rough guideline, an 8 panel system will cost about £8,000 (£5,400/kW), and a 22 panel system about £15,000 (£3780/kW), including VAT and all costs except scaffolding. The recovery of this cost can be done within about 10-12 years depending on your roof angle and direction. For anything else, please ask Rushcliffe Solar for a more specific advice on your property.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Using the Enquiry form

6 July : The newly created Enquiry Form (see the tab above) is a good way to register your request for further advice, as it includes all of the information we need. A lot of people are emailing us but leaving out essential information, like their address.

Also, in a street full of houses looking much the same, it's still very difficult to identify a house from a PostCode, even with the number. This is no-charge internet based surveying so we do not have a fee to pay for our time to visit every house in a car. So please say that yours is the house with the Red garage doors, or the Letter box, or the Monkey Puzzle tree opposite, or the Twin Dormers, or Whatever..... some way to for us to be sure we got the right house.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rushcliffe Solar database project starting now!

1 July: Starting 5th July, we will make a start on the project, with two students Rain Luo and James Rixon, supervised by David Nicholson-Cole. We will start by mapping the areas of West Bridgford identifying good PV potential, and work on leaflets and letters to send to residents. We will also run open air desks on Central Avenue on Farmers Market days. We will have a phone number for them in due course, and the email for further enquiries is of course,

Where do you live and what's happening?

1 July: Energy Saving Trust have an interesting page called Where I Live, and you can enter your postal code and it tells you forthcoming events related to energy sustainability - such as Green Festivals, Lectures etc. If you have an event you want to promote, or you want to attend, please keep an eye on this page.

Location - check your location