Arrival of the feed-in tariff (FIT) agreement

Back on the 18th February I made a determined effort to try and tie up a few loose ends left outstanding from my solar panel installation in November. This was only unresolved paperwork issues but nonetheless very important to clear up.

One of the issue was that of the outstanding Scottish and Southern Electric (SSE) feed-in tariff (FIT) agreement. I left this still outstanding on the 18th which was at that time approaching three months from my solar array fit date. I was expecting a promised call-back from the microgeneration department within five days. Well, the call never materialised and was still waiting over two weeks later.

This week I called the department once more and explained the situation. This was then escalated to a manager and I was called back later the same day to confirm that my contact would be in the post that evening. And sure enough it arrived the very next day – job done.

The agreement came with a covering letter thanking me for appointing Scottish & Southern Electric as the FIT licensee. This is all very similar to that reported before for my fathers solar panel system on 4th February. The document confirms that I have been registered for the FIT scheme and there is also a contract to sign and return.

Also stated within the communication are the submission dates that the meter readings must be taken. It is to be read and submitted to enable quarterly payments for FITs generation and export. These figures can be emailed or phoned through on or around the required dates.

Chasing-up the FIT Agreement

Over the last few days I have been trying to tie up a few loose ends left outstanding from my solar panel installation in November. Although only paperwork issues they are still important and I would rather get them sorted now rather than any later.

With the 3-month mark now approaching since my solar system array was installed I have now started chasing up on my Scottish and Southern Electric (SSE) feed-in tariff (FIT) agreement. I am not overly troubled by whether the application was accepted because I already know from a call made in November when I called SSE microgeneration to confirm its receipt that the paperwork was in order and that the feed-in tariff rate of 43.3p would apply from my installation grid connection date. It’s really now more of a concern after learning that other solar pv systems installed later than that of my own have already received and returned their contracts. Could my paperwork have been lost in the post? Could it be delayed due to the problem encountered with the electric meter spinning backwards on bright days and then subsequently changed over by the utility company? I came to the conclusion that 3-months wait is long enough!

I am not really any the wiser now – after calling the microgeneration department at SSE and explaining the situation, I am now awaiting a call back from their payments team to clarify matters. The gentleman who eventually took my call did confirm that it’s probably down to the meter swap scenario delaying things slightly, but as it does seem to be taking some time he would pass-on for a call back.

Hopefully I will receive that call quite soon confirming that the details are on the way – if not I will give it another week before chasing again – Another reason for wanting to get this resolved is that  I’m also going to start missing solar generation meter reading submission dates. Although I won’t lose out on payments – they will just be delayed.

Another issue that I’m still to resolve is that of the Sma Sunny Boy extended warranty policy. This warranty extension was purchased as part of my solar panel package and should really have been received at the time of system handover from the installers. I did question its lack of presence at the time, but was informed it would follow. I was concerned, but accepted this in goodwill. I have now chased the warranty policy on three occasions only to learn that it will be with me before Christmas, it’s coming in on the 27th Jan, and finally I have now learned that it will here on the 1st March!

Arrival of the FITs Contract

The SSE energy supply contract arrived today, but not for my system. Although the solar panel array was installed two weeks later than that of my own, it was my father’s feed-in tariff agreement (FIT) that was received in the post this morning.

The agreement came with a covering letter thanking him for appointing Scottish & Southern Electric as his FIT licensee. The document confirms that he has been registered for the FIT scheme with two copies of the contract to sign. One to be retained and the other to be returned as soon as possible in an enclosed pre-paid envelope.

Also stated within the communication are the submission dates that the meter readings must be taken and conveyed. This is the reading from the generation meter that records all yielded electricity from the sun. It is to be read and submitted to enable quarterly payments for FITs generation and export. These figures can be emailed or phoned through on or around the required dates.

New Electric Meter – Plan your daytime energy usage and draw less

After first having a visit from my electric supplier’s meter team who tried and failed to replace my meter due to the fusebox restricting the meter from being lifted off its hook, and then another turn-up without a meter, I have now finally had a new meter installed.

It’s been a rather a troublesome affair for something that really should have been so simple. I had to get the electrician back to move the fusebox 30mm so that the meter could be lifted off a screw hook. Call him back again as I was left with only partial electricity in the house and then take more time off work for the meter man to return.

I thought that having a new electric meter fitted would mean that I would get one of the new Smart Meters. Unfortunately these have had several teething problems and have not yet been released for widespread installations. I will need another visit for this in the future when they have been fully rolled out.

A lot of people are under the impression that if you have solar panels on your property then you get free electric by day. I thought this, or at least I did at first – and you do if you generate enough at the time you want it. Having now had a new meter installed I have come to realise a little more about how this works and how much is free.

You would think that if you are producing your own electric from the sun then you should then be able to use what you generate. But no, you get to use what you require at the time of generation – The rest is fed to the grid. You can not store your own electric for use later, although I have read and also heard about a few set-ups and systems that people are coming up with. For the typical user, myself included, what happens is that if you are using electric by day when the solar panels are harvesting the sun’s rays, it will use this electric first and then either top up from the grid if you require more or export any that is unused.

Let’s say I’m boiling my 3kW kettle and my system is harvesting at 2kWh while the water boils, this would then mean I’m drawing electric at 1kWh from the grid. In effect I would be buying this top-up of 1kWh at 19 pence a unit or whatever the present rate is. Now let’s go the other way, if for example, I’m using my personal computer for one hour. It uses approximately 150 watts per hour. If the panels created 1.2kW for the hour while the PC is switched on, I will have fed the excess, slightly over 1kW of electricity onto the grid. Disregarding any government subsidies this will then earn me 3 pence.

Three pence earnings per kW exported is not really worth worrying about. It is far better practice to plan your day time energy usage and draw less.

Solar Subsidy Cuts Delayed

The government has today lost its bid in the high court of appeal to cut subsidies for solar panel installations. The news will be greatly received by anyone who was unable to beat the original December 12th cut-off date.

The unanimous decision by the three court judges to reject the appeal means home owners will now have until 3rd March 2012 to get a solar system installed and benefit from today’s ruling. But buyers should still be mindful as the government will likely seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Installations from this date will see FIT (feed-in tariff) payments reduced by half.

This will still undoubtedly begin another solar panel ‘gold rush’ as personally experienced in November. I anticipate, contrary to the news of solar panel installation prices dropping recently, that this will now have an influence on prices inflating again until the new deadline has elapsed.

Electric Meter Runs Backwards With Solar Panels

Meter incompatible for micro-generationI have heard back from my electric supplier’s micro-generation department with reference to my meter that is running backwards when solar electric is being generated. Although I have now become fond of this newly discovered solar installation feature! they have confirmed that the meter is indeed an old unit and no longer suited for my property and that it will be changed over next week.

Electric Meter Going Backwards

Over the Christmas holidays during a couple of sunny days I noticed that my electric meter was spinning backwards. Up till then I hadn’t really had any decent days to witness this before. At least not while at home in the daytime.

I have searched around on the internet a little to see if this was how the grid feed-in tariff works and discovered quite a lot of posts on various solar forums discussing the subject. It seems that I may have an old electric meter. And this is why on sunny days when electric generation is greater than my needs it causes the meter to run backwards – the greater the generation the faster it spins!

After reviewing some of the information online I have today phoned and reported it to my electric supplier. It was logged with the micro-generation department by the operative, who will look into and call me back. I will post again once I have received a reply.

Solar Panel Installation Report

The FIT application was submitted by email on Thursday evening without any problems. As the December 12th deadline was now approaching, my father also phone the supplier to confirm its receipt. I won’t go into too much more detail on this process as my previous blog on the 1st December can be read ( here ), this goes into a little more about the FIT application and submission procedure experienced with my own installation towards the end of November.

Today, my entry is really concentrating on providing a report and details of my father’s actual installation. As mentioned on my previous entry that an inspection would be required due to noticing and hearing a few disconcerting sounds. Also I have provided some photographs to show the finished East-West solar panel installation.

We first checked the loft area as this was an area where my father had heard a rather abrupt command of ‘stop’ by one of the fitters. On inspection we found that the top corner of the gable end internal wall where it joins the rafters and roof supports was showing a large hole. On closer inspection we found that the fitter must have been drilling upwards towards the ridge tiles. This had caused some of the masonry and block work to come away just underneath. He had then re-drilled horizontally some 150mm lower.

Next, while still in the loft, we found holes in the felt where the fitter must have stabbed at the felt with either a screwdriver or drill. Nearby he had used another hole to feed the solar array’s cabling through. Why he did not use the lap of the felt located just above to do this is just one of the questions we will be asking. Also we were horrified to see screws splitting down the sides of the rafters. Others were coming out at all sorts of angles with more that fifty percent of the screw not in the joist. Instead of using a pilot hole first, he must have just screwed-in causing several more instances of this on each side of the loft.

This stomach churning experience then continued on the outside. While looking up under the gable end we could see that a hole was drilled and then left unused in the fascia board. A tile was also hanging precariously just above, and the dry verge cap was no longer straight. Coming around the back of the house looking up at the ridge we could see that the end ridge-tile was longer sitting fixed to its bed of mortar.

A complaint will now be made detailing some of our findings. I will also try to borrow a long enough ladder to get up on the roof and see what else has been going on.

West side of East-West solar splitEast side of East-West solar split