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.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

PV Milestone reached!

28 Aug: DNicholsoncole writes: Today, in the Peveril Solar House, the PV roof galloped through another milestone, that of 3,000 kWh generation since it was installed last October - that is magnificent! about 200 more than expected in one year, and still a month to run before the anniversary! Three megawatts sounds like a lot to me, and we've done it in under 11 months.
   Once the Feed in Tariff has been running for a year, this sort of performance will be bringing in over £1,500 a year, and in our case somewhat more, as we use more of our own power than the average house - having a Heat Pump for heating.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seminar at the Environment Agency

25 Aug: I was invited to talk at a lunchtime seminar for staff at Nottingham's Environment Agency Office. These are for topics linked to Climate Change and Energy shortage. I had only about 25 mins, but covered four subjects.

  • First the West Bridgford Transition group and WB Ecohouses group, and the importance for activists of communicating the message widely, not just doing things privately.
  • The Rushcliffe Solar campaign, to encourage people to take up Photovoltaic panels, to increase the home generation of electricity in Rushcliffe, and for them to benefit from the feed in tariff.
  • The Charging the Earth project, building Sunboxes to augment the performance of the ground source heat pump - appropriate because at this very moment, my research poster on the sunboxes are on view at the SET conference in Shanghai.
  • The Sustainable Tall Buildings course at Nottingham University - where we are trying to teach our students bioclimatic principles for tall buildings - our next project is based in New York, trying to apply Passivhaus principles to the units in a 60 storey structure. 
I was sharing the floor with Penny Poyzer, the owner of the West Bridgford Ecohouse in Patrick Rd. Compared to my technology oriented topics, she was talking about the virtue of growing your own food, plus many observations on green lifestyle. A major learning point from her house is that you can apply extreme levels of insulation to a 120 year old house, and make it airtight enough for heat reclaim to work.
   As a nice human touch, we could see out of the window that the staff in the Environment Agency are indeed growing their own, there was a well managed cuban-style micro farm with members of staff having their own little 2 sqm patch, full of healthy looking vegetables.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Payback already paying back

22 Aug: D-Nicholson-Cole writes: Last week, I had an electricity bill from my supplier, Good Energy.
 This is a day I have waited for more than a year since I started metering, tuning, installing etc. The Reverse bill! 
   Actually we didn't at first get a reverse bill, we had an electricity bill for £ 36 pounds from Good Energy. They had a real reading for 16 June, and an estimated one for 16 August. It was estimated at 1033 kWh, but the actual consumption in that time was 350 kWh, largely thanks to the Photovoltaic Roof. In the same two months, they also decided to credit us for all the solar electricity that we had generated and 'sold' from 1 October 2009 to 1 April 2010, at pre-feed in tariff rates.
   So when things are added and subtracted, it turns into a bill for Minus 76 pounds!
   The mathematical Minus-result arises because the credits and the payments are in one single bill. I am hoping that when the first Feed in Tariff payments are made they will be a separate payment, so that we don't get negative bills for the next 25 years! My brother in law in Yorkshire, with a 3 kW array facing south has just received a cheque from his supplier for £ 550 comprising the feed in tariff and estimated sales from 1 April 2010 to 17 Aug 2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Call for Volunteers

Rushcliffe Solar is a campaign group that has evolved from Transition West Bridgford, and is now supported by Rushcliffe BC, Energy Saving Trust and Uni of Nottingham. It is focused on raising awareness about the benefits of Solar Photovoltaic panels on houses, both for reducing our dependence on fossil fuel based powerstations, and for the financial benefits to householders. The research period is well advanced, we have had two architecture students databasing streets in W Bridgford, using googlemaps and streetview, identifying good locations, and helping with Saturday open air solar surgeries in Central Avenue.

The next bit is more difficult because W Bridgford is so large! We want to deliver A4 leaflets to many streets with the Rushcliffe Solar leaflet and this is beyond the timescale of the 2 students, especially as their main purpose in the time remaining is the databasing and responding to enquiries.

Please could we have volunteers to deliver in their area (or parts of W Bridgford). There is no talking on doorsteps, it is simply deliver and move on. The skill factor is that each volunteer should maintain an idea of where East, South and West as they move, and has a momentary look at the house before delivering, to decide if chimney, trees, small size or dormers make it a waste of a leaflet (including a guess about the rear, looking for visible rear chimneys or trees).

We have a record of where we have already delivered, and will update the map as each area is covered. our students will brief the volunteers on how to recognise Good'uns and Bad'uns.
if you can, please email your location to or Karina Wells, for coordination.or and . Any one of these will be good.
You can find out more about Rushcliffe Solar from the website

Monday, August 16, 2010

Prince Charles to visit Nottingham

16 August: In a BBC News report, the Prince of Wales is due to embark on a September 'sustainability' tour of Britain. He is travelling by Royal Train, powered by biodiesel. He will start in Scotland, from Glasgow, and the tour includes Edinburgh, Carmarthen, Bristol, Newcastle, Todmorden, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham.

Apparently, the main focus of the Nottingham visit will be to an estate which has installed a lot of Solar PV panels, which I guess will be in the Meadows, where a lot have been put up recently. It seems he is planning to put up about 32 panels on his own home in London, Clarence House.

Keep your ears open for the local media telling you exactly when he is likely to come.

Open Day at Peveril Solar

15 August: We had the EvoEnergy open day on Sunday. I forgot to count, but estimate that about 20 people called round. Appropriately, it was a nice sunny day, with about 14 kWh harvested. Nicola, Jessica and Aidan joined us from Evo.
  We started the session out on the field looking at the house from the south east. Everybody arrived at 12, and nobody came later, so it became a single long session with plenty of time for questions.

Most people were there for their interest in Photovoltaic, but there was also interest in the Surya sunboxes for those who were considering heatpumps, especially now that I am more aware of their performance, and contribution.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Media coverage of Solar PV

There is a very good discussion of the 'Solar for Free' idea in an article in the Guardian of 9 August. This followed the outbreak of articles in the Times and Mail, and features on the BBC, mostly initiated by the clever press agencies working for the companies who offer the 'Solar for Free'. The Guardian did a far better job of researching what was behind the story, remembering to put the other point of view.
We are not against it, because we are glad to see more solar roofs, but we are against the spokespersons failing to mention that if you pay for it yourself, you will enjoy a massive benefit from the Feed in Tariff.
  The summary of Adam Vaughan's Guardian article is saying that it's a better idea for you the householder to get the feed in tariff.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Open day at Peveril Solar

We have an Open Day on Sunday AUGUST 15 at the Peveril Solar house. Visitors can call between 12 and 2 pm. The focus is on Photovoltaic systems - home generation - how it might fit, how the feed in tariff works, what it might cost, how the payback will work, what the maintenance and management involve.
There will be experts on hand to explain anything. Let's hope we have a sunnier day than the ones we have had in the second half of July.

As I don't want to put the address directly on the blog, please email to warn us that you would like to come and we will give the address detail. We would prefer people to come all at the start, 1200 if possible. So, if you arrive later, we may have started without you. Refreshments are provided.
(By the way, I am giving up the Forest-Leeds first game of the season for this.... )

This house offers:
4 kW Photovoltaic roof, the largest possible under the Feed in Tariff, with 22 panels.
Ground source Heat pump, drawing from twin 48m boreholes.
• Uniquely designed and built Solar thermal panels that heat the ground under the house, hence heat the house.
Light Tube bringing sunshine into the centre of the house.
Induction Hob, cooking technology that is highly energy efficient.
• Liquid circulating Underfloor heating
• Cuban style micro-farm for vegetable growing.

The open day is organised by EvoEnergy, and is mainly directed to their customer or enquirer base. May I say before any of our sponsors get a little bit worried that it is Evo, it was first arranged back in June some weeks before Rushcliffe Solar commenced.

We shall of course mention the other main systems in the house, the Ground Source Heat Pump and the Surya Sunboxes augmenting the pump, but only for those who are interested. It is difficult to adapt an existing house to a GSHP (most go for Air Source), but for Newbuild houses, Ground Source is a more thorough solution - and if you have a GSHP, it's my belief you should hybridise the sources.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Welcome to Carbon Legacy!

Rushcliffe Solar's group of sponsor installers now include Carbon Legacy who are based locally in East Leake, just south of Rushcliffe.
   They cover almost all aspects of renewable systems, Photovoltaic panels, Ground Source Heat pumps, Air source HPs, Solar thermal, and Wind turbines. Carbon Legacy have a good website, with some interesting examples of work done, including work with Architect Bill Dunster at Upton, Northants.
   They have a very knowledgeable and experienced team, and are capable of national coverage.
(Contact David Hill or Aimee Parkinson on 0845 6972419)

Monday, August 9, 2010

A very tight fit on hipped roof

Mixture of panel types on a very tight site
9 Aug: This roof is on a house of Richard's Mum, an ex-West Bridgford resident, now living further south - this photo was sent to me as a good example of doing almost everything.
    The house has 1.5 kW of PV installed, which is very good considering the tight fit. If we had this house as an enquiry to Rushcliffe Solar, we would have advised against it - with the modest level of detail we would get from Googlemaps, with the problem of the hip tiles and the roofight, (leaving at best room for only 8 panels) would have made us assume it was too difficult to fit. However, it shows that if you get an installer to do a close-up dimensional survey, and apply a bit of determination, you can achieve the near impossible using an ingenious fit of rails and panels.
    We noticed that the geometry of the panels on Richard's house have been rotated to make it fit.
    Normally, you would make more use of the upper part near the ridge, but this is already occupied by 3 solar thermal panels.

In addition to this PV installation, the house has the three solar panels for water preheating. They also have a wood burning stove for room heating - although this is just room heating (does not have back boiler pipes).
Hence, for this house, very low running costs overall.
  I am trying to find out more about it - two questions:  is the main background heating still requiring a Gas boiler, and is there a chance for an Air source Heatpump to replace the old boiler?
  It is good to see that they have 200 litres of Rainwater capture, for irrigating the garden.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Next Outdoor Solar Surgery

The next opportunity to meet us for real will be our Outdoor Solar Surgery on 7th August 2010. We are on West Bridgford's Central Avenue, outside Belle and Jerome and the Health Store between 10am and 1pm. Please call in and chat.

POST surgery comment: We did have our table set up on the 7th August, although business was not so brisk - it was the combination of the Riverside Festival making all of Central Avenue more quiet, plus not being a Farmers market. We might move to the other side of the road next week 14th August, opposite Iceland, but still in range of Belle and Jerome's wifi.

Installations in Rushcliffe Borough

6 Aug: The Energy Saving Trust have kindly sent me a statistic from the Central Feed in Tariff Register.

Between 1st April and 6th August of 2010, there have been some installations in the Rushcliffe area.

Apparently there have been 22 domestic installations, totalling 53 kilowatts. There have been no installations on commercial or other building types. That is an average of 2.4 kilowatts per installation.

Hmmm.... I hope that the number will look better by December 31, 2010, and partially aided by our efforts.

What about getting it done for free?

6 Aug: There's a lot of hype about this 'Roof leasing' / 'Free Installation', whatever you want to call it.... There was a feature on Radio 2 on Thursday 5 Aug on Lisa Tarbuck's Drivetime programme. It was completely misleading, unfortunately, because the guest was advertising as if it was the only service available, and was not (unlike other BBC coverage) accompanied by another speaker who could cast a different light on it. Lisa did not have the knowledge to ask him about how much better it would work for people who pay for it themselves, and she believed everything he said as if there was no alternative.

Actually the Feed in Tariff was designed to be a benefit for building owners and householders to participate directly, as an incentive to start up solar power in the UK. This sudden emergence of these roof leasing companies is a form of commercial exploitation that could lead to changes in the rules on Feed in Tariff. Yes! it will generate more power for the Grid, but Sorry! the tariff rate is over-high for commercial scale power generation.

It's a very good deal for the companies, as they continue to operate and own the panels for 25 years and earn ALL the income from them - £15k over 25 years becomes about 50-60k over 25 years depending on future energy prices. They don't even pay you rent for your roof, all they offer that you will enjoy some free electricity during the sunny season - as he said, this benefit could be equivalent to 40% of your usage over the year - perhaps £200-£250 a year in estimated savings, but no cash return.

If you own the panels yourself, you would cover more than 100% of the usage, because the Feed in Tariff pays the equivalent of 3-4 times the cost of electricity, enough to pay your gas bill and more besides. You will get a decent cheque twice a year from your electricity supplier. And wouldn't you rather invest that 15k so that YOU get the 50-60k over the 25 years? There is no ISA or savings account that can match that! And your property could increase in value sufficiently to cover that initial cost, if after living in it for a few years, you market it as a house with zero energy running cost.

Roof Leasing will not add capital value to your house as you will have to reveal at the time of sale that you neither own the panels, nor do you get any income from them, and that you are required to permit 25yrs of access for maintenance to their staff. You add no value to the property, and if you do not, some purchasers would not want to take it on the liability.

Your roof has to be in perfect structural and weatherproof condition (good enough for the next 25 years) and must face as near south as possible and be big enough for 3-4 kW capacity, with no trees near enough to grow to overshadowing height within 25 yrs. Is this the case?

For some, there is a buyout clause, a bit like buying out an endowment policy or a mortgage, if you come into some money later, but as they set the price, you are stuck with what they offer. They may well want to sell at some stage, as there is a risk that the FiT might be adjusted later, to benefit building owners and not commercial companies - so they may be willing to offload the installation to you - this is an interesting risk factor for both of you. The company ISIS declare that they will not sell at all, but gift after 25 yrs. You would fully own the panels including any income from them when the 25 years is completed.

We don't want to sound negative. We quite like them because the more panels appearing on roofs, the less we shall need new nuclear power stations in future. The more your neighbours will be inspired to find out, and do it themselves, using the FiT.

If you want to be a home generator, but get it done for free and have the right size of roof, then do it - but it will not earn you a cent.

We will give you a couple of links below, but we have not approached these companies to be sponsor installers for Rushcliffe Solar - because while part of our mission is to see more Photovoltaic roofs in Rushcliffe, the other part is to tell you how much you can benefit from the Feed in Tariff.
AShadeGreener are based in Yorkshire
ISIS Solar are based in London and the south.

There is a very good discussion of the 'Solar for Free' idea in an article in the Guardian of 9 August. The summary of the article is saying that it's a better idea for you the householder to get the feedin tariff.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome to Ace Solar!

5 Aug: Welcome to Ace Solar! We had a meeting with Karl Kelk of Ace Solar, a most interesting gentleman who has many years of experience building and installing renewablew energy systems in Portugal, and now recently returned to the UK. Ace based in Nottingham, have a local installation team, and have experience in PV solar, solar thermal and micro wind power.
Contact Karl Kelk 0115 921 6868

Meetings with Solar installers

4 Aug: We had an excellent day of meetings with a number of our solar installer group, who are becoming sponsors of Rushcliffe Solar. We met in our workspace, the Department of Architecture and Built Environment.
    This week, we have had meetings with SASIE, Ace, Aspire, Hestia and Carbon Legacy, and will be adding them to the list in the next couple of days.
   We are going to close the list at TEN, as we feel that it is fairer to our clients to avoid confusing them with too much choice. It is also fairer to the sponsors, so that the probability of getting your enquiries is reasonably good.
  All of them are MCS approved. Quite a few of them have experience and interest in other technologies such as solar thermal, wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, heatpumps, underfloor heating. We will expand our installers list, and write up a introduction for each, as they join.
Pictured: Rain Luo, James Rixon, Grant and Lee (Aspire), and David Nicholson-Cole

Further Advice to householders

4 August: After our meetings with suppliers, and some extremely interesting conversations, we will be adding these clauses to each of our reports. If you have already had one of our report, please note the clauses carefully. We will add these to our 'Frequently Asked Questions' pages.

Roof thoughts:
If your roof is very old and fragile, and if you do not have underfelt, or you suspect rot in the timbers, undersized rafters, flaking tiles, slipping slates, chimneys about to shed pots or bricks, ridge or hiptiles about to fly..... do not continue. The panels last over 25 years and if your roof needs a significant refurbishment or felting sooner than 25 yrs it would be expensive to take all off, add felt, retile and refix panels - do it now, then put the panels on after. On the positive side, a mesh of strong alloy rails attached to your roof will make it stiffer, and the rainscreen effect of the panels will protect your roof against future weathering - but the roof must be sound in the first place.

Insurance thoughts: The panels become fully part of your house and your insurer will usually add these freely in when you your system is fully commissioned - but if you haven't told them, they wouldnt know, and you would not be covered - so phone them.

Reflections on energy conservation: If you already have a very high energy consumption, do not forget that there are cheaper ways to cut your bills than to spend several thousand on a Photovoltaic roof. Do an energy audit on your house and lifestyle......
  • improve insulation
  • see if windows are adequate
  • instal energy efficient light bulbs
  • turn off standby devices at night
  • reduce your thermostat by a couple of degrees
  • have more showers than baths
  • turn off external spotlights, garden lights
  • adjust your central heating programmer to turn off earlier in the evening and later in the morning.... 
  • ......and many more such ideas, some of which cost nothing. 
  • Keep all your energy bills, and look at them going back for the last two years, calculating both your energy consumption per year for electricity and gas, and setting savings targets for next year. If you make some energy improvements to the house, note your energy bills for the next quarter and compare them with the same quarter the previous two years. 
The Energy Savings Trust website has a very comprehensive list of ideas. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome to SASIE!

4 August: Welcome to SASIE! SASIE are founded in Nottingham, but have a national coverage. They are the most recent sponsor installers to join Rushcliffe Solar. (Contact Neil Smith 0115 916 1046)
      SASIE, fully accredited under the MCS scheme,  have a comprehensive coverage of renewable energy systems including PV installations, Solar Thermal, Ground Source Heat pumps, micro-Wind Turbines, Underfloor heating and Rainwater harvesting. They can support projects from concept to commissioning and support, including custom design of difficult contexts such as combining PV with thermal, educational projects and more.
    These three interesting projects show the re-cladding of a high rise, fitting to a delicate slate roof, and setting up a large rig on a flat roof.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Energy Plan for the UK 2050

2 August: The government's Department of Energy and Climate Change, with Chris Huhne as Energy secretary, have published their Energy Plan 2050.
    I am glad they have done this, as we at the Dept of Built Environment are frequently talking about 2050 as a target. A long term target requires a different sort of thinking to short terms like 2012 and 2016, payback calculations, tariffs and the like - these are all small steps, but what will it really be like in forty years time? Society, living patterns and the energy economy will be radically different by 2050 (for those of us still here....). I am not envisaging a world of Dan Dare, jetpacks and travelators, more the opposite - far more reliance on bicycles and local farming and other forms of localism than we can now imagine - and possibly with regular power cuts in some areas.
   That is the Energy and Food-Water picture. If Climate Change raises sea levels, that is another whole thing to worry about. Energy shortage is an immediate risk facing us which even the most hardened climate change denier is unable to deny.
   If we could take one of these imaginary jetpacks and take a flight over England in 2050, we would see photoelectric roofs everywhere, rather like you now see water tanks on all rural houses in Australian outback. It will become a necessity for new houses, indeed, it is built into the 2016 regulations for new houses. Distributed home generation is necessary to reduce the great transmission losses from the large central generating stations. Houses built between 2016 and 2050 will face predominantly south to make their roofs more convertible to PV. Developers will recognise it as a necessity to help them sell the houses. Solar thermal is becoming increasingly visible in 2010, but will be nearly universal a decade from now.
   Rainwater catchment will have become a necessity, as will vastly better insulation (which you can't see from your jetpack.... ) You would see more gardens turned over to vegetable growing than now - the trend is already happening. Lifestyle changes will have been forced onto us, such as reduced expectations of easy travel.
  The report can be downloaded as a 5 meg PDF from the page:
and seems very thorough, with sections on Lighting, Transport, Industry, Space and Water heating, cooling, Agriculture, BioEnergy, Waste, Nuclear, Fossil fuel carbon capture, Onshore wind, Offshore wind, Tidal energy, Wave energy, Microgeneration (thats us folks!), Geothermal electricity, Hydropower, Electricity balancing, Negative emissions and Electricity imports. The report  starts with pathways towards this, and concludes with a discussion of costs.
  Page 212 brings in the discussion of Microgeneration, with PV a couple of pages later. It is clear that up to 2009 (the announcement of the Feed in Tariff) the UK is lagging behind Europe and the rest of the world.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Third Saturday openair surgery

31 July: Rushcliffe Solar had another open air surgery on Central Ave. It wasn't as busy as the previous weeks, although some callers were good, and some decisive. We had DNC, James Rixon and Sheila Hood on the stand.

I went shopping later at ASDA and couldn't help thinking that it might be a better location (if we are prepared to work without the laptop), but it would be more complicated to arrange.

It was a Craft market day, and no so many around as on the Farmers' or the Gardeners' market. But we met some callers determined to have a go, and we will be sending them reports during the week.
The next Open Air Solar surgery is on 7th August.

Pictured: Sheila Hood of Rushcliffe BC and James Rixon of Rushcliffe Solar

Location - check your location