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: RushcliffeSolar@gmail.com
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, October 31, 2011

Decision on FIT

31 Oct 2011: Well the announcement on FIT has been made and the details are on the Energy Saving Trust website.
http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generate-your-own-energy/Financial-incentives/UK-Government-proposed-changes-to-solar-PV-Feed-in-Tariffs

And the official page from DECC:
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/gb_fits/gb_fits.aspx
This is going to be a tough decision for some. If you have determined to go ahead, you will have to consider the revised payback and balance that with your altruistic desires to 'do something good for the environment', or perhaps recognition that 5% return is still as good as the best deposit or Building Society accounts currently available. There is also reasonable evidence that having a house with good energy performance will have added resale value.
   If you have decided to go ahead and now wish to reverse that decision, there is the concept of the 'cooling off period' and some of you may be able to back out, depending on when you decided and how much you are out by.

Naturally, R-S hopes you will continue, after recalculating a more rational but very slow rate of return. Consider the position of those who installed prior to July 2009 who have never earned anything, and are only getting 3.1p per unit. I propose that the government could regain some lost friends if it balanced this reduction of the FIT for new installations by allowing Pre-2009 householder to have the 21p/unit.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Changes to FIT

30 Oct 2011: DNC writes: Congratulations to all who had the courage to go ahead and install PV during the last 2 years. If you are on the bandwagon, your investment is reasonably safe (although government still has the right to decide how index linking goes). Those who have not installed have to go ahead quick, as the Feed in Tariff changes expected for April 2012 may occur earlier, perhaps in December 2011.
If you have a system installed, but haven't yet registered it for FIT, do so very quickly, because there is a dealing coming up.
    The Guardian got this scoop off the Energy Saving Trust website, shortly before it disappeared again from the EST website. But the details were mostly confirmed by Greg Barker in the morning news of 29th Oct. The DECC website will show the details from Monday 31st Oct onwards.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2011/oct/28/feed-in-tariffs-solarpower

     I don't altogether disagree with the policy. Degression was always going to be built in, but it needs to degress faster, due to the fall in the cost of installations. The original assumption was that Energy prices are only ever going to go up, and this has been true. The next assumption is that increasing world demand would balance with falling manufacturing cost keeping installation prices stable - this assumption was wrong, because costs of installations have almost halved in a couple of years due to vastly ramped up Chinese manufacturing, and competition in the installation industry. But most people will find the new rate is a serious discouragement, even if they are well intended to do something for clean energy and safer climate - 43p reducing to 21p will reduce payback to 5-6% (16-20 years), and the resulting cutback in installations will not bring prices down as fast as they have fallen since 2009.

   My 4kW installation was over £19K a mere two years ago, and now 4kW is reliably only about £11k, and some installers can beat even that. When I started doing Rushcliffe Solar estimations, we were getting paybacks of 8%-10%, and now prices have fallen so much that it's 12%-16% - this is too high a return, causing people to make rushed decisions for the wrong motives. The minister said that people should also consider the other long term things like improving house insulation and glazing, before rushing to instal electrical generation on inefficient buildings.

   Ironically, this decision is going to push PV prices up, as there are increasingly frantic order books, and shoppers can no longer shop around much - they just have to select whoever can fit them in before the new year. Companies who have moved into PV may be considering shifting out of it again. It is a blow for the nascent industry, to be sure.
See also:
http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2120568/feed-tariff-cuts-threaten-kill-solar-pv
http://www.clickgreen.org.uk/news/national-news/122739-consumers-and-industry-react-with-fury-to-leaked-feed-in-tariff-cut-plans.html


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PV workaround Thermal in WB

26 Oct 2011: John Turner of West Bridgford has written with a report about his installation, in April just in time to catch a good summer harvest. He could have fitted more, but he has had to work around the existing solar thermal panels. Excellent work! As he says (below) that he has managed to achieve the maximum power on the best days, his roof angle must be perfect for summer sun angles. I wonder what he does with all the hot water he must get at these times! I would have considered having 16 in the south roof, and move the solar thermal to the west roof, but that might have been inconvenient for him, plumbing-wise.

John writes: "At the end of April I installed 14 PV panels around 2 Hot water panels which have been on the roof for about 5 years. The max output is 2.5KW and on the best days I'm registering 2.51KW so they meet the Spec. The installation was done by Ploughcroft Solar and they made a good job of it. I have a radio link with a Sunny Beam to the inverter which saves me going into the loft to look at the output power and also gives me records I can download to my computer in spreadsheet form. The data is actually in hourly form but I only collect the daily totals and sum these into Months and an ongoing overall total. Since installation the panels have produced 1575KWh." 

Blackfriars bridge-PV

26 Oct 2011: OK, Blackfriars bridge is not in Rushcliffe, but you are here because you have an interest in PV. Although we householders can all do our bit with our small roofs, it is very encouraging to see a major public investment into solar power, especially when it need not take any land, or look wrong in the landscape, and will represent a big saving in running costs.
   This will be the largest PV bridge in the world, and the largest single installation in London! More than 4,400 panels (6,000 m2) are due to be installed on a north light serrated roof that will be above the trains. See the information site at:
www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk/news/news_items/view/108
http://www.triplepundit.com/2011/10/london-plans-worlds-biggest-solar-bridge/
This is the view of it a couple of years earlier, but the whole station has been undergoing major refurbishment, and the Tube station has been closed during the work. Up above, the plan is to run a canopy across the bridge. I can't post a photo for copyright reasons, but you can see the web page.
  The hoped-for solar capture will be 900,000 kWh, resulting in a huge CO2 saving of 511 tonnes.

Cotgrave Roof-Electric!

26 Oct 2011: David Nicholls of Cotgrave writes in with photos of his system, installed in August 2011. R-S sent him an estimation in Mid July. Its a south facing roof. Although we thought from Googlemaps that 14 would fit easily, his installer has managed to fit in 16, so he has more Power generation and more Feed in Tariff than expected.
Finished house: Neat work!


These show the panels fitting to their click frames.

Work in progress


David writes: "I  had my solar panel installation on 9th Aug by Activate Solar. The whole process was stress  free and ran very smoothly I was very impressed with the professional approach the installers had, with a great up to date statement of the stages involved and what to expect. Dates and times were right on the mark. I have been monitoring the system and so far above expectation!"

Panels are safe

26 Oct 2011: DNC writes: Some people often ask me, what happens if my panels get stolen, eg off a flat roof?
    I was recently thinking about selling on my PV roof and fitting higher efficiency panels (with liquid cooling), when David Hill of Carbon Legacy pointed out something important, which I recognise as a very good anti theft rule.
   When you have a PV roof fitted, the serial numbers of the panels are registered with OfGem, and that set of numbers is what you use for your Feed in Tariff payments. If those panels turn up elsewhere and someone tries to register them again, they will be flagged up, thus identifying where they got to, and from that, who stole them. The only possible use for second hand panels is for off grid installations. They could not be used for claiming on the Feed in Tariffs. The person buying them would know that they were dodgy and would want to know why.
   For special circumstances, such as you move house and the buyer of the old one doesn't want them, or you have had to replace your panels after a number of years, you would have to make a special case to OfGem to re-register them and re-register at the new location, by the original owner or the executor of the original owner.
   I am quite encouraged by this. It means that if you go on holiday, you feel more confident that your panels are safe, and I am sure that if there are such things as 'panel thieves', they have found this out too. There is more to be made by draining tanks of oil etc. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy hipped PV roof

23 Oct 2011: Robert C of West Bridgford had an estimation from Rushcliffe Solar in July 2010, and has written to say that he has now completed his first full year with PV on the roof, installed by MG Renewables. It's a good example of making the best of what you have, when you are stuck with a typical West Bridgford hipped roof. The ten panels here are enough to be viable (for payback purposes) and will earn their keep nicely.
  During December of 2010, it was a little discouraging, but a thin coating of snow still has some transparency to sunlight and continues to generate a small amount - the worst days are ones with very heavy dark grey cloud, which can produce less than a sunny winter day with snow!

Robert writes:  "Very few people spread the word about the benefits of PV more than I do. We had our 10 x 180Watt Amerisolar panels installed last October by MG Renewables.
   We now have a complete year's records. I was not taking meter readings daily at first but have been doing so for the last 8 or 9 months. Over the year from 07 October 10 to 07 October 11 we generated 1,710.3 kWh. We see it as a very good financial investment as well as helping to reduce CO2 emissions. The PV has also helped our electricity bill to reduce.
   I am a mechanical services design engineer and work for Nottinghamshire County Council. We install quite a lot of PV on new school buildings. Also, if all goes to plan, the new extension to West Bridgford Library will have about 100m2 on its roof."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

PV on Yorkshire hillside

22 Oct 2011: DNC writes: My sister in law and her partner live in Yorkshire, and have been inspired to go as Eco as possible. They have both PV and solar-thermal panels, and they are off both the water and the drainage grids.
 Having a house which is historic, they couldn't consider panels on the roof, but they have a superb south facing hillside immediately behind the house. Paul is a scientist, so the technicalities of planting concrete feet on the hill, getting them perfectly planar, and working out the wiring back to the house are not a challenge.
The final 3.15 kW array is very clean, totally unshaded. It is safe against wind uplift, and is nearly invisible from the road. It maximises PV capture in summer months.

Paul writes: 
   "The concrete was reinforced with steel and had threaded studs set at the top. Our PV installers (Ecoheat) provided the dimensioned drawing.
   "We had our local builders dig the holes and pour the concrete (they needed bits of shuttering at the top where the concrete sticks up above the ground. They had to ensure that they lined up horizontally and vertically, so as to take the support frame. We left the ground underneath as it was, the grass has mainly died away.
   "A galvanised steel unistrut frame was fitted to the concrete supports (as shown in the photos). To this was fitted a Schuco PV Light mounting system for the actual PV panels (18 x BP 4175T). Two buried armoured cables take the DC current from the panels (above and behind the house) to the inverter (a Sunny Boy 1100), which is fitted in a weather proof enclosure mounted on the upper rear wall of the house. Another armoured cable takes the AC current from the inverter into the loft and down into our airing cupboard, where there is a sub-board for the mains connection."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Radcliffe Superhome!

20 October 2011: Michael Bedford of Radcliffe has just had his house added to the Superhomes website, which is for retrofit to older homes, using energy saving methods or technology. See:
http://www.superhomes.org.uk/superhomes/nottingham-johns-road
Somehow, I guess that this is one house that will be warm this winter, however bad the weather gets!
This is about the most comprehensive retrofit that anybody could do. Here's a list of the main features:

  • 60mm Phenolic foam external insulation 
  • 20mm Spacetherm (Aerogel) + Fermaboard panels internal insulation 
  • 120mm Celotex floor insulation and 250mm Celotex loft insulation 
  • TITON MVHR system 
  • Hi-performance ALPHA gas boiler 
  • 2.4 SqM solar thermal panel 
  • 10x245W Photovoltaic panels  2.45 KWp 
  • Low energy lighting throughout 
  • Low energy appliances

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Radcliffe PV

20 October 2011: I was sent this photo of David and Joan S's roof in Radcliffe. For them, we did a roof study in August 2010, and they got the PV installed in December 2010, just in time for the 2011 springtime, one of the sunniest ever!


Joan writes: "We had 16 panels installed by TeamUK Renewables (Roy Redhead) last December and were very satisfied with the service we received and the quarterly cheques received. We recommended Roy to friends and neighbours and at least two families had panels installed."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hawthorne avoids tree shadow

20 Oct 2011: This photo sent to me by Donald Hawthorne in Ruddington (RS and Carbon Legacy client) shows a pretty well perfect roof, with 16 panels - but there is a problem with some tall trees to the South, that are too nice to shorten. The whole array has been carefully shifted sideways to mitigate the effect of the shadow. This photo taken in October, neatly shows the outline of shadows.
Donald writes: "My 3.86kW installation was done by Carbon Legacy of East Leake. It is just over one year old and my rate of return was 11.3% for the year including a 40% reduction in electricity bought from E-On."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Power House in Woking

18 Oct 2011: One of the houses that Rushcliffe Solar did a quick survey for was in Woking, because Neil, the owner, is a friend of my (DNC's) son. We did a survey in January 2011. His house is small but with a perfect SSE orientation. The family were selling off a surplus car and decided to invest the funds in a PV roof. Neil did a lot of research on panels and went for ones with dark frames - he likes his PV roof to be as cool as his cars! (too much chrome always did make a car look gaudy! Too much aluminium for PV does the same....). He is interested in high performance too, so these panels are 245W ones with an interesting hybrid texture.

    A PV roof becomes a sort of hobby, and one that earns too. He has written it up in a detailed Blog entry. http://mukerji.co.uk/category/solar-technology/  In swapping his car for a roof, Neil doesn't have crippling servicing and insurance charges to face, annually.

    I have a friend in Nottingham who runs a Porsche, and who lectures on Carbon Zero design and tells me that I am not 'carbon zero' until my PV generates enough to cover cooking, lighting, TV, lawn mowing, and everything else - pah! Try telling me how his 'payback' works on a Porsche with 3,000 pound annual servicing charges!
    Back to Neil. His roof had a vigorous moss-growth on the SE slope and he took a power washer to it before covering up with panels. That's a good lesson because once they are on, you can't do further external maintenance for 25 years!

     Thankyou to Neil for providing such detailed photos and info on the PV installation and may you have many good summers with it!

In an email to me, Neil writes: "I'm very happy with it to date. It has been interesting to study the annual setting of the sun - during the unusually sunny period at the beginning of this month I noticed the peak output decline from 2.5 to 2.2 kW - yet in early September I'd seen 3.7kW (just over the theoretical maximum output of 3.6kW). Since the installation on the 23rd August we've generated 615kWh to date = we just need to get through winter to really see what we can do! I have indeed kept daily low/normal/generated meter readings - the obsession has commenced!"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Flat roof solution

17 Oct 2011: One of the Rushcliffe Solar requesters, David Flinn, has sent me this photo of his installation.
  It's interesting, being on a flat roof without racking. Some installers will try to tilt the panels 15ยบ to the south on racking. That's an expensive solution, but has two main advantages : reducing the penetrations of the roof to a minimum and getting about 10% more power annually. Advantage of this layout is that they don't shade each other, the space between is a narrow maintenance walkspace.
    This one has each group of panels with their own watertight connections through to the roof structure. Very neat. I think there's a very small tilt to the south to roll water off. It's easy to clean occasionally, as the roof is on a single storey extension - and this is needed because rainwater will not self-clean flat panels.
Remember, that if you have panels and clean them yourself, use only the softest cloths, because you do not want to scratch the hydrophobic coating - the one that helps water and dirt to roll off.
  Nice vegetated wall!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gedling reaches for the Sun!

11 Oct 2011: There's a report in the Nottingham Evening Post that is uplifting! Back in the Summer, DNC and Arash of Rushcliffe Solar did a report for Gedling Borough Council on the potential for PV in the borough - using community and leisure and depot buildings. We were a bit worried that it might go the way of the Rushcliffe proposal, into the long grass. But clearly, there are braver and nobler souls in Gedling, and the borough council have agreed to go ahead with some installations.
  The Borough Council have agreed to embark on £430,000 worth of investment in Photovoltaic panels on the roofs of depot and civic buildings, leading to an income for the borough for the next 25 years, and demonstrating their commitment to energy saving. They hope to get it done by March 2012, in time before there is a risk of the Coalition govt from changing the tariff for large installations. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

PV Photo competition

7 Oct 2011: EvoEnergy have recently run a photo competition, inviting guests to send in photos - these were judged by a professional photographer, for quality of set up, light, story-line etc. The one that came first looks highly like Jensen Button's dad (with a very neat array of 22 panels). Second was a cute kid plugging his dad's electric car in for recharging. Third was an interesting photo of an array on its own framework on a very rural location in a mountainous location.
   Even if you couldn't take part, have a look anyway. I'm terribly sorry that I missed the deadline and didn't send in a picture of my house (writes DNC), although I don't think I would have done one as good as the prizewinners.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Totally Local at Melton Rd

1 Oct 2011: On the hottest October day in weather history, Rushcliffe Solar was at the Totally Locally event on Melton Rd.
     Although the main Saturday action in WB is on Central Avenue, the shopkeepers of Melton Rd are working hard to make another area of action, and the event was well supported by a lot of local residents, not all of whom were from the immediate locality - people had heard the publicity and come in from further afield.
    With plenty of parking and a good variety of shops, there is no reason not to visit the Melton Rd shops more often (and thank you to Signature (boutique, steakhouse and coffee bar) for the coffees, presented with delicious little cakes)

September PV maximum days

2 Oct 2011: The heat wave at the end of September produced 3 successive PV-Maximum days in a row. As it is after the Equinox, these averaged 13.5 kWh only per day on my east facing 4KW array, but it is still nice to have them. The lower daily harvest is due to lower sun angles and short hours of daylight. It's distressing how quickly it gets dark in the early evenings!
    It says something about the summer we have had (a lot of cloudy bright conditions) that that last day that PV was close to a maximum was 14th June, and previous to that it was May 1st and 2nd! For those who installed in early 2011, the good news is that 2011 has so far been sunnier than 2010, July and September being notably better.
DNC (feel free to comment or reply)

Location - check your location