What are solar cell windows and are they really something to watch out for?

solar windows

We live in an ever-changing world of technology in which the things that we purchase often become obsolete before we know it. We have a throwaway culture that means we’re okay with wastage and we’re happy to invest in a new phone over and over again even if we don’t need one. But where is that getting us..? We’ve been fighting for change but doing so using tech that contributes to the issues we’re trying to eradicate. With that in mind, technology is evolving and becoming more than tools that we use on a daily basis, it’s becoming a passive resource that we take advantage of without even thinking. Solar cell windows are a great example of this change and it’s become even more apparent that they could become more than just a gimmick or the topics of an article.

What are solar cell windows?

Solar cell windows refer to pieces of glass that have been designed to contain technology capable of generating electricity just as a solar panel would, however, just as a traditional window is, these solar cell windows are transparent. While that might not sound plausible and seem slightly farfetched, it’s a really exciting endeavour that could help to change the world!

How they work

The way that the solar cell windows work is rather impressive. They, of course, allow light to pass through them but in doing so they’re also converting the sunlight into electricity for your home or building to use. The solar cell window premise at first sounds tricky, you need to absorb the sunlight to convert it into electricity but also allow sunlight through the window at the same time, so how does that work? Surely it can’t? And that’s an understandable question but there is an explanation.

A traditional solar panel will be made up of photovoltaic cells (these are made of semiconductor materials that are designed to absorb the sunlight. More accurately they absorb the photons that the sun emits) and these are responsible for absorbing sunlight and turning it into electricity for you to use. The way that a solar cell window works is very similar, but the technology is a little more advanced due to there being a need to let visible sunlight through the window and into your home, office, or even a car. Instead, a solar cell window will be able to harness just a portion of the solar spectrum that is invisible to the naked eye and then allow the visible light to pass through the window and illuminate whatever is on the other side. This is done using a transparent luminescent solar concentrator or TLSC for short. TLSC is made of organic salts that have been designed to absorb only specific wavelengths that we can’t see.

Are they worth it? 

One of the biggest issues people have with solar panels is that they’re big, ugly, and very expensive. So, the question remains; should we be on the lookout for solar cell windows in the mainstream market? The answer to that isn’t exactly simple and here’s why:

Style

As mentioned, one of the biggest issues that people have with that they’re big and not too pleasant to look at. The idea is that solar cell windows can solve this issue quite easily. You won’t have to place a big panel on your roof or the walls of your property, instead, they‘ll look like a set of windows, just like any other. 

This helps to maintain the style that you’re going for with your property which is something that some people find to be a priority. 

Efficiency 

Here’s where the trouble arises… These kinds of solar cells aren’t as effective as those of a traditional panel. This is down to the light that they’re letting pass through, if they could absorb the entirety of the light just as a normal solar panel, they’d be more efficient than they are. However, their purpose means that they’re less efficient than a normal panel.

The team developing this technology have stipulated that as these become a mainstream product and are being mass-produced, they should deliver an efficiency of almost 10% (9.8%). While you might think that this isn’t anything special because solar panels will range between 15-20%, but this version of solar cell windows holds the highest rating for transparent solar efficiency. But the most important thing is that this technology is invaluable as progression within the energy industry.

To realise its potential, imagine you’re standing in London or New York City and you’re looking up at all of the skyscrapers and buildings that have floor to ceiling windows on each floor. Now compare the efficiency of one of those buildings compared to an equivalent building with only a few solar panels on the roof. The former building will be much more efficient when compared to the latter which is why this is such an important breakthrough.

Cost 

The cost of these solar cell windows is something that will likely be a deciding factor. In the first phase of creating them, you’re likely to be spending a lot. However, as with most things, as time goes on the price is likely to decrease and they’ll become more affordable.

Unfortunately, as of yet, we’ve not been able to find an accurate estimate of how much these windows are likely to cost in the future but it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’ll cost considerably more than a traditional solar panel. This is because you’ll be purchasing the added benefit of not having to have solar panels on your roof. 

So, are solar cell windows something that we can look forward to in the near future? I suppose we’ll have to eagerly wait and see what happens. If we had to give you a rough estimate, I’d say that you’re likely to be waiting more than 5 years before we start to see them being utilised properly by cities. This is because many will be waiting for them to reduce in cost so that they can afford to make this kind of upgrade. The cost associated with having to not only replace all of the windows in your building but also invest in the technology and purchase solar cell windows is likely to be huge. However, after the technology has progressed and become cheaper to create, I do think that people will be turning to the tech for its properties when updating their homes or building a new home. The same goes for developers of both commercial and domestic buildings; I do think that they’ll end up utilising solar cell windows in new build homes. 

BIO

Rob Gavin, Aluminium Bending Specialists Ltdhttps://www.absltd.co.uk 

Rob has been running ABS Ltd for some time now and he’s managed to change the industry for the better. Being the UK’s leading aluminium bending specialists, ABS Ltd has been able to create bespoke windows for both domestic and commercial buildings giving them leading insight into specialist designs, premium styles and the latest in renewable window technology.

UK Subsidy Free Solar Market Continues To Flourish

SOLAR PANELS

Back in 2017, Clayhill Solar Farm was the first solar farm to be built without government subsidies. The 10MW site near Flitwick in Bedfordshire was developed by Anesco, a UK-based renewables developer and, crucially, after the Renewables Obligation scheme had been closed to new applicants. The scheme was one of the main support mechanisms for large-scale renewable electricity projects in the UK. Clayhill Solar Farm was a landmark development for the solar industry which paved the way for a sustainable future no longer reliant on subsidies.

According to new figures released by Solar Energy UK 175 MW of new photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity has already been installed across the UK between January and March this year (Q1’21). The UK solar industry is continuing to grow despite the lack of any subsidies.

This brings the UK’s total installed PV capacity to more than 14 GW, generating enough electricity to power over 3 million homes. It is clear that all three solar market segments, residential, commercial rooftop and ground-based have grown despite a drop in installations during the initial Coronavirus pandemic lockdown last year.

The significant growth over the winter period was again dominated by ground-mounted solar parks, contributing 70% of the new capacity deployed.  By comparison, rooftop segments are now a much smaller part of a very large industry.

Despite the major government support scheme, the Feed-in-tariff (FiT) for small-scale renewables being removed by the UK government back in early 2019, rooftop markets are also continuing to thrive with rooftop solar capacity seeing 14% year-on-year growth. Last year, however, saw the majority of rooftop solar installations located on commercial and industrial buildings.

More than 1 GW of subsidy free solar PV capacity has been installed since subsidies were withdrawn marking another landmark moment for the industry.

660 MW of new solar capacity was installed in the 12-month period to 31st March 2021, and it looks likely the UK may be on track to deliver an additional GW of unsubsidised solar capacity this year as building, and energy decarbonisation accelerates.

Even though the Covid-19 pandemic has challenged overall deployment over the past year, industry groups and the Solar Media Group believe that market confidence remains clear.

Finlay Colville, head of analysis at Photo voltaic Media Ltd, said that the “sturdy deployment figures” from the primary quarter of 2021 proved the UK photovoltaic business was now working “effectively and profitably” in a zero-subsidy atmosphere.

He said:

“If the industry succeeds in introducing new PV equipment in excess of 1GW without any government incentives, 2021 could still be the most important year for UK solar power.”

And all this could be achieved in the total absence of any incentive schemes.

Though the solar industry is growing without government subsidies, the government has recognised the need for funding in renewables if the UK is to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050. As part of the government’s £1 billion industrial decarbonisation strategy, funding for rooftop solar on public buildings has received an important boost. £932 million has been allocated for the public sector decarbonisation scheme which will see 429 projects around England receive funding. The funding will be used for a number of measures, including rooftop solar, storage and heat pumps. This is happening at the same time as the introduction of stricter energy efficiency regulations for not only new builds but UK households across the board. These regulations will further increase the uptake of solar PV as well as other renewables.

The success of the UK’s subsidy free solar industry could be seen over the Easter weekend when the UK’s electricity system recorded its greenest day ever as sunshine and windy weather led to a surge in renewable energy.

Chris Hewett, CEO of Solar Energy UK, recently said:

“The UK used the cleanest grid electricity ever at Easter Weekend, and solar temporarily provided 21% of its electricity generation. The expansion of the pipeline for unsubsidized projects reflects investors’ confidence in solar technology, and the UK is making solar power increasingly clean and affordable. “

Large scale solar farms are likely to continue to dominate UK solar for the next decade as the pipeline of new site projects is added to each month. During the past year more than 800MW per month on average has been added by way of new sites, with most of these at pre-application stage. The UK subsidy free solar market continues to flourish even in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Cost Benefits of Cloud Computing in Renewable Energy Systems

cloud renewable energy

Renewable energy is the resource the world needs to move toward a more sustainable, clean future. While green power sources like solar and wind don’t produce any carbon dioxide emissions directly, they do come with high energy demands. Data centers are necessary to manage and distribute them properly, and cloud computing can curb the costs of those demands.

Modern renewable energy systems run on data to understand who needs energy and how much they require throughout the year. With these insights, experts can properly store and distribute electricity. However, before they can do so, they need a place to hold the vast amount of data.

Data centers require cooling, processing and lightning costs, which can add up. However using the cloud for renewable energy cuts down on those needs and expenses.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Sustainability is the goal, and it plays a central role in renewable energy and cloud computing. Whether it’s completely reducing fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions or managing power consumption more efficiently, the goal is the same. Thus, it’s important to combine the two sectors.

An International Data Corp. (IDC) study shows that using cloud computing could eliminate 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2024. That’s because cloud computing reduces reliance on energy-heavy practices. Transferring data off-site is faster than standard computing methods. Cloud systems also keep equipment from idling for prolonged periods.

This fast connectivity and smart usage of energy add up. As the IDC states, cloud-based renewable energy computing could ultimately end up reducing consumption at data centers. Green power companies and services would then be making their business practices more sustainable, all while saving money.

This combination is a growing necessity, too. Renewables had the biggest increase in usage across all energy resources in 2019 — and this reliance is still increasing. To make them fully sustainable, the data they run on can now cost less through cloud computing.

Automated Renewable Services

Automation is the underlying tool that makes cloud computing in data centers so powerful. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are also adapting to users’ needs. An automated system can monitor energy consumption in a data center and point out ways to cut down on electricity usage.

A solar energy system worker that needs information on production can remotely access it from the data center. Automation learns from this interaction and conserves energy when the data is not in use or doesn’t need to be transferred.

A similar concept applies to managing solar energy output itself. An automated renewable energy system will consider demand for electricity and weather patterns — which is also stored in a data center. The system knows when to conserve energy throughout cloudy or windless days. This way, those on the energy grid maintain a consistent supply of electricity at all times.

Moreover, this automated conservation of energy means the system won’t waste as much power in the distribution process. The result is more cost savings.

Improvements for the Future

More industries will depend on data centers for reliable services. With more reliance comes more responsibility, though. Data centers can always look for ways to improve how they handle sustainability. Then, each industry can have a more cost-effective support network.

Using renewable energy is one way to improve efficiency. Just as renewables can rely on data centers for sustainability, the reverse is true, as well. In fact, many big tech companies like Microsoft and Google are seeking to use or already utilizing renewable energy to power their data centers. As more places take on this approach, sustainability and cost-effectiveness become innate.

This movement comes when renewables are dropping in prices across the board, making them stand out as practical options for data centers. With this kind of reciprocal dynamic, the renewable energy industry can be fully sustainable, reducing costs around every turn.

Sustainability and Cost

Through the overlap of data centers and renewable energy, it’s clear that sustainability and cost are the two most important goals. These aims are attainable as the two industries rely on each other for energy and data storage. That way, cloud renewable energy can become the key to cost savings across the board.

Author: Shannon Fynn

Work Begins On Army’s First Solar Farm To Support Its Commitment To Sustainability

UK Army Renewables

The installation of a 2.3MW photovoltaic solar farm at the British Army’s Defence School of Transport (DST) in Leconfield is part of a major project expected to deliver £1million in efficiency savings and a massive reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The project will support the Government’s commitment to meet Net Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Delivered by Centrica Business Solutions, the solar farm is the first of four photovoltaic solar farm sites to be built on the Army’s vast estate as part of Project PROMETHEUS, which are designed to increase renewable energy across the Defence estate.

Greg Mckenna, Managing Director of Centrica Business Solutions, said:

“We are proud to support the army launch what is an ambitious sustainability programme. It is incumbent on organisations big and small to show leadership in meeting net zero, and the army is doing just that.

Large scale solar projects like this can create significant cost and carbon savings, helping customers accelerate their transition to a sustainable future.”

Centrica Business Solutions started construction of the 2.3MW solar farm earlier this year. The DST site covers an area the size of six football pitches and consists of 4,248 Trina Vertex panels that are predicted to generate up to one third of the electricity needed on site. It will produce enough power to supply much of the site’s infrastructure including the single soldiers and family’s accommodation the offices, classrooms, and gym.

Together, the four pilot sites are expected to result in £1million in efficiency savings and to reduce emissions by 2,000 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year. These cost savings will be reinvested into Army infrastructure and help to reach the Army’s own ambition of Net Zero by 2045.

Major General David Southall, director basing and infrastructure and the Army’s sustainability champion, said:

“The Army remains wholly committed to play its part in meeting the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To deliver this, we are working hard to reduce energy demand as well as increase ‘green’ supply across our estate.

Project PROMETHEUS is an exciting pilot which will showcase renewable energy generation across the Army estate. When operational, we will learn from our four pilot sites and scale-up fast across the wider Army estate to help decarbonise the power we use.”

The three remaining solar farms planned for construction will be based at Duke of Gloucester Barracks, South Cerney, Gloucestershire; Rock Barracks, Suffolk; and Baker Barracks on Thorney Island, Sussex and are scheduled for delivery by summer 2021. Beyond the pilot project, the Army hopes to deliver a further circa 80 solar farms across its estate over the next seven years.

Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin said:

“Project Prometheus is an example of how Defence is actioning its all-encompassing approach to reducing carbon emissions and increasing sustainability, announced last week.

The Army, through Prometheus, is showing our commitment to positive green initiatives, driving impressive energy efficiency savings.”

Project Prometheus is one of several sustainable initiatives undertaken by the army to support the UK Net Zero legislation. Project TAURUS saw a solar carport with electric car charging ports and battery storage built at the British Army Headquarters. The second phase of this project will go on to install a further six solar carports across the UK.

Project KELPIE is a pilot scheme which is looking at thermal battery storage, and project Romulus is working on the development of a ‘digital twin’ system for managing buildings’ carbon footprints. This system collects and collates data on how the infrastructure works. Further to this there are initiatives such as buildings Efficiency Management Systems (BEMS) which is working on improving sub-metering across the estate and near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) which is looking at making the estate more sustainable by enhancing the energy efficiency of Single living accommodation (SLA).

The army further shows its commitment to sustainability with Project MARKER which is a habitation creation scheme and a natural capital research project with Exeter University.

The Commandant of the Defence School of Transport, Colonel Chris Henson is very pleased that the Defence School of Transport site was chosen as the first solar farm site within Defence. He said that becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable was something they are definitely focusing on at the school though he acknowledges that they are a long way off becoming carbon neutral.

IMS Heat Pumps

heat pumps

When it comes to choosing a home central heating system the options are plentiful, but for those conscious of environmental factors and the need to futureproof their home, heat pumps are the obvious solution.

And we thought the Government did too. However, the various schemes aimed at incentivising consumers and developers to install heat pumps over fossil fuel heating systems, are coming to an end, raising doubt as to whether the UK will meet its target of getting 600,000 homes fitted with a heat pump by 2028.

Heat pumps – a trusted technology

You might be surprised to learn that heat pumps aren’t a new technology. They have in fact been in use since 1845, but just not in the UK. They are commonplace in Nordic countries, with Sweden having by far the highest penetration of heat pumps per capita in the world. There are now 1.7m heat pumps installed in the country with a population of around 10 million, making the UK’s target look paltry by comparison.

For heat pump novices, there are three types of heat pumps: ground source, air source and water source. The most common type installed in the UK is air source, with ground source used on large properties, and water reserved for those with a lake or river at our disposal! To find out more about the differences between the systems, visit https://www.imsheatpumps.co.uk/

According to research by the BSRIA, the UK saw around 37,000 heat pumps sold in 2020, representing an increase on the previous year of 9.2%.  This increase was in no doubt helped by the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Green Homes Grant (GHG) schemes.

The current RHI scheme – Ground Source up to £35k and Air Source up to £11,200 – is set to end in March 2022. As yet, there is no firm commitment from the government as to what financial incentive will be in place thereafter. Whilst big promises had been made with regard to the GHG, the Government announced on 27th March 2020 that it was closing the scheme to new applicants on the 31st March 2020. This brings into question whether the UK stands any chance of achieving a net zero carbon economy by 2050.

The GHG has been important for the market which has seen steady growth in the refurbishment sector despite the drop in the number of installations in new builds as a result of the pandemic.

Heat pumps installations in new homes

Carbon-saving technologies like solar panels and heat pumps are a big part of the Government’s plan to bring about the carbon emission reductions needed to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

With the goal of no new homes using fossil fuels from 2025, heat pumps are inevitably going to become the heroes of the green domestic heating reduction. However, relying on new homes to bring about the reduction won’t be enough. According to official figures, the number of completed new dwellings more than halved during the first 6 months of 2020 to around 15,000. This is unsurprising given the pandemic, but to what extent these figures bounce back is currently anyone’s guess.

However, heat pump installation still represents a major challenge in existing homes. The ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations offer hope that refurbishments in homes and buildings will be conceived with low carbon heating in mind, but the review’s outcomes are yet to become a legal requirement.

The environmentally conscious consumer

So, what needs to change?

Emma Bohan, General Manager of one of the UK’s leading ground and air source heating pump installation companies – IMS Heat Pumps – believes a change in attitude is also what’s needed. “In addition to government incentives, we need to make heat pumps fashionable and highly desirable. It’s starting to happen, but just not at the pace that’s required” says Emma. “We’re increasingly finding that clients are coming to us because they want to do the right thing in terms of the environment, as well as future proofing their home against potential unfavourable legislative and pricing changes around fossil fuel heating systems.”

There is no denying that it is more expensive to install a heat pump system over your standard gas boiler, however in the long run, and with financial incentives, there are savings to be made. Therefore, persuading the home renovators, self-builds and retrofit consumer to opt for a heat pumps will be key.

Thought also needs to be given to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which provides a rating of a property’s likely energy efficiency. EPCs are primarily used by would-be buyers or renters to give an indication of how much their energy bills might cost in their home. A report from the Environmental Audit Committee, released on 22 March 2021, called for the EPC methodology to be overhauled to support energy efficiency and low carbon heating measures. 

Ofgem estimates that there are currently around four million homes in the UK that are not connected to mains gas supplies and must therefore use other forms of heating, including oil, LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and electricity.  Therefore, having access to this information will help to inform people’s decisions on how to heat their home.

Of course, there is also the potential that the Government may take a more radical approach and legislate to stop new gas boilers or other environmentally unfriendly heating methods from being installed altogether should conscience alone not be enough.

There is an ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations which could include further requirements that refurbishments in homes should include low carbon heating systems. Only time will tell what is decided.

In the meantime, it seems that the Government is looking to rely more heavily on the Eco-friendly “green” pound to achieve its environmental goals.

About IMS Heat Pumps

Established in 1997, and with offices in Perth (Scotland) and Sheffield (England), over 20 years’ experience in the field of heat pumps. IMS Heat Pumps design, supply, install, commission, service and maintain ground, air, and water source heat pumps and under floor heating and radiator systems to create cosy, low carbon homes.

For more information visit www.imsheatpumps.co.uk or call Emma Bohan on t. 0114 327 0100

Why It’s Worth Installing Solar Panels in 2021

solar panels

There have been some significant changes to the economics of solar power in recent years. The popular and successful feed-in tariff closed to new applicants in 2019 meaning that photovoltaics were no longer subsidised. Further to that the government changed the rules so that not every installation is eligible for the preferential 5% VAT. However, solar panels are still a fantastic and affordable investment due to the steady drop in solar prices that has occurred for many years. Thankfully, it appears that Covid-19 has not significantly affected the cost of solar panels, except to perhaps slow down the year on year drop in prices. The solar industry is expected to flourish again when normality returns.

According to government data, installing 4kW of solar panels in the first 3 months of 2020 was already £288 cheaper, on average, than it was in 2019. Thanks to an increase in demand and the development of new technology, solar panels costs have fallen by more than 50% over the past decade.

Overall, the cost of domestic solar electricity is now around 8p per kWh. This is a lot less than the 16p average domestic import cost from the grid, a cost that has increased by an average 4.75% each year over the past decade. Just this fact alone makes installing solar PV extremely worthwhile as you will be protecting yourself against future increases in the cost of importing power from the grid.

Financial considerations aside, installing solar panels is a good way to lower your carbon footprint. Solar energy is a natural, renewable source because it can be replenished unlike fossil fuels which are finite.  As solar energy relies entirely on gathering energy from the sun and converting it into electricity (or hot water) for use in your home, using it means that you are not producing any greenhouse gases or contributing to global warming. The Energy Saving Trust estimates the average UK home with a solar PV system installed could reduce carbon emissions by 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes per year depending on where you live in the UK.

Here are a few things to consider before installing solar panels:

  1. Payments for solar energy that you don’t use:

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) launched by the government on 1st January 2020 requires all large energy providers with at least 150,000 customers to pay households for the renewable electricity they export back to the grid. This is electricity you generate but don’t use yourself that is then pumped back to the National Grid. In order to qualify for the SEG your solar panel system must be 5MW capacity or less.

Energy suppliers have to pay a set rate for each kilowatt (kWh) of electricity you export. The amount you receive will vary by supplier but you’re free to shop around to get the best rates.

Though the scheme isn’t as generous as the feed-in tariff, the tariffs being offered by most suppliers are very reasonable and similar to the export tariff rates previously being offered by the government. Some energy providers are offering around 5.5p/kWh of exported electricity.

Depending on your circumstances, a 4kWp solar panel system could make around £340 per year which will go a long way to helping you recoup your original investment.

Homeowners with solar panels need no longer feel that their unused electricity is being wasted and the SEG rates should gradually increase as energy companies compete with one another.

  • You will need a smart meter to get the smart export guarantee payments:

In order to get the SEG tariff, you’ll need a smart meter that’s capable of tracking how much solar electricity you’re exporting to the grid.

If you have what’s known as a ‘SMETS 2’ meter, the second   generation of   smart meters or certain ‘SMETS 1’ meters (the first generation) you will be able to receive payments from your supplier for your exported electricity.

If you’re not sure what type of meter you have, you can contact your electricity supplier to help you find out what type of meter you have and whether it supports the SEG. If needed you can arrange to get a new meter installed.

  • Your solar panel system & installation must be MCS certified:

To qualify for the SEG tariff your system and installation must be MCS accredited. MCS, or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is a quality assurance scheme for microgeneration technologies. Technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. The MCS is certified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

  • Get the most value out of your solar panels:

The savings you make on your electricity bill depend on a few different factors including system size, electricity use and whether you are home during the day to use the energy you are producing. It is best to use more energy during the day when the solar panels are generating. This will save you even more money as you will need less electricity from the grid.

In the winter, when there is less sunlight and you’ll generate less solar power, it’s a good idea to set appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers to run while it is light outside to avoid taking energy from the grid as much as possible.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical four-kWp system   can reduce your bill by between £90/year and £240/year depending on where you live and how much you use the energy you are producing during the day (kWp stands for kilowatt peak which is how the power produced by panels is measured).

  • A south facing roof will work best:

The best type of roof for solar panels is a south facing roof as they tend to generate the most electricity. South facing roof panels generate the most energy because they get the sun when it is at its most intense for the longest period of time. You’ll still get some benefit if your roof faces south-west or west, but it may be less effective, and you might not get the maximum savings. Ideally, your roof should be unshaded between 10am and 4pm.

  • The further south you live the better:

When you are calculating how much installing a solar system will save you it’s important to take into account where you live. The further south you live the better. Though you don’t need to live a hot sunny climate to benefit from solar panels, where you live can make a difference when it comes to the panels’ effectiveness. Northern homes will get slightly less daylight than their southern neighbours.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that panels in Manchester could save you between £95 and £230 each year on your electricity bills, compared with around £100-£240 in London and £90-£220 a year in Stirling.

  • You can still switch energy supplier:

Your energy supplier doesn’t need to be the same as the supplier that pays you for your solar generated energy, so you are still free to switch and take advantage of the lowest priced and/or fixed tariffs being offered by different suppliers.

There is a range of suppliers offering the SEG. Ofgem has a list of all of them on their website.

  • Solar panels can affect the value of your property:

There may be some people who find solar panels on the roofs of houses ugly which could push the value of those houses down, but it is much more likely that buyers will find a more efficient home generating its own energy an attractive proposition.

Something else to bear in mind for those living in energy inefficient homes is that they could soon find it harder to get a mortgage, after a Government report called on lenders to help improve energy performance.

Mortgage lenders may soon be required to track and annually disclose the average Energy Performance Certificate rating of the properties they lend against.

The Government could then use this information to publish ‘lender league tables’ based on the average EPC ratings within their portfolios.

  • Planning permission should not be needed:

Generally, you will not need planning permission for solar PV systems. There are a few exceptions which include, if your property has a flat roof, is listed or in a conservation area.

You might need to get approval from your council’s building control team, so remember to check with your local authority before starting your solar project.

In England and Wales, the Government’s Planning Portal says that panels are likely to be considered as “permitted development”.

  1. Solar panels are mainly low maintenance:

If your solar system has been properly installed and well-designed little maintenance will be required. It will however be likely that you will need to replace the inverter, a gadget which is a key part of the mechanism within about 25 years at a cost of approximately £800.

There are of course things that can go wrong. Make sure to check the installer warranty which can cover you for up to 20 years.

If the panels have been damaged by something unexpected such as a storm, you may also be covered by buildings insurance. It’s worth checking what your insurance covers before you have the solar panels installed.

Solar panels are still a very good investment despite the lack of government subsidies. As long as you use at least 50% of your solar power on site, then, with a sensible choice of import tariff, solar will make financial sense. The more you use on site, the greater the savings. It’s definitely worth bearing in mind that the cost of grid electricity is rising.

UK’s Flagship Green Homes Grant Scrapped

The government has abandoned its much-heralded Green Homes Grant scheme which was at the heart of Boris Johnson’s promise to build back greener after the Covid-19 pandemic. Just over 6 months after the scheme was launched in September 2020 the government has announced that the scheme will close to new applicants on Wednesday, 31st March. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy have stated however that applications made before the deadline will be honoured and any vouchers already issued may be extended upon request.

The axing of the scheme which offered households grants of up to £5,000 or £10,000 to put in insulation or low-carbon heating, means the UK is left without a plan for tackling one of the biggest sources of greenhouse emissions. As things stand, Britain’s inefficient, leaky homes account for around a fifth of total carbon dioxide emissions. Green campaigners have said that scrapping the programme which was the only significant green stimulus policy announced by the government to date was a serious blow as the UK prepares to host vital UN climate talks called Cop26 in November this year.

Ed Matthew from climate change think tank E3G said:

“The end of the government’s flagship green homes scheme is a tragedy that was avoidable. There was plenty of demand for the grants, but the scheme was plagued by incompetent administration. The reality is that we can’t get to net-zero without decarbonising our homes.”


In the end the Green Homes Grant (GHG) has reached just 10% of the 600,000 homes the chancellor promised would be improved. The roll-out of the scheme has been beset with problems from the start. There were more than 123,000 applications for the grant by the end of February, but only 28,000 vouchers had been issued and only 5,800 energy efficiency measures had been installed.

The scheme was originally expected to create tens of thousands of green jobs, but it is more likely now that many ‘green’ jobs could be lost in a time of deep economic uncertainty for many.

Builders and installers have complained of a disproportionate amount of red tape in registering for the scheme while households have found it difficult to access. A US company was awarded the contract to administer the grants, but a Guardian investigation found that numerous people were unable to get a response at all. Although there were some householders who were reluctant to apply for the grants because they were worried about catching Covid from contractors coming into their home, in some parts of the country installers were overwhelmed by demand. To register to become a Green Homes Grant installer, installers needed to have both a TrustMark license number and a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) licence number for the installation of low carbon measures such as heat pumps.

Despite these accreditations, checks on the way the money was spent were so rigorous that some installers have ended up going out of business because payments were so badly delayed. Far from creating new jobs some builders have had to lay off staff due to problems with the scheme. Many people were given conflicting advice while builders have been frustrated by the rules imposed on heat pump installations in particular. Perhaps the scheme was doomed to fail from the start as many installers were reluctant to register for the scheme having learnt from past experience of similar schemes that saw them out of pocket while waiting for payment.

The amount of money allocated for greening homes is being reduced from the £2.5bn announced last year as part of the government’s bid to “build back better”.  Of that, £1bn was set aside last year for local authorities to improve homes for people on low incomes, now raised to £1.3bn. The Green Homes Grant was meant to account for the additional £1.5bn, most of which remains unspent.

The demise of the Green Homes Grant means that 20m households on moderate incomes will be left without any government help to undertake the improvements necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

When the government announced the scrapping of the scheme, they said that the scheme was only ever intended to be a short-term stimulus, but could this be part of an ongoing problem?

Ed Matthew said:

“There has been a stop-start approach (to home energy efficiency) which has stopped businesses investing in skills and has failed to give households confidence. They (the government) must pick themselves up and create a new green programme that works and has long-term funding in place from the beginning. It is surely not beyond the capability of this government to give money away at a time of economic crisis.”

WHAT IS THE MICROGENERATION CERTIFICATION SCHEME?

MCS certification is an internationally recognised quality and safety scheme for small-scale renewable energy technologies. This includes solar PV and solar thermal panels.

Technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. The MCS is certified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

MCS For Solar PV and Solar Thermal Panels In New Builds

If you are a building developer, contractor or architect looking to install a solar PV system in a new build we can provide you with everything you need to ensure your installation runs smoothly and complies with manufacture & industry standards.

Together with Eco Green Partners, we aim to provide a comprehensive equipment and support package so that all you or your contractor have to do is install the supplied equipment and supply all additional materials to complete the installation to MCS standards.

Our unique package includes a bespoke system design, supply & commissioning of the equipment and MCS certification.

Drawing on our specialist expertise and many years of experience we are able to select equipment based on key factors such as value for money, life cycle costs, performance, reliability, and warranty.

To find out more about this fantastic opportunity please visit our Renewable shop at https://shop.renewableenergyhub.co.uk/.

Benefits of MCS Accreditation for Supply & Installation

  • Signifies product quality; MCS accredited technology has been tested to ensure it meets the necessary quality and safety standards. Installing MCS certified solar panels will be more efficient, reliable, and safer than those without certification from MCS.
  • Proof of competence; You can be confident that your renewable technology has been installed safely when the work has been MCS certified.  This will include making sure that the system achieves the highest levels of energy efficiency and performance.
  • Peace of mind; MCS certification guarantees that both your solar panels and their installation meet the highest standards. This means that you will be able to get the most out of your solar panels for a long time to come.
  • Consumer protection; MCS offer consumer protection which will protect you in the event that the information you’ve been given about the scheme or the renewable technology is misleading, the generation system is underperforming or the information in the contract and the actual service provided don’t match up. If you have not happy with your MCS product or installation, MCS is committed to resolving the problem fairly and impartially.
  • Eligibility for financial incentive schemes; Your solar panels and their installation must be MCS accredited to be eligible for financial schemes such as the Smart Export Guarantee (solar PV), the Renewable Heat Incentive and Green Homes Grant (solar thermal). These financial schemes will help you to earn a quicker return on your investment in solar.

Financial Incentive Schemes for Solar PV and Solar Thermal Panels

Smart Export Guarantee

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is an obligation set by the government for licensed electricity suppliers to offer a tariff and make payment to small-scale low-carbon generators for any renewable electricity they have generated and exported to the National Grid. It replaces the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme, which pays many solar panel owners for the electricity they generate at home.

Once your MCS solar panels are installed, you can earn money for the energy generated that you’re not using yourself through the SEG. Through the scheme, energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers will pay a set amount for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by your solar panels. Energy suppliers set their own rates, as long as it’s more than zero so it’s definitely worth comparing them. Currently, you can get between 2-5.6p per kWh.

The biggest energy companies all offer SEG tariffs. Other companies with SEG customers include Avro Energy, Bulb, E, Green Network Energy, Octopus, OVO, Shell, Utilita and Utility Warehouse.

In order to be paid for your excess electricity you have to sign up to a SEG tariff with a company. If you don’t do this, you will not be paid for your electricity and will export any you don’t use to the grid for free.

Eligibility Criteria for SEG

If you install solar panels, a wind turbine or other renewable generation at home, you should be able to sign up to a SEG tariff. There are, however, certain criteria that you’ll need to meet, including the following:

  • Your installation must be 5MW capacity or less (50kW for micro-CHP).
  • Your installation must be MCS-certified.
  • You’ll need a smart meter or a meter that can provide half-hourly readings for electricity export.

Smart Meters give both you and your energy provider accurate and regular updates on how much electricity and gas you use. They measure your energy use in the same way that traditional gas and electricity meters do, the main difference being that smart meters automatically send this information over wireless networks to your supplier.

Electricity smart meters are connected to the mains and monitor how much power you’re using in real time. They mean more accurate bills for you and remove the costs of meter readings, which are currently added to your bills.

When you get a smart meter installed, you’ll get a smart electricity meter, a smart gas meter if you use gas, and an in-home display (IHD). These elements will talk to each other wirelessly. 

You should be able save money by being more efficient with energy used at home. However, smart meters will only save you money if you use and act on the information provided by your in-home display to cut your consumption. 

Green Homes Grant

The Green Homes grant can help you with the upfront costs of installing solar thermal.  The grant will pay two-thirds of the costs of energy-efficient improvements, up to the value of £5,000 per household (£10,000 for low- income households). As well as solar thermal, the Green Homes Grant can also be used for renewable heating systems, such as heat pumps. This scheme is currently set to run until March 2022. Solar panels are not eligible for the Green Homes Grant.

Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive provides financial support for people who use certain renewable technologies to heat their homes such as solar thermal systems. The payments are meant to help offset the cost of installing and running your new heating system.

After joining the RHI scheme, you receive a quarterly tariff payment for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable heat you produce. You get these payments for seven years. It’s possible for households to install more than one technology and receive payments for each system they use. The RHI can also be used in conjunction with the Green Homes Grant but only if you do not currently receive RHI payments for the specific installation you are applying for with the grant. You are required to apply for a Green Homes Grant and then apply for RHI. This cannot be done the other way round, RHI first and then Green Homes Grant. The cost of the Green Homes Grant vouchers will then be taken off the value of your projected RHI payments.

The amount you’re paid per kWh of heat depends on the renewable technology you install, when you apply to receive RHI, and your home’s Energy Performance Certificate. Your payment amount will be estimated, based on your home’s EPC rating.

The rates you get can also change annually, in line with the Retail Prices Index or Consumer Prices Index.