Tesla Solar System | Costs & Money Return Expectations

tesla powerwall 2 installed

New products on the market with fancy marketing pitches are sure to make the consumers talking alright, but what is even more intriguing is that which is kept in the dark. There is nothing better than a little bit of mystery to get the people talking. Maybe this was not the intention of Elon Musk, but, by not revealing the pricing details of the new Tesla Solar Tiles, he made the potential buyers even more curious.

Finally, Musk has dropped the details concerning the cost of the Tesla Solar system, and on their website, you can calculate what such a sophisticated solar system will cost on your roof.

Solar panels for a roof do not come cheap. Therefore, a buyer of such products feels more secure when purchasing one with a good warranty. The Tesla solar system comes with a remarkable lifetime warranty which is assuring that their product is durable and will not have you reach for your pocket due to any maintenance problems that might occur.

A Tesla tile is three times stronger and weights three times less than a standard roofing tile. Thus, the durability of this roofing product, which accounts for the roofing material itself, as well as the solar elements, will outlive your home.

The estimated cost of a Tesla solar roof will include materials, installation and even the removal of the old roof. Keep in mind that this, however, does not include taxes, the fees for a permit or any additional construction costs that might be needed.

As calculated by consumers’ reports, for the average American home to have a cost-effective solar roof, each square foot of coverage should not cost more than $24.50. Musk revealed that the Tesla solar roofs cost 21.80 per square meter. Ordinary metal roofs, for example, can cost between $13,00 and $21.00 per square meter. By considering all this, there is no doubt that the Tesla tiles will become very competitive.

When installing a solar roof, you would need some place to store the solar energy to take full advantage of the system. Tesla offers a Powerwall battery where the energy can be stored, and therefore solar power can be used during the night or even at times when the grid is off. Such a Powerwall battery from Tesla will cost you $7000. The Powerwall battery from Tesla is optional but highly recommended by the company of course.

Tesla also offers tiles that are not solar, that will fill in the gaps of the areas that do not require solar tiles. These non-solar tiles look the same as the solar tiles which give the roof all over an identical look. The number solar tiles needed will depend on your home’s electricity consumption. Other factors that will influence the number of solar tiles required is the amount of sun exposure your home receives during the day and how much sunlight the neighborhood receives during the year.

When using the tool to calculate what a Tesla solar roof will cost your home, the roof size, the local price of electricity and the amount of sunlight your area is exposed to during the year are all included. In many cases, the total in electricity saved will be higher than the cost of the solar roof itself.

The Tesla solar roof is most likely to have a return in cost after 30 years. Yes, this might be a long time to wait, and many homeowners do not stay that long in a home. But in a case where you are installing a new roof or replacing an old roof, it is better to consider such a solar system which will turn your home into a utility.

As a matter of fact, by investing in any solar roof, your home value will increase and when it is time to put your home on the market you can return some of that investment. By investing a Tesla solar roof, you will be sure to have a lifetime warranty which can increase the resale value even more. When one chooses the installation of a conventional roof for half the price, for example, you run the risk of roof repairs from time to time as their durability might not be that great. Investment in a Tesla solar roof will save you energy, increase your resale value based on aesthetics and solar power and is an excellent eco-friendly choice.

Other solar systems might be 30 percent cheaper than the Tesla roof due to the spacing of the panels. The Tesla roof panels need to be spaced farther apart which leads to an energy generating loss. This means that your roof will need to be covered with more solar cells which adds to the price. Traditional solar systems do not offer the classy look of the Tesla roof, however, none of them has a lifetime warranty, which overrules the 30 percent premium.

Tesla solar roofs are still not available outside the USA, but it is expected that the shipment of the product will come at a reasonable price. The durable tempered glass of which the products are made, allows delivery to be easier than conventional tiles. As said before, these tiles are lighter as well, and the fact that they are so durable will eliminate the concern of breakage.

The installation will occur on orders that are made on a first come, first serve basis as the installation process spreads from state to state in the USA. When placing an order, you will need to give a $1000 deposit to reserve your system.

With such a beautiful looking solar roof, there is no longer the excuse of solar panels being ugly. Society is becoming more eco-friendly every day, and solar roofs are becoming more affordable. That being said, we are looking at a great future where conventional energy resources will become less needed.

It has already been announced that a more aesthetically appealing Tesla solar roof will be released in 2018. This proves that the current Tesla solar roof is just the beginning of something great and hopefully will be an inspiration to many others in the industry.

Upside Energy: Balancing Peak Supply and Demand for Electricity

An Innovate UK supported company are looking to ease peak-time pressure on the National Grid. By connecting a range of common devices that store energy, from backup batteries to electric hot water tanks – Upside Energy are using the Internet of Things to balance supply and demand of electricity.

What Does Upside Energy Do?

When you turn a switch on, a power station has to work to give you that energy. This means power stations across the country are constantly increasing and decreasing electricity supply. This is an inefficient approach.

At peak times, the grid can run dangerously short of capacity. To meet demand, it will use its oldest and most expensive power stations. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Upside Energy look at the assets and electrical devices homes and businesses already own. These could be anything that stores energy. They connect these devices using the IoT and switch these on or off at the right times.

This then takes the load off the grid to complement the electricity demand. This is an invaluable resource for grid operators.

The Environmental Impact

By using these devices, Upside Energy allow the grid to integrate more renewable energy into the system. The company are looking for a greener approach which pays people to not use electricity at peak times.

They create a Virtual Energy Store™ which they can then sell to the grid to help balance supply and demand. They share this revenue with device owners and manufacturers.

In time, the company want to build an open platform that people use to coordinate distributed energy storage – using it to reduce the environmental impact of the grid. The National Grid’s analysis claims 600 tonnes of CO2e can be eradicated for every MW of demand-side capacity made available.

How Have Upside Energy Evolved?

 “For the first two years or so, we were just playing with the idea. We didn’t really have a company at that stage. When we got our first Innovate UK grant, that allowed us to take on our first member of staff and then from there we’ve grown to that point where we’re now seventeen”.

The most value achieved from the grant was the connections with customers, potential targets and international prospects brought forward by Innovate UK.

National Grid was the company’s first customer and they’re now moving forward working with utility companies too.

“In essence, homes or businesses are our suppliers – so they give us their assets to use at the right times. In turn, we pay them money”.

The company are now looking to grow their team, branch out further across the UK’s grid and globally.

If you’re interested in finding more videos like this, you can subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel here.

Additionally, you can follow @InnovateUK on Twitter here.

When Will My business Need an EV Carport?

If you think that a carport is a luxury that your business can’t really afford, then think again. Not only can it provide cover for your brand new EV bay but it may also be able to provide valuable electricity to help run your business.

We’re moving more quickly to hybrid and all singing and dancing electric cars now. The UK government announced that it’s looking to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles over the next few decades and car manufacturers are investing a lot of time, energy and money in electric.

The simple fact is that EVs are going to be the norm rather than the exception, and it’s going to happen a lot quicker than you think.

The Future of Electric Vehicles

Manufacturers such as Volvo have indicated that they won’t be making any totally petrol driven cars by the end of the decade. Tesla in America have started producing a purely electric car aimed at the middle classes and the UK government is putting a large amount of money into developing battery technology. Even sports cars are getting the electric makeover – just look at Porsche Mission E.

It may be premature to suggest the demise of the petrol car, but the end is certainly in sight. Within the next couple of decades we’ll all be electric.

What is a Carport?

Basically, it’s a covered area that protects cars in your fleet or for your office staff. They’re not a new invention but they have been going through a transformational makeover in recent times. Not only can they be installed along with solar panels on top, they can be used as EV charging stations which help customers, staff and fleet drivers top up their batteries while parked in under cover. The good news is that you can install one quite easily and they have a lot of advantages. With more and more of us likely to own electric cars in the future, this is going to be an important asset for many businesses.

Do You Need One?

While you may not need one at the moment, they’re likely to become a standard feature for businesses and offices over the next decade or so. There are also a number of excellent benefits:

    • You can protect cars and keep them covered from the elements.
    • They can create additional roof space for installing solar PV which can be used to charge electric vehicles and even power your office.
    • They’re the perfect place to set up EV charging points for both customers and your existing fleet. You can even earn money by charging customers to top up their batteries.
  • They provide a great visual appeal as well as a much needed and valuable local utility.

If you provide a decent amount of parking space, installing a solar carport can make a big difference to your electricity spend over a long period and deliver excellent services and protection to all your staff and visitors.

How Much Do They Cost?

Carports can vary in size and the cost will obviously depend on the number of vehicles you want to cater to and the space you have. You can choose to have solar panels installed on the roof or not depending on your needs but they are increasingly becoming the must have value added extra that many businesses are looking for. When it comes to solar you need to take into account not just the cost but also the return on investment through lower electricity bills and payments through the feed in tariff. For many businesses, the combination of carport and solar is simply too good an opportunity to miss out on.

A lot will also depend on the type of charging you are going to offer. Slow charges that take between 8 and 12 hours can cost just a few thousand to install. Rapid chargers that deliver an 80% battery boost in just 30 minutes are going to cost significantly more, in some cases up to £35,000. The good news is that the Government is offering grants to businesses that install charging points – £300 for each connection up to a maximum of 20.

For businesses that have the space, installing solar carports can be prudent and strong investment in infrastructure and will provide valuable clean energy through the panels while also protecting cars and incorporating increasingly important EV charging points.

UK to Invest £246 Million in Energy Storage R&D

While the Government seems to have taken a back step with renewables in recent times, the decision to invest heavily in energy storage will have come as welcome news to many. It’s all part of trying to create battery storage for vehicles as well as a smarter grid that uses power better and delivers substantial savings to customers.

Greg Clark became the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy secretary in 2016 and actually came to the job with some decent green credentials. He’s been fairly quiet since but this July announced that £246 million was going into developing battery technology – something he hopes will make the UK a market leader in the years to come.

Most experts see storage as the key to taking intermittent, renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind to the next level. If we can manage to crack that particular problem, it could lead to a golden age of clean energy that finally sees fossil fuels and even nuclear consigned to the annals of history.

Changes in the energy regulations are also on the horizon to encourage tech start-ups and innovation particularly in the area of battery storage.

What is the Faraday Challenge?

The Faraday Challenge is a 4 year investment that is seen as a major part of the current Government’s industrial strategy. It’s aim is to develop competitions that boost innovation and research and development in the battery sector. Part of this will involve bringing together the relevant stakeholders to create a ‘Battery Institute’ who will then help take the most promising research to the next level through industrial collaborations.

According to Greg Clark:

“The work that we do through the Faraday Challenge will – quite literally – power the automotive and energy revolution where, already, the UK is leading the world.”

The competitions will have three strands:

  • Research led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council with an initial funding of £45 million. Much of the success of the programme is going to depend on which universities get this money and the kind of research they lead.
  • The research that shows the most promise will then be taken forward with the help of Innovate UK with the hope of making the technology more accessible to local businesses.
  • The next area is scaling up any successful innovation so that it can compete and thrive in the real world.

Of course, this all sounds very good on paper and it’s easy to think that we are on the verge of some kind of tech revolution that could transform the underlying energy infrastructure of the UK. Car makers across the globe are already investing a large amount of capital in battery technology as individual governments start moving to outlaw petrol and diesel vehicles over the next three decades.

While there are some like Renewable UK director Emma Pinchbeck who say:

“Renewables are a mainstream technology, reliably providing over 25% of our electricity. The advent of battery storage is the missing puzzle piece which will allow us to maximise the potential of our world-beating renewable energy resources here in the UK”.

Others like the Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Baily, are less enthusiastic about the announcement:

“The Government’s promise of investment in battery technology is simply a re-announcement of funding promised back in April as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and their record of supporting emerging green industries is abysmal.”

While the majority welcomed the announcement, we still have to play a wait and see game as to what the initiative is really going to deliver. Battery technology lies at the heart of green energy and it’s something that is being researched and developed around the globe.

In the US alone they’re expecting to bring online some 1,800 MW of battery storage by 2021. Car battery innovation is largely being driven by the automotive industry rather than governments. It’s likely that the UK R&D community will have to work pretty quickly to keep up with developments over the next few years.

Having said that, Clark’s announcement that the Government is investing in this area shouldn’t be dismissed. The biggest question, once the technology is there, is how it is going to used and that presents a whole new challenge to energy companies to develop the grid infrastructure of the future.

What Has the Future Got in Store for Solar PV?

solar panels

We’ve come a long way with solar. From the days when detractors bewailed that it would never work and never reach the energy efficiency levels we need to the present where it’s often difficult to walk down a street and not see panels somewhere, there’s no doubt the road has often been a little rocky.

In more recent times, costs have plummeted and the International Energy Agency has suggested that, over the next 30 years, solar could easily become the largest source of electricity around the globe:

“The two IEA technology roadmaps show how solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050 while solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power (CSP) plants could provide an additional 11%.”

At the end of 2016, we had about 302 GW of capacity installed across the globe and the potential to add a lot more. China have become the market leaders – they currently have over 78,000 MW, having installed 34,540 MW in 2016 alone. If we’re to reach the heady heights that the IEA suggests by 1950, however, a number of factors are going to need to come into play.

  1. More Investment

It’s expected that, if solar PV and solar thermal are to increase, we need to invest some $225 billion annually to develop new farms and encourage installations on rooftops and offices. This is going to be much easier for some countries than others. China, for example, has plenty of open space and the right policies in place to drive huge amounts of growth for solar farm development. The USA has the space but maybe not quite the right policies with the current government. The good news is that the cost of solar PV is coming down even more and it’s producing cheaper electricity than most fossil fuels.

  1. Storage is Key

We keep saying it at the Renewable Energy Hub but energy storage for solar is a huge game changer. The detractors for solar PV have always pointed to the intermittency of the energy production. If battery storage, both on the home and industrial scale, is developed as we expect over the next decade, you can be certain that renewables of all types will be given a big boost. It may be the reason why many investors are now putting their money into different enterprises and why the UK government recently announced that it was setting aside £246 million for research and development.

  1. Solar PV Technology

Another major factor is the efficiency of solar PV cells and how we can make them better. This is how much of the sun that hits solar cells can be converted to electricity. Most domestic panels deliver something between 10 and 20% and the cost goes up the more efficient they are. This is also compounded by the amount of sunlight that is available in the location where the array is installed and the direction your roof points in.

That’s why we generally need quite large panels to capture the suns energy. If Solar PV was developed to deliver 100% efficiency, we’d need only small ones to create all the energy we need. The record so far has been set by a university in South Australia that created a solar cell with 43% efficiency. The truth is that we’re not likely to get much above 20% for commercial panels, if that, at least not in the short term.

What may be more interesting is the cells we are creating which are no thicker than a sheet of paper that will revolutionise how we install panels. They may even switch from the rooftops to the windows, particularly for locations such as office blocks.

  1. The Renewables Mix

Another thing that is likely to change is how we combine different renewable and low carbon technologies in the future. Businesses are already offering the chance to optimise homes by installing a mix of solar along with heating systems such as air or ground source heat pumps.

There’s no doubt that countries will have their own renewable mix for delivering energy to communities and that will depend a lot on resources, size and infrastructure. How these all work together to deliver on energy needs is one of the challenges that governments, local authorities and utility companies face in the near future. Companies such Eon are already moving into the area of solar installations in the UK, for example, and you can expect others to follow if this is successful.

Finally, the old gripes about solar seem to have all but disappeared. It’s too inefficient? Recent developments have shown that no longer to be true. It’s too costly? The prices have plummeted in the last five years. The future for solar looks bright, though there are obviously some more hurdles to overcome, particularly in locations such as the UK where government policy has been a little indifferent to say the least over the last three years.

Find out about solar PV on our main site.

The Nuclear Debacle: Hinkley Point

If you’re an advocate for clean energy and eco-friendly solutions, the mere mention of Hinkley Point might be enough to make your blood boil. The recent announcement that the site is £1.5 billion over budget and a year behind schedule may well lead you to say: ‘I told you so!’ shortly before turn to your bottle of wine to deliver at least some solace.

More and more people are expressing their view that Hinkley Point is a white elephant, a bad deal, a major nuclear folly. But they’ve been saying that for a while – even before the contract was signed and the deal was done.

The History of Hinkley Point C

The negotiations were years in the making and much stemmed from the opinion that the UK needed a steady, reliable power source that wasn’t renewable. That pointed to nuclear and in 2016 the deal was done with the French power company EDF and the Chinese owned CGN. At the time, many people wondered why we weren’t using our own companies to build the plant. The cost would be £30 billion and, when complete, was expected to provide 7% of our electricity. Who built it was irrelevant, said the Government.

There were plenty of grumblings at the time, particularly over EDF’s ability to deliver – they already had a nuclear power station under construction that had run into difficulty. There were also concerns about the nuclear technology they were using.

The National Audit Office recently revisited the Hinkley deal and found that the costs and value for money were marginal and may well have ‘committed consumers and tax payers to a high cost and risky deal in a changing energy market place.’

Here are just a few facts to add to the nuclear debacle:

The technology used by EDF is under question. There are currently four projects being undertaken with this system as part of the design and all four have been problematic to say the least. In Flammanville, France, the project is 6 years behind. That fails in comparison, however, to the plant being built in Finland which is a staggering 9 years behind and 60% over budget. Most experts think we’re heading down a similar and dangerous route.

The Increasing Viability of Renewables

We’re not expecting the Hinkley station to be built by 2027, and that’s the best estimate currently available. It may even be as late as 2035. By that time, renewables will have improved in efficiency and will have come down significantly in price. The New Scientist put it best while the Hinkley deal was still being negotiated:

“The UK had to agree to pay a very high price for Hinkley’s electricity. Since then, the price of renewables has plummeted, making it look like a very bad deal for the UK.”

The development of a new nuclear power station came about because of the unreliability of solar and wind. Essentially, they didn’t produce power when the sun wasn’t shining and the wind wasn’t blowing. The future development of energy storage, which is certainly going to be available by the time Hinkley goes live, makes this less of an issue. We will be able to store and use.

It’s a shame that those responsible for pushing forward Hinkley Point won’t be held responsible. By the time it finally gets built, most of those involved will be sitting on their knighthoods and composing their memoirs. It will be left to the general public to foot the bill and the rising cost of electricity if things don’t go according to plan. And they most certainly won’t.

So, is there still time to stop things?

The weakness of the Tory government following the election may well come to our aid. What it requires if for parties like Labour and the Liberal Democrats to break ranks and put up some opposition. Unfortunately, they both voted for Hinkley. They may be convinced by the impact on the economy. It will create a lot more jobs if we move towards renewables than depend on a potentially catastrophic investment like Hinkley. According to the New Statesman recently:

“Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has shown how the South West alone could meet all its energy needs through renewables, creating more than 100,000 new jobs. This puts the 900 full-time posts expected to be available at Hinkley, if construction is ever completed, into sharp perspective.”

Before it’s too late, it’s time for people to stand up and get Hinkley Point back into the limelight. There may be a whole host of other things going on at the moment, including Brexit, but the potential for rising electricity prices and what some have touted as the most expensive power station in the world to do serious damage to the UK’s energy infrastructure and our pockets cannot be underestimated.

What it needs now, is the right political choice. Unfortunately, the window is starting to close and it may soon be too late to stop the project moving forward.

Westminster is Crippling the Development of Solar PV

Since it decided to slash feed in tariff payments for solar PV at the beginning of 2016, the UK government has been accused by many of damaging the market and putting the renewable agenda back by several years.

Explaining that solar needs to exist without the help of tax payer subsidise (despite the fact that we still heavily subsidise fossil fuels in the UK), the general feeling remains that the Tories have no great love for this technology.

To some, it’s been far easier to spend vast amounts of money on a dubious nuclear build at Hinkley Point than invest heavily in a renewable energy that is beginning to deliver real benefits across the globe. In countries like China, billions are being invested in infrastructure and technological advances are being made daily.

Even with Greg Clark’s recent announcement that the UK was going to spend time and money on developing energy storage systems, there’s the sneaking feeling that Westminster thinks solar PV sits firmly at the bottom of the overall pecking order. It’s all the more confusing when you realise a recent Government survey showed more people than ever are in favour of switching to renewable platforms. According to the Guardian:

“In November 2015, government scenarios for future electricity generation all showed renewable power, which had expanded 10 times in the nine years to 2015, hardly expanding at all over the next two decades.”

The Feed in Tariff and Other Woes

The first big blow to solar PV was the lowering of feed in tariff rates at the beginning of 2016. While it didn’t cause the catastrophic damage to the sector that many people anticipated, it did mean a number of high profile companies began to fail and went into liquidation. The uptake of solar roofs for homes slowed down and some major plans for solar farms were put on hold. In the months after the change, the amount of capacity installed fell by about three quarters. Things have recovered since but there’s no doubt that the feed in tariff reduction has impacted negatively on the market.

According to The Solar Portal it also made the cost of installation higher:

“According to the latest solar PV cost data released by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) today, the average figure in March per kW of installed capacity of 0-4W systems stood at £1,885. This remains considerably higher than the £1,587/kW in January 2016 following a steady decline buoyed by the uptake of domestic solar under the previous FiT regime.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the only change in the rules that solar PV and customers have had to contend with in recent times. The business rate tax for companies and organisations that have solar rooftops is set to increase dramatically and that could have an impact not only on companies that already have them but those that might be considering switching to solar PV in the future. It’s also inadvertently had an impact on public schools that have chosen to adopt solar. In fact, it’s estimated the tax changes could impact on nearly 45,000 microgenerators who initially thought that they were doing the right thing.

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme for small installations is also set to double to ‘keep up with rising costs, something which will again have an impact on companies.

Why Do The Tories Hate Solar?

It may be going a step too far to suggest that the current government hate all things renewable, particularly solar. Way back in 2013, then Tory Prime Minister David Cameron was widely touted as saying he wanted to get ‘rid of all that green crap’. The Republicans across the pond seem equally allergic to all things renewable and perhaps it is a peculiarity of right leaning politicians. If you’re cynical, that could be because many are in bed with fossil fuel companies and lobbyists or it could simply be that they don’t believe in climate change for one reason or another.

If you’re kinder, you’ll point out that the Tories actually want the sector to be sustainable and stand on its own two feet. They highlight the way tax payers are being hammered for money to support burgeoning industries such as solar and wind – a cost they say is unsustainable. The trouble is that many people actually want their money to go into this kind of energy development and future installations. They much rather this than polluting and damaging fossil fuels.

Some would say that if the current government was able to invest as much as they are intending to with Hinkley Point nuclear power station, we’d soon begin to see even more benefits from solar and other renewables. Of course, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Despite Westminster’s renewables aversion, we fortunately seem to have already gone past the tipping point. Losing some of the support of the feed in tariff has led to many companies changing their business models and finding new ways to bring investors on board. Solar farms are still being built in certain parts of the country and home owners are still finding the money to install rooftop arrays on their homes.

In the warm start to the summer this year, solar broke the record for production in one day – 8.7 GW representing over 28% of production. This kind of statistic gives us all hope. Along with the developing technology relating to solar storage, most experts think we’re far too far down the road to stop right now.

Interested in solar panels? Find out more on our main site.

Support for Fracking and Nuclear At All-Time low: What are the other options?

floating solar PV

While we were never that in love with the idea of fracking, support for the industry reached an all-time low recently. Whether that’s because we’re now more aware of the environmental and public impact of this industry or because of the large numbers of protests that have taken place up and down the country, only 17% of us are now in favour of any kind of fracking.

Nuclear has also suffered from a fall in popularity, particularly in the wake of the debacle that seems to be Hinkley Point – a white elephant in the Government room that could cost the UK a lot of money for many years to come. Recent news that Hinkley Point was £1.5 billion over budget already hasn’t helped quell fears that we’re heading in the wrong direction by going back to nuclear. There’s also the perennial concern about how we handle nuclear waste and it’s environmental impact in the future.

In contrast, almost 80% of us are in favour of renewables and clean energy. Just 4% are against, according to a recent report in the Guardian.

The Scottish government has banned fracking after a consultation found overwhelming public opposition and little economic justification for the industry. Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse says

“Allowing unconventional extraction of coal and gas would put climate goals at risk”.

So, what are the options we should be considering, now that fracking and nuclear popularity is at an all-time low? The great news is there are plenty of options for the UK. We just need to invest more in them. And we need our Government to listen.

Wind: Still a Force to Be Reckoned With

According to the General Wind Council:

  • The wind industry has generated over a million jobs.
  • A 6MW installation can deliver power for 5,500 homes.
  • The global capacity at the end of 2015 was a staggering 486 GW.

Despite its detractors, wind remains one of the most successful of our renewable resources and one of the cheapest. It’s also a sector that isn’t standing still. New developments mean we’ll start seeing a whole range of different turbines including ones that fly high up in the air like kites.

Solar Farms On the Rise?

Having had to battle cuts to feed in tariffs and tax rises in recent times, solar remains potentially a good investment for big business. That’s why we’re still seeing farms being developed across the UK, particularly in areas like North Wales at Kimnel Bay. While some projects are being put on hold at the moment while investors wait for the costs to add up better, you can expect the solar sector to rise like the veritable phoenix in the future.

Tidal Power Could Be Key To UK Future

Tidal power has been ebbing and flowing much like the waves on our shores but could revolutionise renewable energy in the UK – if we get it right. Wales seems to be the focal point at the moment with Cardiff and Swansea designated as sites for large tidal lagoons. Smaller projects off the coast of Holyhead are investigating how tidal ‘kites’ can be floated below the surface of our seas to provide electricity. This is a huge natural resource for the UK and there are many experts who believe harnessing the waves could supply almost all of the electricity we need.

Electric Tiles

Slightly off the wall but intriguing none the less is the increasing focus on solar and kinetic tiles that can produce electricity. Imagine walking down the street and stepping on paving slabs that help generate power for the surrounding buildings and lights. The idea has been around for a good few years now and this kind of innovation provides a brilliant insight into how the infrastructure around us can be used to create power. Add into the mix the possibility of creating solar roads and you begin to see the importance of diversifying energy production.

The truth is that there is a whole load of innovation and out of the box thinking going on when it comes to creating energy, particularly in areas like cities. While some of these are certainly out of the box, many point to the fact that our future energy production is going to be clean and largely renewable but it’s also going to be varied.

Why do we need to frack for shale gas? What’s the point of creating nuclear waste that could take thousands and thousands of years to degrade and become safe? The money invested in these endeavours could better be used in developing clean technologies – after all, the evidence shows us that it’s what people, not just in the UK but around the world, actually want. There’s a disconnect when you understand that the UK Government has decided to invest £246 million in battery technology but is putting £30 billion plus into a new nuclear station.

While there can be a temptation to run wild with innovation and the future potential, there is enough evidence to suggest that we need to move away from old, traditional power sources and embrace the new more fully.

The future can be cleaner than we think – all we have to do is bring everything together.

Subsidy Free Solar Farms: Are we close?

Solar Field

The message was clear from the Government when it slashed feed in tariffs back in January 2016 – solar businesses needed to stand on their own two feet. This backtracking happened because take up had been much bigger than they expected, both for businesses and homeowners, and there were worries about the impact this would have on energy bills.

Once the Government left the industry to fend for itself, many feared it would cause job losses and present insurmountable challenges for the market. This did happen but perhaps not to the extent many feared.

The good news is that plans for new solar farms are still being submitted and the UK could well come out as one of the leading post-subsidy markets in Europe, if not the world. There is, to all intents and purposes, a rebound on the way, though it requires the right conditions if investors are to be attracted in large enough numbers. While growth may be small at the moment, we could be a lot closer to subsidy free solar farms than we think.

The History of Solar in the UK

  • Before 2002, if you wanted to install solar panels on your roof it would cost you around £40,000 and you wouldn’t be able to access any subsidies.
  • Around March that year, however, 50% grants became available and this continued until 2006 when the they were inexplicably cut. If you think that the Tories have a bad record on solar, the Labour party hasn’t always covered itself in glory over the last couple of decades either.
  • A new funding system for low carbon technology was introduced shortly after this but that ran into trouble pretty quickly.
  • April 2010 saw the Feed in Tariff introduced which provided those who installed solar on their homes or businesses with a strong subsidy to promote growth.
  • This continued until 2011 when the Government decided it wanted to cut the FiT. The installers took the Government to court and won.
  • That didn’t stop the DECC cutting the FiT again in 2012 and slashing it significantly in 2016.
  • Despite the often uncertain funding infrastructure, the solar industry has grown dramatically over the last ten years.
  • In 2008 we were producing just 22 MW capacity using solar. By 2016 this had risen to 11,562 MW.
  • This year, however, monthly deployment of solar reached an all-time low.

Solar’s Future Shines Brighter?

The loss of the feed in tariff may have been a blessing for the solar market, at least in the long term. It has forced the sector to look at new ways to fund projects, get investors on board and to change their existing business models. For many observers, it has potentially put the UK solar market in a good position to deliver subsidy free developments over the next decade or so and could even make it a market leader across the globe.

The closure of the Renewables Obligation scheme did cut off the route for large scale projects and certainly dampened the future for further developments. That naturally left the industry with few options, the most important being subsidy free solar.

If you think that means solar farms aren’t being built, however, then you are wrong.

Hive Energy announced that it will begin work on a 40MW installation in Hampshire and the project will have no subsidies at all. The company has kept how they are going to be financing the farm secret and planning permission has not yet been granted but, according to CEO Giles Redpath:

“This subsidy free solar farm will generate a level of renewable energy which will make a significant contribution towards meeting national renewable energy targets and will help to increase the security of the UK’s energy supply.”

The lowering cost of building solar farms is undoubtedly a bonus when it comes to attracting investors and could well be the major hurdle that we need to overcome to make projects such as this the norm rather than the exception. Advances in battery storage may also be a further clincher when it comes to getting more reticent investors on board.

It’s clear, however, that this is not going to be a smooth path and many still believe that the government has to a certain extent hung the industry out to dry without any good reasoning at a time when it was really beginning to find its feet. What the industry needs, according to the CEO of the Solar Trade Association, Paul Barwell, above all, is a level playing field:

“Let’s be excited about solar and its prospects for delivering the energy revolution we need on time. But I urge those who want to see solar thrive to stay focussed on advocating the sensible and fair policy changes we need to get there.”

During the spring bank holiday, solar produced a record quarter of the nation’s power mix and there’s currently enough capacity to serve some 3.8 million homes in the UK. According to some experts, there are plenty of new projects in the pipeline. The problem is that many companies are simply sitting on them waiting for the costs to work out in their favour.

Some also believe, however, that moving to an unsubsidised market place will settle the industry down once and for all and give an opportunity for sustainable growth. Add in the prospect of developing power storage in the years to come and you can still realistically expect the solar sector to shine bright in the future.

It may be quiet at the moment, but there are big plans afoot.

Combine Solar PV and an ASHP System for Full Home Optimisation

heat pumps and solar panels

More and more companies are starting to offer ‘complete home energy solutions’ including the installation of solar along with air source heat pumps. In the past, renewable energy has been promoted separately – companies either offering wind or solar power but not both at the same time. Now, this seems to be changing.

With many home owners and businesses looking to lower their carbon footprints as well as their costs, we could start seeing a larger number of businesses offering what are called full home optimisation services. For both ASHP and solar you don’t generally need planning permission and the process of installation is fairly quick and not particularly disruptive. With the growing focus on storage technology, you might also be able to create a home energy system that is amazingly independent and produces a great return on your initial investment.

So, are solar panels and an ASHP suitable for your home?

According to a growing number of installation businesses they’re the perfect match. Here are just some of the benefits of each.

The Benefits of Installing Solar PV

Solar panels capture the sun’s energy via photovoltaic cells and turn it into electricity. They can be fitted onto the roof of your house and produce the electricity you need to run your home.

  • You can greatly reduce your electricity bills and the return on investment for panels is now pretty good.
  • The price of solar panels has come down in recent years because of competition, better technology and cheaper panels.
  • You can get paid for the electricity you produce through the government’s feed in tariff. While this has been reduced in recent years, it still helps reach a good return on investment in a reasonable time.
  • You can also sell your excess electricity back to the grid.
  • Solar is a clean, renewable energy and will help you to greatly reduce your carbon footprint, whether you’re a home owner or a business.

Find out more about installing solar panels here.

The Benefits of ASHP

Heat pumps use the ambient temperature around us and convert it to heat water. They basically work as a reverse kind of refrigerator. In an air sourced heat pump, this means extracting the air from outside and passing it over a heat sink, moving thermal energy in the opposite direction of flow to provide heating for homes.

Air source are the easiest of the heat pumps to install and only need a small amount of electricity to operate. Combine them with solar energy and you have a system that can be considered truly renewable.

Heat pumps have few moving parts and are therefore very low maintenance with, again, a good return on investment. The only caveat that you have to remember is your home or office needs to be well insulated. Heat pumps provide low but constant levels of warmth which deliver the right ambient, constant temperature. Many businesses are offering retrofitting for both solar and ASHP which should include assessing how you make your property as insulated as it needs to be.

You can also get a similar subsidy to the solar feed in tariff through the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive which applies to all forms of heat pump as well as take advantage of the Renewable Heat Premium which can reduce the initial cost of the installation.

Find out more about heat pumps here.

More Companies Are Offering Solar PV with ASHP Systems

As the price of installations are starting to come down, more companies across the UK are beginning to offer both solar PV and air source heat pump installations as a complete package. This is a great option if you are looking to create a really efficient home system that lowers your bills and improves your carbon footprint.

EcoLiving UK, who installed a combined system for a couple in Nottinghamshire, estimated the savings at around:

  • £950 per year for the solar PV installation.
  • £650 per year for the ASHP (replacing an outdated oil system).
  • A combined carbon saving of 3.3 tonnes over the year.

Costs can vary depending on the size of your installation and how much subsidy you are entitled to. A recent case study by Your Future Energy shows a 16 KW solar panel and ASHP installed for a property and a price tag of £16,000. Factor in the savings of £960 per year along with subsidy payments of £1,800 a year and you can expect to pay off the initial investment in just under six years.

This may well mark a change in the sector where many companies will now deliver a combination of solutions for each home owner rather than specialising in one particular area. The Government is committed to decarbonising heating over the next decade and heat pumps of all varieties are seen as an integral part of this. Mixing solar with heat pumps certainly makes perfect sense if you want to take a holistic approach to optimising your home energy.

Search for local solar PV and ASHP installers here.