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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

'Satisfied' of Radcliffe

27 Nov 2011: Geoff S. of Radcliffe on Trent writes:
 "I am pleased to report that my intended 16-panel system has now been installed by Team UK Renewables and was commissioned on 22 November. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that the necessary paper-work will be completed in time to beat the Government's 10th December deadline. There is untold satisfaction in being able to get one up on the Chancellor! I have now also had my two birch trees suitably lopped and am already getting some interesting daily readings. Can I take this opportunity to thank you again for your visit in September and your much-valued independent advice regarding shading problems."

Monday, November 21, 2011

December scramble!

21 Nov 2011: I had an email from Good Energy today to say that they will have staff in the office on Saturday 10th (10-4pm) and Sunday 11th (12-6pm) in December to super-streamline OfGem registrations in time for the midnight deadline of Dec 11th. If you get your installation registered by then, you are on the 43pence tariff for the next 25 years! Some utility companies are telling people that they need 3 or 4 weeks to register, so don't take that nonsense from them - switch!
    I don't normally want to promote one company only, but if they can do this for the customers, it's a benefit for all. Also. I hope they can lose George Monbiot his £100 bet - he bet someone that renewable energy companies can't maintain their prices till  2014... but GE have already maintained their prices without an increase for 4 years - due to the fact that their 'Wholesale Fuel' price is zero - the Wind for their windfarm and the Sun for their customers who are home generators!
     This underlines the fundamental benefit of renewable technology - it trumps all the arguments of people who say that Wind farms or Solar or Hydro is not 'economic'. The fossil/nuclear generators are helped by the many visible and invisible subsidies and economies of scale that the fossil/nuclear systems get - but every other one of these is trumped by the fact that the renewables come free, but the nuclear fossils have a Wholesale fuel purchase price, with competition from others to obtain those fuels, with risks of war or hostilities cutting off the supply.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caution, and Which report

20 Nov 2011: DNC writes: I did another email to some of our past 'Solar Enquirers' to see how many installed, and it's nice to hear how many have actually managed to instal before the December 2011 deadline. The idea was to move them out of the mailing list, so I don't have to bother them with future emails.

Paul Cosgriff writes, with some ideas on being cautious about products and installers :
"We have been very pleased with the performance to date. We waited for a Which report before proceeding. The report highlighted the problem of companies making unrealistic promises about the payback period and also mentioned that inverters can fail and are expensive to replace (this was something that no one had ever mentioned to us!).
   We also agreed with the report's recommendation that the Government should fund a pool of independent advisors, so that householders can check all the facts before proceeding. For example, all companies claim that their panels are the best, but without expert independent advice, it is difficult for the householder to make a sound judgement.
   We obtained 3 quotations and found that the level of professionalism varied - one just looked at the roof from the garden, another went up a ladder and measured the roof, and the third both measured the roof accurately and inspected inside the loft. The company which we chose also had an electrician on the staff who was able to give us assurances regarding our preferred positioning of the meter.
   The installation was carried out in a professional manner, but the supervisor told us that he had decided to work for just 3 companies as he had found that some other companies gave quotes without any on-site survey, just relying on Google Earth, so that when the installation team turned up on site, they found that there were major problems, e.g. the roof was not strong enough to support the panels! I can see that this practice could quickly tarnish the industry with a bad reputation.
    As I said, in our case, we feel we made all the right decisions, and that fact that the sun is still shining in November makes us pretty optimistic."

Editor's Note : this idea of Which is rather like what Rushcliffe Solar have been doing, providing an independent source of advice without any commercial motive at all.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

EPC - you need to insulate!

5 Nov 2011: After April 12th 2012, it's likely that householders will have to get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for their house to be eligible for the 21pence tariff. The EPC should be grade 'C' or better. Without this, you may only be eligible for 9 pence/unit.
   This is going to need clarifying, because it seems to be bad news for people in historic buildings who are unable to bring the buildings up to grade C, or those who have to erect panels in the orchard, garage or uninsulated outbuildings because the house is historic, listed or is encrusted with chimneys and dormers. You need EPCs in order to sell a house, so there is now a small industry of EPC assessors. Google EPC and you will find loads, including some companies based in West Bridgford/ Rushcliffe. If your house does not yet meet grade C, then you will get advice from the assessor on how far it can be taken.

How do you get an EPC?
• EPCs are explained further on the DECC website,
• It costs between £30 and £70 to get an EPC evaluation, there are many companies offering to do one. See this page:
• Here's an example of a EPC for a house in 'AnyTown'
DNC writes: I have recently had my house EPC'd and the assessors say it's the highest they have seen, at 91. It would have been 96 if I hadn't had a gas fire in the living room as an emergency measure if the heat pump breaks down. Also, we have a brick detached house which loses us some points. The software used for the assessment doesn't know about solar panel assisted heat pumps, so although our actual energy consumption is 27 kWh/sqm/yr, the software assumes we use 45 kWh/sqm/yr. (The house is A-rated on 'environmental impact')

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tariff for early adopters

2nd November 2011: I was asked recently if there might be changes for people who adopted PV prior to July 2009. It really has been very unfair that they were not included in the FIT, albeit at half or third rate. They seem to have been forced to accept a share of the tiny 3.1pence/unit rate, despite having installed at a time when PV was twice the cost it is now. Well. there is a scheme, although it is not as good as the FIT, it is better than nothing.
  My electricity utility, Good Energy, have a reasonable deal for such people. Prior to the FIT they were offering me 15p/unit, so I wrote to them to ask if they had anything similar for early adopters of PV.

Click to view the details of the
review of the FIT 2nd Nov 2011
  One of the Home Generation team replied to me: "Prior to the FIT we did run our own HomeGen scheme which offered a higher payment for installations, however this is now reduced to 9.4p/kWh for every unit generated and a 3.1p/kWh for 50% which is deemed exported. This is the payment existing generators who transferred from the RO scheme are now paid.
   In regards to the recent announcement - Good Energy is disappointed with the Government’s proposals on the FIT review. We believe that the cause of the problem lies with the artificial cap imposed on the scheme by the Treasury and will be working hard to improve the proposals put forward by the Department of Energy & Climate Change."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Displacing solar power to store

1 Nov 2011: In the last year, I have been asked many times about whether one could cream off peak power in summer for storage. Well my reply has usually been that I thought it was unethical, as the public are subsidising us with a generous Feed in Tariff, and we have a duty to deliver some clean energy. With the change of FIT rate to something less generous, it is time to consider some of these storage ideas.
Carl of Prescient Power told me of a smart controller which is capable of reading the curve of the daily power generation, comparing it with the amount that is being used in the house. When the roof is peaking, the controller can direct power to something else - the best example would be an immersion heater which is a form of storage. If you were baking and ironing that day, it would decide that there would be no need to cream off spare energy. Another place to dump power would be to run to a battery charger, from which one can run night functions like lighting (using an inverter). The disadvantage of this is the same old one, that one has less spare power when you most need it, in the Winter when one needs longer hours of lighting, and more hot water. But it's worth thinking about.

FIT change is not as bad as feared

1st Nov 2011: I did a Rushcliffe Solar estimation for one client and was pleased to find that the situation is not as bad as I feared. She does happen to have a perfect south facing unshaded roof, which helps. The new rules on FIT will discourage people who can only fit 6-10 panels, because of the higher cost per kilowatt. However, for a 16 panel installation of nearly 4 kW the payback is still quite good, and would be equivalent to about £1000/year - about 8-9%. The return from the tariff is still enough to justify installation. The assumed earnings from saving on your current bill, and the income from direct sale to the grid assume a larger proportion of the calculation - the 3.1pence per unit being worth £50.
People will be more choosy (not doing a roof unless it has good orientation), and they will be taking the long view - that over the years, the costs of energy for everyone else will rise and their virtual income from the savings will increase proportionately. There will be an increasing tendency to adapt lifestyle, like baking cakes or running the washing machine at midday.
     Under the 43pence rule, the payback was getting up into the teens, like 14-16% which must be far more than the original creators of the FIT intended - caused mainly by the much reduced cost of panels.
See Full details of the review at Good Energy's website.

Solar array monitoring

1st November 2011: I met Carl Benfield of Prescient Power, one of our new installer-sponsors. His roof has a PV array on both the east and the west roofs, and he has a Solar Edge databox in each panel that reports back to the inverter on the current performance, flags up failing panels, and allows some panels to drop their power temporarily while a tree shadow passes without reducing the power of the remainder.

In this image of Carl's roof, he can slide the timeline along and look at any part of the day. He has a failed panel on the west roof (black with orange stripe) and an under-performing panels on the west face because it's morning on the timeline (dark blue with yellow stripe) . He has a good number of panels doing well in the morning (blue with black stripe) One east panel has a yellow stripe for some reason - he will get emails sent him by the system warning him of this.
This is just one of the many interesting analytical windows available from the Solar Edge reporting window.
Having this done costs at bit at start up but will earn its keep over the years. Without this, you could go for a while summer without realising that you had some failed panels.

Location - check your location