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#1 Matthew (Admin/MPJ)

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 10:18 AM

When we are up north in Leeds, we travel quite a bit on the local buses. This gives us an excellent view of all the peoprty around the city. We have notcied in recent mnths quite a few new installations of solar panels on roofs of houses. Some are quite small, but others appear to have most of one side of the house's rof covered.

Has anyone noticed an increase in solar panels in and around Amersham?

I believe there are now some options to use panels to generate electrcitiy, with the surplus electricity "sold" to the energy companies. Has anyone explored this option?
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#2 Eaton

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 11:02 AM

We briefly flirted with the idea of Solar Panels but the original outlay was quite expensive and it takes some time (years) to get your original expenditure back even allowing for the savings on electricity/hot water and selling your excess electricity back. At that time it was quoted as taking approximately 7 - 10 years to recoup your expenditure and as we tend to move every 7 years it didn't seem worth the hassle. Perhaps when we next move we will get solar panels fitted within the first few months...
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#3 Jane

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 01:07 PM

Hi

As a business, we have just become accredited to install solar PV. We thought about it a few years ago, but 2 things stopped us then, firstly the product wasn't great then and secondly the payback was years and years, 15+, so demand was small. Hubby recently went to Germany to the Solar trade fair and was very impressed with the product so we took the leap to move into solar installs.

With the feed in tariffs it is becoming very attractive as an investment for people. Agree with you Eaton though, the payback is roughly 7yrs (quicker if electricty prices rise) and unless you are settled in a property it may not be worth it. We have had a large number of enquires from new and existing clients, all people looking to invest money, and solar for them is a secure investment, given that the tariffs are fixed for 25yrs (index linked) once you sign up. Also people with lumps of land that are doing nothing are starting to enquire, most of these are coming from further a field than Buckinghamshire.

Matthew - the real win win, is you get paid to generate the electricity whether you use it or not, its not just the surplus you get paid for. I think we will see more and more installations over the next 12 months in the local area, its an investment that people feel safe making that also ticks a green box for them.

Jane

#4 David P

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 01:47 PM

I've looked at this recently and done the sums. As Jane says, the payback period is roughly 7 years (I made it 10, but it's near enough) using simple arithmetic. But, and it's a big BUT, all these calculations by the suppliers conveniently ignore the loss of interest on the capital outlay. Take this into account and the payback is about 20 years. a) I'll probably be dead by then, B) that's the estimated life of the panels so you will have to fork out for new ones then and c) that takes us up to the end of the government subsidies.

If Jane believes she can convince me otherwise I'd be interested to see the figures.

The whole scheme is quite farcical and typical of the government's green hysteria. People are being paid for electricity four times the price at which it is sold on to other people. And I am subsidising this - either by increased fuel bills or through taxes, I'm not sure which. I could go on . . . .
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#5 gazza13

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 03:27 PM

The man at the back of me has them on his roof, quite a lot of them, it is a big detached house all pointing due south. They must be new, I only saw them on my annual hedge trim a few weeks ago.

#6 Chris Rogers

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 09:56 PM

My background is engineering as well as electrical contracting - The general consensus in my industry is that the only people making money out of the scheme are the installers of the panels themselves.

Whilst the facts on paper appear great, they assume the panels don't need maintenance. The also assume the panels remain clean throughout their working life.

I think they're a gimmick and should be avoided at all costs. I looked at becoming an accredited installer for the systems, but I decided I did not want to potentially damage the reputation of my business by installing a product that doesn't meet the manufacturers claims in 5 years time....

#7 Jane

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 10:39 AM

David, you voice very valid concerns. There are so many variables that influence the numbers. I don't believe solar is for everyone at all, many households can simply save significantly being more efficient with their current usage and minor changes. I've put together some numbers below, see what you think, I am NOT an accountant or financial advisor so please be gentle :). A number of our clients are in the financial sector and have produced many elaborate spread sheets!

Chris, I do disagree that they are a gimmick, we are going to have to find other ways to generate power eventually, in Germany they produce 2% of their electricity from Solar PV and expect this to rise to 25% by 2050. The product development in solar is moving very fast. I do think unfortunately there are cowboys out there, people who never been involved in the electrical industry at all, who are seeing this as a double glazing exercise and will do the hard sell and charge ridiculous prices, put solar of roofs that really are not suitable and clearly not ideally positioned.

We entered the market due to a belief in the product and pressure from existing clients, some of the quotations I have seen are outrageous. As a company we will do our best to ensure we install product that has a proven track record and will stand the test of time and provide value for money. The panels we and other reputable suppliers install carry a performance warranty for 25yrs, of course there are cheap options that may not meet expected performance but all product installed for an eligible feed in tariff has to approved by the MCS. Accreditation is as you probably know not a tick box and sign the cheque process, having written our quality management system and been audited I can honestly say it was quite rightly a very tough process. A correctly installed system shouldn't need maintenance, there are no moving parts in the panels, panels that require cleaning probably have not been installed in correct positions, i.e. near/under trees.

Also in order to be an installer you also have to become part of REAL Assurance scheme, a consumer code to protect the customer against miss selling/underperformance etc.

The figures:
If you were lucky enough to have £12k to invest, and you either put it in savings or on your roof, so in both cases you can't touch the money.
£12k in savings for 10yrs at 5% - compounded interest would yield:
£19764.11

£12k in solar, you should be able to install around 4kw for that (depending where you buy) you should yield £130 month profit, (our latest 4kw is yielding £140). That £130 is paid to you, you invest it in a 10 year savings account at 5% the compound interest would yield:
£20270.81 - this excludes the savings on electricity you haven't purchased. The calculations take into account the average solar irradiance (the amount of sun you get, so it is not presuming you have constant sun and panels working at 100%)

If you only use 50% of the electricity produced you could save £190 a year at least, from the actual figures we have gathered we would expect an average household to save £300-£400 a year. Assuming electricity prices stay the same you should save in addition between £1900-£3000 over 10 years. The tariffs are also index linked and there is no tax on tariff payments.

I will say again, I donít think Solar is for everyone, but for some it does make sense. I am sure this thread will make an interesting debate, there is no doubt that this market will grow in the UK and we will see more and more installations appearing

As for how the tariffs are funded, that's a whole other debate.....

Jane

#8 GJC

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 11:09 AM

We have a house in Co. Durham that was the subject of a "Group Repair Scheme". This was John Prescott's way of proving that they were not just demolishing old houses and building new ones in their place. As part of the scheme the houses all had to meet with the Local Authority's current specifications which includes installing solar panels on the roof to assist with hot water provision. All the recently built properties belonging to Housing Associations have the same solar panels, and perhaps the same applies to other Local Authorities - hence Matthew noticing the numbers around Leeds (where incidentally they did have a large number of Group Repair Schemes).

Our house was handed back to us on the 1st July 2008 after the scheme had been completed. It was only occupied for a period of 7 weeks between then and the date of the first gas bill in September, and the gas bill was for ZERO. As it was for the Summer months this only reflected the hot water use, solar panels cannot help with central heating.

In the following 2 years our gas bill for the complete summer period was much less than £5, so obviously these panels do deliver hot water at sufficient temperature to stop the boiler from needing to fire up.

Whether it makes financial sense if you have to pay for the cost of installation I do not know, under a Group Repair Scheme Government Grants cover at least 75% of the cost and the owner pays up to a maximum of 25% depending upon their income.

I was a Doubting Thomas when the idea was first mooted, but I get massive satisfaction out of knowing that I get hot water all summer for next to nothing.
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#9 David P

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 07:21 PM

The figures:
If you were lucky enough to have £12k to invest, and you either put it in savings or on your roof, so in both cases you can't touch the money.
£12k in savings for 10yrs at 5% - compounded interest would yield:
£19764.11

£12k in solar, you should be able to install around 4kw for that (depending where you buy) you should yield £130 month profit, (our latest 4kw is yielding £140). That £130 is paid to you, you invest it in a 10 year savings account at 5% the compound interest would yield:
£20270.81 - this excludes the savings on electricity you haven't purchased. The calculations take into account the average solar irradiance (the amount of sun you get, so it is not presuming you have constant sun and panels working at 100%)

If you only use 50% of the electricity produced you could save £190 a year at least, from the actual figures we have gathered we would expect an average household to save £300-£400 a year. Assuming electricity prices stay the same you should save in addition between £1900-£3000 over 10 years. The tariffs are also index linked and there is no tax on tariff payments.


I did very similar sums but with different figures. From looking at various sites on the internet I assumed £20000 capital would produce an income of £1350 a year and savings of £230 a year. (I'd also assumed a savings rate of 4%, which actually favours you).

I was a Doubting Thomas when the idea was first mooted, but I get massive satisfaction out of knowing that I get hot water all summer for next to nothing.


If I understand correctly, you had the installation at no cost to you and then get the maintenance subsidised. That is indeed a no-brainer. But once again, I have to ask who is paying the subsidy?

As an aside, solar thermal panels (for hot water) are not the same as PV panels (for electricity) that Jane was discussing.
David P

#10 PaulEden

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 09:36 PM

in Germany they produce 2% of their electricity from Solar PV and expect this to rise to 25% by 2050.

Do you have the source for this?
I ask because 25% of the energy of the largest industrialised nation in Europe is a lot or energy. I know Germany is quite sunny. :) I wonder if this is total energy usage in the country or maybe just domestic usage?

As far as I can see, they generate 17% of their electricity from renewable sources, 6% of that is solar. For the Germans, wind is much more productive, making about half of their renewable supply.

#11 GJC

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 06:55 AM

If I understand correctly, you had the installation at no cost to you and then get the maintenance subsidised. That is indeed a no-brainer. But once again, I have to ask who is paying the subsidy?

As an aside, solar thermal panels (for hot water) are not the same as PV panels (for electricity) that Jane was discussing.



As I said I paid 25% of the cost, the other 75% was paid by you the taxpayer and I am very grateful to you for it. The fact that Tony Blair was the MP for the area at the time of the scheme, and the scheme was invented by John Prescott during the build up to the last elections won't be relevant, will it?

Just to be slightly less tongue in cheek, I could have taken the money for selling the house to the Council so that they paid for all the repairs and then passed on to a Housing Association, this would have netted me 200% profit on the cost of the house over 3 years.

I suspect that the panels seen around Leeds in the origianl posting were solar thermal panels, because Leeds was a major area for Group Repair Schemes.
GJC
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#12 Matthew (Admin/MPJ)

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 09:06 AM

Interested comments. Part of the pay back calculation would relate to how much electric is used during the day, often a low consumption period. But if tumble driers etc were timed to come on, then more savings could be made. How do these schemes where you sell your electric back to the grid tie in with the current electricity supply contract you have? How much changes to the electric meter and electric feed in and I suppose out have to be made?
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#13 Jane

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 12:05 PM

Matthew - all the models we have run so far payback in under 10 years without any allowance for using the electricity during the day. To be honest it took me a while to get my head round it, 'but if you don't use it then how can you make money, and surely it influences the payback time.'

Its because the tariff of 43.3p/unit is paid for generation of electricity whether you use it or not, when I looked at the investment of £12k that yield would be paid if you are at home or not, using it or not.

The win win is to generate and use it, thus getting the 43.3p and saving on buying electricity, if you use 100% of what you generate it begins to reduce the payback by a few years on average. Selling back unused only pays 3.1p per unit (in addition to the 43.3p) far less than the cost of the electricty.

In terms of your current supplier, you simply inform them directly you have Solar PV, send off your registration certicate from your installer and depending on your supplier they may read your meter or you supply readings and in most cases they pay the tariff directly into your bank account.Installation of the meter and invertor are completed by the Solar Installer and should be included in all costings. You don't change your existing meter, you add one in.

Paul, the source is the German Solar Industry Association, we have used them for help and information.
http://en.solarwirts...eet_pv_engl.pdf

It states 'proportion of German electricty comsumption', I think the key is comsumption rather than production, so my comment is misleading - sorry. After further reading around the internet, it does seem high (I would like to know their source) and I agree wind makes a more significant contribution. It is also very apparent that the German market are making significant inroads into renewable energy and looking at how the different options can compliment each other.


Jane

#14 PaulEden

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 12:25 PM

Thanks for that Jane. We should remember that if any country know how to do renewable properly, it's the Germans but in the past, their auditing of these figures has been patchy. I say this while using wikipedia for my figures. :) Where the Germans differ from the other major renewable generato/user, the U.S. is that they are ramping DOWN their reliance on nuclear, but that's another debate.

All the above said, I'm big fan of the principle of renewable energy in general, providing it's coupled with advances in insulation and heating technology. CHP boilers have gone some way to improving how we burn our gas, but we still lag behind.

If I could afford it, I'd certainly consider solar generation of both electricity and hot water, even if the cash figures didn't quite stack up.

#15 Jane

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 12:32 PM

Paul, I have found this:

http://www.unendlich...any-2009-1.html

This appears to have some more weight and identifiable sources behind it. They state that solar pv accounted for 1.1% of the 'electricity mix' for Germany in 2009, so if there was a growth of 0.9%, 2% does maybe look feasible.

There is a summary of 5 studies which explored how Germany could become 100% reliant on renewable energy by 2050. Solar PV is placed between providing 7-20% (considerably below the 25% I quoted), and wind in every case providing over half. Whether any really are achievable.......

Jane

#16 PaulEden

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 02:52 PM

That's more like it Jane, thank you for being so frank.

Do you agree with me when I say that this is worth doing, even it it doesn't make a consumer a profit?

#17 Jane

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 04:23 PM

No problem Paul, I am still learning about the market. I find renewables a really exciting area, just wish is was more accessible to all, including myself.

Do you mean, do I think Solar is worth doing? As a technology yes, the main drawbacks from my point of view though is the inability to store electricity effectively, and in hand with that the fact it is restricted by daylight. If it werent for the tariffs it is ideally suited to schools, offices etc places where the builidings are occupied during the day. Having said that though, the electricity you dont use from solar isn't wasted, someone else will use it.I really dont understand how that happens, hubby tried to explain - I stopped listening at that point.

What to me really makes it worth doing is the tariffs combined with the real threat of rising electricity prices, but this is very much from a financial angle. If I had the money I would defintely put solar on my roof. If you have the capital from all the evidence I've seen it will in time make you a profit, if well designed and purchased at the right price! I wonder though how much the rising price in electricity will be driven, whether overtly or not by the no doubt rising cost of tariffs to the energy suppliers.

I do feel it should be combined with other less expensive energy saving measures in the home, insulation, efficient boiler, wearing a jumper when cold ;) The favourite in our house, is the all off button, as we leave by the front door one switch turns everything off (that is programmed to go off lights/small power) having two young children I think its probably saved me a small fortune.

#18 Rayhoop

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 02:25 PM

havent got much time to post so in summary... (believe me, there is so much more I could say! - this is just scratching the surface)

Yup installing Solar PV is expensive and the pay back time is quite long
It will be getting cheaper and more efficient...

However - it is not just about the payback, there is a bigger picture in play here. The Govt need to (we have no option) encourage a change in how we use/think of/generate/manage electricity. It has to start somewhere, and consumers will always need a sweetener to help it along. Hence the feed in tariff (FIT). Again, yes, its still not cheap enough, and not everyone lives at their house for 25+ years to enjoy the full payback of the FIT.

The demand on the distribution network has changed tremendously from what it was designed to cope with... we now have more devices (admittedly, some of them are much more energy efficient), we also have increasing pressure on the system from low carbon technology like air source heat pumps, electric cars and the electrification of modern heating systems in general (as gas gets more and more expensive). Put on top of that energy being pumped back into the grid by those who have the ability to generate electricity (admittedly not a huge number at the moment), and we have a very complex power scenario on the grid.

There are projects (Low Carbon Network Fund - set up by the Govt) in progress to understand how best to ensure guarantee security of supply in the future, and there is a lot of work going on to investigate how to manage the supply/demand/load on the network, but am not allowed to give details.

It is a really exciting time to be working in the Energy/Utilities industry... There is so much going on.
Yeh the FIT may not work for you, but for those who do want to take it up - please let them do what they feel is best for them, and dont put them off before they have a chance to look into it for themselves.

Me personally - I looked into a Solar PV array.. but my roof is not big enough (wrong shape) hence it is not feasible at the moment... but in the future other technology may become available making the best use of the shape of our roof.

For those with Southern Electric... they offer a completely Free Solar PV install (if your roof is suitable etc), however Southern Elec own the FIT income and still own the Solar PV array on your roof (so it has to be written into your house deeds etc). So, there is a benefit for those who cannot afford an install, but want cheaper electricity bills (and dont mind Southern Elec earning some money).

#19 Rayhoop

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 01:24 PM

This site has literally just been launched by a project Im working on. Lots of info here.

http://www.networkre...uk/default.aspx