03 Jul 2014
The UK may have experienced one of the warmest Junes on record, according to initial statistics from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre. It is therefore unsurprising that the UK’s use and generation of renewable energy has increased this year, as reported by The Independent, Green Peace’s Energy Desk and Edie Energy. The Guardian also reported that the UK’s sunny weather boosted solar power generation, providing an estimated 7.8% of the UK’s electricity in daylight hours of solstice. Additionally this year the Solar Trade association (STA) has estimated that the capacity of solar generated from homes, building and solar farms has risen from 2.7GW in July 2013 to 4.7GW (the equivalent of 3 new nuclear power reactors) in June 2014.
At the weekend I was out with a friend, who spotted a solar panel on a roof; it was force of habit that I corrected her, what she pointed at was actually a solar water heating system. So what is the difference and how can you tell?
What is a solar PV panel?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels capture the suns energy to produce electricity using cells comprised primarily of silicon semiconductors; photo meaning ‘light’ and voltaic meaning ‘electricity’. These cells, arranged in layers on a panel, convert sunlight directly into electricity. This arrangement looks like the panel is made up of squares. When sunlight shines on the cell an electric field is created: the stronger the sunshine the more electricity is produced. The solar panels may be roof mounted on a frame, ground mounted or even incorporated into solar tiles as show in the picture above. The generation power of a PV panel is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp), it’s the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer. Although the technology is relatively easy to understand, the economics of solar PV are complicated, involving cost, output and quality control.
What is a solar water heating system?
A solar water heating system is a type of solar panel used for heating water. It is called a collector and like a solar PV panel can be roof mounted. Solar heat is collected and used to heat up water which is stored in a hot water cylinder. Water is the best means of storing energy. The water that passes through the wall mounted tubes is not the water that pours out the tap, these pipes are separated in the cylinder and in the heating system. The hot water can also be run through pipes under the floor, creating radiating heat, improving the thermal comfort of a space.
There are two types of solar water heating panels:
- Evacuated tubes: these are more distinctive as you can see the tubes which make up the panel, through which the water passes (photo 1).
- Flat plate collectors: these can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof. This can give a neater look – similar to Velux windows – and saves money on other roofing materials (photo 2).
Evacuated-tube collectors have a higher efficiency than flat-plate collectors, so they may be a good option if you only have a small area of space. The most important aspect of choosing a solar thermal system is the use of the heat in the summertime.
Using solar power to generate electricity or to heat water is beneficial because it is a renewable source, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which are finite resources that will eventually run out. Electricity or heat generated from sunlight can be used all around your home or business; it doesn’t produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and there is no impact on the environment. Utility bills will also be reduced as installing the renewable initiatives will reduce your reliance on mains power. Your roof can become a valuable asset, generating electricity and heat for your property at little running cost. In fact, as fossil fuel prices increase, solar will become more commonplace, as people take advantage of generating their own energy at less cost.
Installing solar panels in your home or business:
Solar panels for electricity or a solar water heating system can be mounted on sloping and flat roofs, ideally south facing (can also be east/west). Solar panels can be expensive to install, although prices have halved in the last two years. BHESCo offers a Pay As You Save model whereby we can install an initiative in your home or business for no upfront cost. You buy the electricity or heat generated by the system we install for a discounted tariff. This saves you money immediately, helping you to transition to your own energy generation once the agreement is paid off. Find out more about BHESCO’s Pay As You Save model. You can also find out more about the benefits, costs, savings and maintenance of solar PV panels on the energy saving trust website.
Finally let’s face up to those myths about solar PV and solar thermal panels!
Myth: Solar panels don’t work when it’s cloudy
Incorrect! Solar PV and solar water heating systems don’t need direct sunlight to generate electricity or heat, then can still generate in cloudy or overcast weather. Cloudy weather reduces the generating capacity of solar PV by approximately 50%, in comparison to direct sunlight. However this is still a valid, and most importantly renewable, way of generating electricity. Not convinced? Germany is the world’s leading solar power producer producing half of their electricity demand from solar power in June 2014 and they have a comparable climate to the UK. If they can do it so can we!
Myth: Panels mounted on my roof will cause damage.
Incorrect! Panels attach to rails which fix onto brackets. On a tiled roof, these pass under the tiles and fix to the rafters in the roof. This method of mounting solar panels is very secure and provides distribution of the load. Some tiles will need to be removed in order to attach the brackets but the installer will replace these after the bracket has been attached. Depending on the tile shape and size, it may be necessary to make a small groove in the overlaying tile. Panels can be mounted on most roofs regardless of type. Make sure you completely understand the works that the installer intends to undertake.
Myth: I won’t be able to insure my house with panels on the roof
Incorrect! As a general rule insurers will include solar PV and solar thermal panels in overall home insurance. Here is what Aviva and Churchill say:
Aviva: ‘Our home insurance will automatically cover solar panels as part of its standard buildings policy. Customers just need make sure they include the value of the Solar Panels in the overall sum insured’.
Churchill: ‘You do not need to tell us if you have or are having Solar panels fitted to your property. Loss of, or damage to solar panels would be covered under the Buildings section of our Home Insurance policy so it is important that you ensure that the Buildings sums insured is adequate to include the replacement cost of such items’.
Myth: I need to get planning permission to install panels
Incorrect! In most cases planning permission is not needed as PV and solar thermal panels are silent in operation and visually. However if you live in a listed building, or within a conservation area, you should check with your local council.
Myth: Having solar solar panels on house will reduce its value.
Incorrect! As the panels are generating energy for free, reducing energy bills of the property, this will not decrease the value of your home. Moreover the value today of the energy generated over the life of the panels, can be quantified and incorporated in the value of the property. If an income is received from the Feed In Tariff (FIT), the new homeowner could receive an income.
Another myth? Let us know and we’ll tell you if it’s true or not!
If you have any questions about solar panels, solar thermal, renewable energy generation or the Pay As You Save model please get in touch with us to find out more.
The Government was urged last week, by The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, to accelerate development of the UK’s shale gas and oil resources.The call has been made by the Committee to ensure that the UK can reap the potential benefits that come from extracting the fossil fuels in seams across the country.
Left: the process of fracking
However, as previously reported by BHESCo, this method ofextreme fossil fuel extraction is unsustainable, feeding our dependence on fossil fuels rather than investing in renewable alternatives such as solar, wind and biomass.
The Committee states that the UK is ‘exceptionally fortunate’ to have these resources available, ignoring reports from the Tyndall Centre of the dangers of fracking. It is believed that fracking and extracting resources from seams will reduce our vulnerability, predicted from fossil fuel price increases due in the future. The cost of this vulnerability reduction on our land and water is too great.
Fortunately, not all Members of the Lords are as enthusiastic; Lord Howell has urged caution in the development of commercial fracking, believing it to be seriously flawed and costly. It’s not all good news though as he still wants ‘economically viable shale gas and oil production go ahead as soon a possible’. Howell draws his conclusions from looking at the process in the USA which has taken many years to mature employing their already existing vast fracking infrastructure. The UK, however, does not have such infrastructure meaning that it will be timely and costly to develop.
More important lessons can be taken from the US, where it has been reported that methane emissions are much higher than originally planned and health impacts derived from fracking practices are being validated. At BHESCo we believe that this is the real problem. Fracking releases a concentrated harmful greenhouse gas, methane, which is 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, contaminates aquifers and land with poisonous fluids and uses diesel to operate the drilling machinery, emitting harmful particulates and nitrous oxides. All in all, fracking should not be endorsed, urged forward or championed in anyway.
At BHESCo we are encouraging everybody to think about the alternatives to using fossil fuels and join us in a clean energy revolution! Stop depending on fossil fuels and explore the alternatives; could you mount solar panels on your roof to supply your electricity, or install a biomass boiler to heat your home or business? Could you buy an electric or hybrid car? This will put the power back in your hands, not those of the Big Six energy providers, and reduce your impact on the environment.
Join forces with your community to develop a renewable energy project together with us at BHESCo, we could help your local school, community group or even a collection of businesses and homes together set up a community energy project such as this wind farm in Watchfield, which generates enough electricity for 2,500 homes.
Sign up to receive the monthly BHESCo newsletter to keep up to date with news and events in relation to community energy, energy efficiency and the work we do. You can also express your interest and sign up to BHESCo, so when we develop our community projects you will be the first to know about them.
13 May 2014
In May 2014 the Government announced that households carrying out improvements to their properties to make their homes more energy efficient may be entitled to up to £7600 back, to offset the cost of the works.
The money available from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) will be available from June 2014 and forms the latest part of the Governments Green Deal initiative. The Green Deal encourages UK residents to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, helping to reduce heat losses and saving money on fuel bills, decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels.
- up to £1000 for installing two measures from an approved list; and/or
- up to £6000 for installing solid wall insulation; and
- up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment.
The fund also applies to anyone who has bought a property in the 12 months prior to application. If the energy efficiency improvements are carried out to the property, they will qualify for up to an additional £500 incentive. Further to this the fund applies to social or private landlords, if paying for the improvements themselves.
Typical improvements include:
- solid wall, cavity wall or loft insulation,
- new heating systems,
- double glazed windows
- replacement storage heaters
* To be eligible to receive money from the GDHIF you must have the improvements recommended on an eligible Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (less than 24 months old) or a Green Deal Advice Report. Further stipulations can be found detailed on the press release.
You will be provided with your Green Deal Advice Report following your Green Deal Assessment. As BHESCo Founder Kayla Ente explains,
“Many people who have had Green Deal Assessments don’t know how to take the process forward. This is where BHESCo can help. We can look at the report and help you make changes based on the information.”
If you would like to find out more about the improvements that could be made to your home to make it more energy efficient please contact BHESCo, who will be able to provide you with more information and advice.