Are My Solar Energy Plans Wrecked?

In one day, and after one press statement has my solar journey been ruined before it has really properly got going. Today an announcement was made indicating that subsidies for domestic solar electricity production would be reduced. A new tariff will be introduced cutting my proposed solar system’s subsidies by more than half.

Today the Climate Change and Energy Minister Mr Greg Barker said in his announcement:

“My priority is to put the solar industry on a firm footing so that it can remain a successful and prosperous part of the green economy, and so that it doesn’t fall victim to boom and bust.

“The plummeting costs of solar mean we’ve got no option but to act so that we stay within budget and not threaten the whole viability of the FITs scheme.

“Although I fully realise that adjusting to the new lower tariffs will be a big challenge for many firms, it won’t come as a surprise to many in the solar industry who’ve themselves acknowledged the big fall in costs and the big increase in their rate of return over the past year.

“Our proposal for an energy efficiency requirement, as well as the launch of the Green Deal next autumn, creates a massive opportunity for these firms to use their expertise to get a foothold in this exciting new market.

“People who are now thinking of installing solar PV need to do so with their eyes wide open and I’d encourage them to call the Energy Saving Trust for the latest advice.”

The proposed new rates are:

Band (kW) Current generation tariff (p/kWh) Proposed generation tariff (p/kWh)
≤4kW (new build) 37.8 21.0
≤4kW (retrofit) 43.3 21.0
>4-10kW 37.8 16.8
>10-50kW 32.9 15.2
>50-100kW 19 12.9
>100-150kW 19 12.9
>150-250kW 15 12.9
>250kW-5MW 8.5 8.5*
stand alone 8.5 8.5*

Well as you can imagine after that bombshell my dreams today are pretty much in tatters. If I’m unable to get the grants as they were I will not be able to pay for the system or at least it will be even more of a gamble to take a risk on generating enough energy to pay for the system plus any maintenance. This in a technology which I am still very unsure of!

Solar Panel Site Survey

OK – the site survey has been carried out. I have requested the system which I had researched and everything seems achievable.

What did my survey consist of On survey day the man carrying out the survey turned-up early. He had a little look at the roof from the outside before preceding to the loft where he took internal measurements, between the eaves and also between the walls. He also took a compass reading and measured the thickness of the rafters. The meter which is located downstairs was also checked. The whole survey took no longer that 30-minutes to complete.

The same chap also carried out three more surveys close-by on the same day. One was for my father who again was pleased with his solar panel site survey.

My father has also requested the SolarEdge system – this system is probably even more beneficial for him as he has the East-West solar array split mentioned previously and the PowerBoxes should work well when the sun goes over from the East to the West array.

The quotations, project and economy reports should be back by next Friday.

My Solar System Wish List

Having researched some of the available solar modules and solar systems, I have managed to narrow it down to my number one choice. I found that there are so many panels out there you just go around and around getting more and more confused. It seems as in most things the more you pay the better the product usually is. The big named brands appear to have a lot of respect within the forums from installers and and end users alike, And being bigger manufacturers they should be around tomorrow! With this in mind I have also looked at warranties offered and you should be looking at up to 25-years with some performance loss acceptance up to 10-years and then a higher allowance from 10 to 25-years.

My own panel of choice, after reading the reviews, checking prices and looking also at efficiency is the HIT-N240SE10 from Sanyo. This solar panel offers 21.6% Cell Efficiency and 19.0% Module Efficiency this puts it amongst the best available for my budget.

To complete my chosen system I have decided after reading good reviews to match the PV solar panels to a SolarEdge system incorporating SolarEdge PowerBoxes and a SolarEdge inverter. This should work well providing up to 25% more power due to reduced power losses and better module monitoring. Reliability sounds good too with 25-years warranty on the boxes and 12-years on the inverter.

Survey day tomorrow!

Let’s Set the Solar Scene!

OK, having already decided that the solar panel PV electric producing idea is for me, with the feed in tariff incentives and all the good reviews around it seems a no-brainer to give it a go. Especially when you consider that firms backed by investments companies are basically leasing peoples roofs for 25-years to put their panels up. Granted they are probably hand picking the best south facing properties. But even so this must be a great opportunity to not only make your own electric but also get the whole system paid for by itself!

Let me describe the property for my project, my home. It’s a small South, South East facing end terrace house with roman roof tiles situated in the City of Exeter within the county of Devon UK. Yes it’s only a small property but it’s still my castle and I believe it will be an example of what can be produced at the lower end of the spectrum inspiring others to test the water or should that be the sun!

In parallel, my fathers home, who I have already mentioned started me on this challenging journey is a medium sized family semi detached chalet house with roof apexes facing East and West. All in all a much more ambitious project which he has researched a great deal. His plans are to have an East-West solar array split! Being a chalet roof he is limited by the number of solar modules that can be fitted on each side.

My own solar array installation will be approximately eight to ten modules depending on size of panels and space available. I will find this out once my site survey has been completed – that’s next!

Solar Terminology and Wording

I’m going to back date a few of my blog posts to try and get up to present day. As already mentioned I should have started this a long time ago. So for a little bit of the boring part, although I can’t recall everything or when I went through it to get here, I thought that I would start by giving some explanations and definitions to some of the terms that I have picked up over my journey or at least an explanation to how I personally have understood some of the solar panel installation terminologies. If I have got it wrong, then I stand corrected – please feel free to advise accordingly. For research, there are plenty of Solar and Renewable Energy Associations around including the Renewable Energy Association and the Energy Saving Trust.

Solar Photovoltaic Panel (PV) or correctly named modules. These are the panels that we are seeing popping-up on rooftops around the country generating the electrical energy from the sun’s rays. They convert solar radiation into DC electricity.

Solar Cell is the electric producing part of the the solar panel. These are collectively grouped together to form a module all held within the frame (the solar panel).

Direct Current Electricity (DC) similar to the electricity released by batteries. This flows from the solar array via the electrical cable to the inverter.

Alternating Current Electricity (AC) Is the form in which electric power arrives at our homes from the GRID.

Inverter The inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels into AC electricity.

Solar Array The group of electricity generating panels which make up the system are called a solar array.

Generation Meter When electricity is being generated from your PV system it gets recorded by the generation meter and used for feed in tariff payments.

FIT (Feed in Tariff) A government scheme designed to accelerate and encourage the investment in renewable energy technologies. A payment is made for each unit (kWh) of electricity produced by a solar PV system

kWh (Kilowatt/hour) The energy produced by the PV array is measured in kWh.

My Solar Panel Installation Journey

I should have created this blog a long time ago as I would liked to have shared my journey and discoveries from the start about this solar energy generating technology.

I knew absolutely nothing about renewable energies before this project – maybe I should say interest rather than project, as it began as a curiosity in what my father was researching at the beginning of the summer. In fact at that stage I would never of even contemplated investing in such a undertaking.

At first, my father would be looking at various brochures detailing different solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and panels. I would have a quick look and that would be it. Later, maybe we would have been in a similar situation but also have a conversation about this solar power harvesting technology. My ears would be alerted to radio and television sun energy reports or my eyes drawn to a newspaper editorial. I guess by this stage the seed had well and truly been sown and what follows I enter into at my own free will and cognitive state.

I will try and record some of my findings, questions, discoveries and dilemmas experienced up until placing my order. And then go on and report any successes, disappointments, and even failures, but I hope that latter two will not be necessary or even mentioned again! I will attempt to also give an account of my fathers parallel exploits to our homes in Exeter, Devon UK