Everything You Need to Know About Solar Farm Requirements

Solar Farm

Solar farming is the most popular method of harvesting sunlight in order to create energy and is an excellent way to generate an additional revenue stream. It has quickly become one of the most attractive new investments for companies and independent investors. Solar farms are made up of rows of ground mounted solar panels placed on special frames and fixed within the ground. They are simply large-scale applications of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems also referred to as utility-scale or grid-scale solar PV plants typically covering an area ranging from 1 acre to 100+ acres in the UK. These futuristic looking installations can provide a source of safe, locally produced renewable energy for many years after construction.

Solar farms help to power communities and allow utility companies to maximise their energy production capacity. Although these farms harvest the sun rather than produce agricultural crops or house livestock, they must meet specific solar farm regulations and requirements in order to be allowed to operate.

Solar Farm Requirements:

  1. The parcel of land being considered for solar farming must be big enough. Solar farms need quite a lot of space. The biggest solar farm in the UK can produce a total of 46 MW of power and is capable of powering 14,000 homes. Approximately 25 acres of land is required for every 5 megawatts (MW) of installation while 6 to 8 acres will be needed for a 1MW farm. Space isn’t just needed for the panels themselves but for essential equipment like inverters and storage batteries too. There must also be enough space between the rows of panels to allow for maintenance access.
  2. The land selected will need to have a connection to the grid in order to supply the electricity that is generated. If there is no existing connection in place, one must be set up and paid for. Being close to overhead cables and a substation is usually a good indicator that a connection application may be successful. The further away a location is from the grid, the higher the cost of interconnection for the developer.
  3. Solar farms are normally built on rural land. There needs to be careful thought given as to the suitability of the land chosen for a solar farm. The prime spots for solar farms are either on flat land or on a south facing slope. Ground mounted solar panel systems of greater than 9m sq. (4-5 large solar panels) require planning permission. This means that all solar farms require planning permission. In order to get approval for solar farms in the UK, a series of rigorous planning procedures must be passed before work can begin. Planners will encourage the development of brownfield and previously unused land wherever possible. They will also consider the potential impact on the locality looking closely at both ecological and socio-economic factors. If greenfield or agricultural land is to be used planners will push for dual usage on the selected land, such as combining solar PV with grazing animals or wildflower meadows to help with crop pollination in neighbouring fields. Biodiversity in and around the installation area will be promoted. However, approval to turn highly fertile fields into solar farms is rarely granted. Although, solar PV arrays have a long-life span, planners will also want to see that the installation area could be reinstated with as little environmental impact as possible should the PV system be decommissioned. Planners will look at how the visual impact of a solar PV installation in areas that could be described as containing heritage assets can be minimised. A heritage asset does not need to be legally protected such as a conservation area. A heritage asset could be anything of special interest, of national or local importance or offering some other value that could be adversely affected through the installation of a solar PV system. The cumulative effects of multiple solar PV systems within an area will also be considered. It’s a good idea to involve local authority planners and particularly Conservation Area officers in planning permission decisions in sensitive areas as early as possible.
  4. Due to the size of sites used for ground mounted Solar PV arrays there is often a requirement as part of the planning process to understand the impact of a site on changing the flood risk to the surrounding area and drainage. The flood risk assessment will assess the most common concerns raised by the Environment Agency and Local Planning Authority which include:
  5. Location of transformer, inverter, substations units etc. within the floodplain
  6. Location of solar panels within the floodplain
  7. Fencing and solar panels interrupting conveyance of floodwaters freely across the site
  8. Safe site access / egress
  9. Location of development within statutory buffer zones for rivers and watercourses
  10. Land raising / built construction reducing the flood storage capacity of the site
  11. Potential for increased surface-water runoff and erosion from the site.
  12. Increase in impermeable surfaces

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Solar Farm Costs

Over the years solar farms have had a reputation for incurring eye-watering start-up costs. Though they are still not cheap the last decade has seen a huge decrease in cost. Amazingly, solar farms can now be set up for over 80% less than in 2010.

This is largely due to their increasing popularity which has meant that solar panel manufacturers have been able to develop more cost-effective components. The average price of solar panel modules was around £200,000 per megawatt produced, or 20p per watt, in 2019. Economy of scale has a part to play here as larger capacity solar farms work out costing less per watt than smaller ones.

However, this isn’t the full cost of the development and while the price of solar panels might be going down the same can’t be said for land or labour. In 2020, the average value for an acre of UK farmland was between £12,000 and £15,000, although plots can easily exceed this depending on location and accessibility.

Every project will be different, but the overall cost of an individual solar farm will be determined by several factors some of which we have already mentioned, including:

  • Size/capacity of the site
  • Location
  • The solar technology and other components used
  • Whether there’s an existing grid connection
  • Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor used (A form of building contract used for a large or otherwise complex project under which the builder, the EPC contractor, will deliver a completed project on a turnkey basis)
  • Type of Operations & Maintenance contract (Full asset management, protection and optimisation for your renewable assets) put in place
  • Ongoing security measures implemented

While solar projects still have quite high start-up costs, they are somewhat offset by much lower ongoing costs. Solar farms have minimal demands in terms of operation and maintenance and there are no waste products to deal with either. After the initial investment, there shouldn’t be a need for any large operating costs in order to keep a solar farm running.

There continues to be a constant flow of new planning applications for solar farms in the UK. New sites totalling 2.6GW were added to the pipeline in the first 6 months of 2020 alone.

For every 5MW of capacity installed, a solar farm will typically produce enough energy to power more than 1,350 homes while saving 1,200 tonnes of carbon annually. This is based on an average annual consumption of 3,600 kWh of electricity per home.

The biggest benefit to solar farms is their role in meeting the National Grid’s renewable energy needs. They provide green electricity and reduce reliance on fossil fuels which produce harmful greenhouse gases. Solar technology is a proven source of safe, locally produced and sustainable power.

There’s never been a better time to invest in renewable energy

We’ve all seen the climate change headlines that are getting more dramatic every week.

Just this morning, there’s a new study that has discovered the World now sees double the number of 50C days each year than the 1980s (1), and another Global survey has revealed the depth of anxiety that young people feel about climate change, with almost 60% feeling very worried about their future (2).

Add this to the backdrop of record rising energy costs now at levels not seen since 2008, smaller energy suppliers collapsing and the impending release of the cap on standard energy tariffs from October and we can see a perfect storm brewing, just as the UK prepares to host the biggest climate change summit in November (COP26).

The targets are certainly well-documented now – we need to get to Net Zero by 2050.

This target may still seem a long way off, but change needs to happen fast and maybe some of these dramatic headlines are beginning to drive the shift towards alternative options for businesses and consumers in the UK to protect themselves from the steepest energy bills in 10 years.

Here are just a few of the key things that are happening to help people make the right decisions:

  • The cost of installing renewable energy technology is reducing quickly
  • It is now up to 50% cheaper to generate renewable energy than using fossil fuels
  • Performance of renewable energy is continually improving with new innovations such as battery storage in a rapidly growing industry
  • Electricity suppliers are introducing agile tariffs to support renewable energy usage at the cheapest rates
  • Grants and subsidies are still available for businesses and homeowners to benefit from installing renewable energy at their premises

The Growth of Renewable Energy

The renewable energy industry is growing fast, as consumers and businesses alike learn more about the huge savings and benefits that can be made, whilst also reducing their carbon footprint and supporting the drive towards net zero and a brighter, greener future for all of us. For example, UK Solar firms installed 135MW of solar energy capacity in the second quarter of 2021, more than double for the same period in 2020! (3) And large commercial rooftop installations of more than 100kW in size have seen their strongest ever period of sustained growth, supported by a rush of new planning applications that are fuelling the pipeline for the coming year.

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So what’s driving this growth? Aside from the fact that businesses are recognising their responsibilities towards climate change and making positive changes to the way they do business, the facts are clearly indicating that renewable energy is one of the best investments you can make right now.

Currently, businesses are typically paying between 15p and 20p for electricity (but as we all know, that is set to rise significantly). By generating your own renewable energy with solar panels for example, you reduce the need to buy electricity at ever increasing prices – that’s already a big win!

Then, if you are using more of the energy you generate on site, you will get a greater return. For example, a large commercial system of 100kw with 95% on-site usage will generate an average of 13.5% return, as well as over 40 tonnes of carbon reduction.

But, what many business owners may not realise is that by installing renewable energy solutions such as solar PV, renewable heating, battery storage or solar thermal, it could actually be the best investment you will ever make. With solid payback periods of 5-6 years, ongoing energy security and a potential 40 year lifespan on solar PV systems for example, it increasingly makes economic sense to consider the change.

In many cases, businesses can actually make more money in the longer term by reducing their energy bills than many other sales and cost reduction activities.

And that’s before you consider other benefits like capital investment allowances. Just like buying plant equipment or machinery, renewable energy will reduce your tax burden. As announced in the latest budget, there will be 100% allowances into next year.

So, there are lots of areas where solar energy alone can provide a big financial win for your business – the economics really do make sense and many businesses are already reaping the benefits. For example:

TG Group recently installed a 57kWp solar energy system on their builders’ merchants site in Bridgnorth, including 152 roof mounted solar panels installed by the team at Caplor Energy. With support from the Marches Renewable Energy Grant scheme, TG Group believe they will recoup their costs in just over 3 years, enabling them to operate a sustainable and responsible site whilst also making significant ongoing long term savings. Watch our video to see more on this project.

Neil Evans, Managing Director at Caplor Energy says,

“Rising energy costs and climate concerns are becoming increasing threats for businesses, consumers and communities throughout the UK. We are all responsible for the environment we live in and can take control of our future by choosing sustainable and informed ways to power our homes and businesses.”

Increasingly, batteries are playing a more important part in renewable energy, enabling you to purchase energy on much cheaper tariffs at off-peak times (often just 4-5p in comparison to the higher typical rates of 15-20p), which means you can store and use that power for your vehicle, home or business use during the day to offset more expensive power. In conjunction with solar, the business case looks even better as the solar panels can also charge up the batteries, helping to provide free energy at all times of the day. When you couple these benefits with the agile tariffs that are now available from ethical, green energy suppliers such as Caplor partner Good Energy, the savings continue to increase, particularly against the backdrop of record energy costs as highlighted earlier.

The fact is that we will all be using renewable energy at some point in the next 10-20 years. Many large organisations have already taken The Climate Pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040, but for many businesses there is every opportunity to achieve this target sooner. However, to achieve this we all have to start now. It is clear that businesses are now addressing social and environmental issues as part of their longer term strategies, not to mention the impact of ethical operations on client and staff recruitment and retention, so reducing environmental impact has now become an integral part of many organisations’ brand values, which is a clear step in the right direction.

Caplor Energy – Leading by example to secure a brighter future

As one of the first renewable energy businesses established and accredited with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), the team at Caplor Energy are passionate advocates of renewable energy, with a mission to inspire businesses, communities and home-owners to install renewable energy systems that will help to deliver a zero carbon future to conserve and enhance the long term social and environmental future of our planet.

We have many years’ experience of specialising in the design, installation and maintenance of a wide range of renewable energy systems across the UK from solar PV and battery storage to renewable heating systems, solar thermal and electric vehicle charging. We’re award winning, ‘excellent’ rated on Trustpilot and committed to leading by example, with many renewable energy installations at our base at Caplor Farm in the beautiful Wye Valley. Our aim is to support all our customers through knowledgeable, unbiased advice, quality products and reliable service in our quest for a greener, more sustainable economy that will provide a better environment for our future generations.

For more information about Caplor Energy, watch our short video here.

Whether you’re interested in generating power from the sun, storing and offsetting energy with batteries, using heat pumps to keep your buildings warm or charge your electric vehicles, there’s a renewable way forward for your business to operate, with significant long term savings available whilst doing your bit to reduce the impact of climate change.

To find out more about what your business can do to save money whilst reducing your carbon footprint, talk to our team of specialists at Caplor Energy who will be able to give you clear, unbiased advice on the best solutions for you.

UK Households Demand National Retrofit Plan

In August this year, UK households wrote an open letter to COP26 president Alok Sharma to persuade him to push the government to develop a national strategy for decarbonising existing buildings. The open letter was convened by Households Declare, a new campaign which was an offshoot of the Architects Climate Action Network. Households Declare was set up to help households declare a climate emergency, as many local councils and businesses already have, and to bring their voices together to more effectively press policymakers to set ambitious decarbonisation policies. The call to action comes at a time when the government is reportedly arguing amongst themselves over the cost of low carbon heating.

Of all the steps that need to be taken over the next 30 years to get the UK to net zero, weaning the UK’s ageing housing stock off carbon is arguably one of the toughest challenges in terms of infrastructure the UK has ever faced.

Notably, emissions from the UK’s domestic building stock account for around one quarter of the national total. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has time and again cited energy inefficient homes which are dependent on fossil fuel heating, as a key obstacle on the road to net-zero by 2050.

The Future Homes Standard has been initiated to ensure that homes built from 2025 will be net-zero but the UK Green Building Council has estimated that 80% of the buildings which will exist in the UK in 2050 are already standing.

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Local authorities and developers need to find a way to decarbonise 25 million homes by 2050, an astonishing 833,000 per year, at a total cost of between £400bn and £1,000bn. Without well-coordinated and united public sector intervention, legally binding national and local net-zero targets will be missed. Undoubtedly, there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done. In order to have a chance of achieving this a good place to start would be the social housing sector where there is at least the potential for the right blend of will, funding and professional management to get this enormous ball rolling.

Earlier this year the construction industry estimated that renovating the UK’s draughty homes to low-carbon standards would cost the government only £5bn over the next four years. The industry believes that this would create 100,000 jobs, cut people’s energy bills, increase tax revenue and bring tens of billions in economic benefits.

Sector leaders wrote to ministers with a proposal for a new “national retrofit strategy” that they say would boost a green recovery in the UK and put Britain on track to meet its climate targets.

The organisations added:

“Wide-scale domestic retrofit is essential to the net zero agenda and backing a long-term strategy will help position the UK as global market leader in the low carbon economy ahead of the UN climate change conference (COP26) in November.”

The construction industry believes that the “national retrofit strategy” requires a combination of policies, including green mortgages to provide the finance for people to install low-carbon heating, stamp duty rebates on refurbished homes, reduced VAT on home improvement works and loans to landlords to improve their properties.

The Construction Leadership Council said that low-income households will need government grants while those on higher incomes should be given access to low interest loans and council tax rebates, paid for by central government. The construction industry also recommended that Ministers should act quickly to enable companies to start training employees and new recruits to bridge the skills gap.

The Households Declare campaign has flagged the repeated declarations made by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) that the UK will not meet its legally binding emissions targets “without near-complete decarbonisation of the housing stock”. The campaign is calling for the Government to develop a national strategy for retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency.  The government attempted to address this with the Green Homes Grant and Public Sector Decarbonisation schemes which were set up to help households and public sector organisations respectively with the bulk of the costs of improvements that reduce energy consumption. Unfortunately, the Green Homes Grant was closed in the spring of this year with less than 10% of the 2bn promised in vouchers issued.

Though Ministers have been urged by trade bodies, NGOs, local councils and activists to clarify plans for replacing the Green Homes Grant in full, this has not yet been confirmed. Households Declare want the strategy details as soon as possible and they are calling on Ministers to “do it now and make it fair”.

They are also campaigning for VAT breaks for products that improve household energy efficiency, as well as the retrofit services themselves.

The next opportunity for the government to outline a replacement for the Green Homes Grant will be through the publication of the Heat and Buildings strategy this Autumn. It looks likely that the proposed £4,000 for households looking to install new low-carbon heating systems, due to be offered through the Clean Homes Grant scheme from April 2022 (replacing the Renewable Heat Incentive), will be increased. There has however, been backlash from MPs over proposals to only offer grants to low-income homes. 

In the meantime, there has been more success with local authority driven schemes which have received both government funding and support. However, the housing retrofit challenge, particularly with private tenures is widely recognised. Less than 7% of homes are owned by local authorities and over 80% are in private hands.

Initiatives such as the social housing decarbonisation fund, green homes grant local authority delivery scheme, home upgrade grant and minimum energy efficiency standards offer local authorities the chance to develop local supply chains and jobs to support further expansion and investment to rebuild confidence within the private sector and stimulate the Covid recovery.

In order to build capacity and avoid stop-start problems a planned and sustained policy is required. Recently the government launched the sustainable warmth competition which draws together phase three of the local authority delivery system and the home upgrade grant (for off gas grid homes) and is a step in the right direction. With this new scheme local authorities can apply for funding to help them install energy saving upgrades and low carbon heating in low-income households.

There is a huge task ahead as gas boilers will need to be replaced with heat pumps, district heating systems and possibly hydrogen systems. Homes will need loft, window and wall insulation, an insulation programme which was a big part of the failed Green Homes Grant scheme which was heralded to build a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government is expected to publish its heat and buildings strategy soon.  Decarbonising the UK’s homes, which produce nearly one-fifth of the UK’s carbon output, is an urgent issue as the government looks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 78% before 2035.

New £450m Fund launched by Ofgem to Support Green Innovation in the UK

The UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem has announced a £450 million fund for green energy projects. The money will be made available to energy network companies to come up with innovative ideas that will help the UK meet its net zero climate targets and turn the UK into the “Silicon Valley” of energy. It is anticipated that the fund will support the UK’s ambition to slash 68% of emissions by 2030, and 78% by 2035, with the goal being to reach net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.

In 2019, the UK committed to becoming ‘net zero’ by 2050, which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions so much that the country absorbs as much as it emits. Large-scale changes, to how the UK’s economy is powered, including new ways of heating homes and transporting people and goods, will be required to achieve this.

To apply for the first round of funding the energy network companies will need to address the four major challenges that Ofgem has identified.

The challenges are heat, transport, data and digitalisation and “whole system integration” which joins up the entire journey of electricity from plant to plug.

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The hope is that the fund will inspire network companies, system operators and the world’s leading businesses and researchers to find creative new ways to unlock greener modes of travel and to heat and power homes and businesses. The fund will be approved by Ofgem and managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

Indro Mukerjee, chief executive of Innovate UK, commented: 

“The ideas of the UK’s world-leading innovative businesses and researchers have the potential to reshape the gas and electricity networks for net zero, while generating commercial growth. We are delighted to be working with Ofgem to make sure the Strategic Innovation Fund brings maximum impact over the coming years.”

Ofgem has stated that the fund which opened for application on the 31st of August will be available for the next five years but could be extended if strong plans are presented to them.

Ofgem said the ideas put forward would need to be “bold and ambitious” and have the potential to be rolled out at scale across the UK. These ideas could be applied to a range of technologies from heat pump installations to developing battery storage technology.

Projects could include ensuring the networks are ready to roll out clean heating solutions such as heat pumps to the UK’s homes as well as developing ways for network companies to work together across transmission, distribution, system operation, gas and electricity.

Other projects could focus on developing new technologies for networks to support flexible energy solutions, such as battery storage technology, to ensure electricity is used and stored more effectively, thereby bringing down bills and emissions. Ideas need to be big, bold and ambitious with potential to scale across the networks upon completion. It is vital that ways are found to keep bills as low possible. As recently as last month Ofgem announced a 12% increase to wholesale prices which will feed through as a significant rise to energy bills.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s chief executive said:

“What we need, more than ever, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero, is innovation. The strategic innovation fund means cutting-edge ideas and new technologies become a reality, helping us find greener ways to travel, and to heat and power Britain at low cost. Britain’s energy infrastructure will play a pivotal role in cutting net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and this fund will help make sure our energy system is ready to deliver that.”

In a separate announcement the government has declared that it will start offering carbon reduction workshops and “practical net zero advice” to thousands of businesses this month.

Interestingly, researchers tracked a 12.4% drop in carbon emissions from global businesses in 30 countries during Covid lockdowns when people were kept out of energy-intensive offices and shops. However, the ULI Greenprint Center for Building Performance said that carbon emissions dipped briefly during the pandemic but rebounded quickly which has put pressure on companies and households to take further steps to go green.

The net-zero certification group Planet Mark will run the workshops and will travel across the country to work with companies in an electric bus. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said it would help “raise awareness among the business community about the urgent need for firms to cut their carbon emissions”.

Energy Minister, Lord Callanan at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, said:

“The UK is leading the world in decarbonising our energy system, with our innovators playing a vital role in going further while ensuring consumers receive clean and affordable energy. The Strategic Innovation Fund will ensure the best projects and most talented minds have the grants available to reduce carbon emissions and enable bill payers to see the benefits of building back greener.”

Despite the urgent need for the carbon reduction workshops, they are only due to run until the end of the Cop26 climate conference which has sparked criticism from climate campaigners at Greenpeace who believe it is further evidence that Boris Johnson’s commitment to climate action is “wafer thin”.

Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace UK’s senior climate adviser, said:

“It’s not just the half-hearted gimmicky bus tour which will end in November before the hard work of decarbonising the British economy will really start. It is the transparent hucksterism, the blatant hypocrisy and the almost criminally limited ambition that stands out.”

He went on to say that the government was “failing to deliver real climate action and is actually undermining it by approving new oil exploration in the North Sea, withdrawing the green homes energy efficiency grant, having neither a plan or even a clue for clean building heat, and providing completely inadequate support for public transport or active travel”.

On a final more positive note, Andrew Griffith, UK net-zero business champion, said:

“UK businesses have proved time and time again that our country is home to world-leading entrepreneurial talent, innovators and disruptors. As we approach the COP26 Climate Change summit in Glasgow the Strategic Innovation Fund is an example of how business can provide the solutions that will make our energy cleaner and tackle climate change.”

How Easy Is It to Generate Your Own Energy?

There has never been a better time to consider generating your own electricity. We’re all used to seeing solar farms and towering wind turbines on our travels, but it is entirely possible to generate your own energy from renewables at home just on a smaller scale.

There are a few reasons why you might want to generate your own energy. The recent warning from the IPCC that only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent widespread devastation and extreme weather, might have persuaded you that it’s time to cut your carbon footprint. By generating your own energy, you can significantly lower your household’s carbon footprint. You may want to invest in low carbon energy, to reduce your future energy bills. Energy prices have risen exponentially in the last 20 years so reducing your reliance on the National Grid will enable you to insulate your household from the unexpected and pronounced rise of wholesale energy prices. Or it might simply be that you want to be a bit more self-sufficient.

There are more options today for generating your own energy than ever before but is it a realistic prospect for UK homeowners? Let’s look at a few of the options available to you.

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Solar

Solar panels are now a common sight on rooftops in the UK. They are the most common renewable source of energy. Known as photovoltaics (PV), solar panels capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. They generally work better on a south facing roof at a pitch angle of about 30 or 40 degrees. You can fit panels on a flat roof, or on a frame on the ground but a sloping roof is usually the easiest. Though south facing is optimum, anywhere between east and west is possible. Solar panels are improving with every passing year, with specialist PV cells able to generate power even on a cloudy day. Thankfully for those of us living in the UK, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to work. However, if your home is overshadowed by trees or other buildings it will have a negative impact on the performance of your system. Space is a key consideration. Roughly speaking, a roof area of 10-20 square metres would be enough to deliver between 20% and 45% of the typical household’s electricity needs.

PV cells convert sunlight into electricity which you can use for your household appliances and lighting. Ideally, you would be at home during the day to make the most of the electricity generated when the sun is shining. You can of course set your appliances to come on during the day even if you are out. If you’re generating more electricity than you need during the day the surplus will be fed back to the National Grid for someone else to use. If you want to avoid having to use electricity from the Grid during the night you might want to invest in a special renewable battery system in order to store any unused energy generated during the day.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) a government scheme devised so that energy suppliers pay their customers for the renewable energy that they export to the grid.

Solar energy doesn’t release any carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases. Depending on where you live a domestic solar PV system could typically save you between 1.3 – 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year.

A typical solar panel system installation with 30m2 of panels will cost between £5,000 and £8,000 and is getting cheaper. In recent years, the price of installing panels has decreased by 70%. It can take anywhere between 15 and 26 years to recoup your costs for a typical home depending on how much energy you can use during the daytime, where you live, how much electricity you use and what you’re paid under the smart export guarantee. 

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

Solar Thermal

The sun is an infinite renewable energy source which can also be used to heat your hot water using solar thermal systems. They work by transferring the sun’s heat within special pipes on your roof via copper wires inside. In the summer, they should provide all the hot water you require for your home. In the winter, it’s a lot less, however over the course of a whole year, roughly 60% of your hot water needs will be provided by your solar thermal install.

A typical domestic solar hot water system, with 4m2 of panels that should supply enough hot water for a family of four, could set you back between £3,000 – £5,000.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the outside air to heat your home and hot water. Amazingly, they can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C! They run on electricity which can be obtained from renewable energy sources such as national offshore wind farms. Because they are extracting renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input which makes them an energy efficient way to heat your home. Running costs are very low because air source heat pumps are super-efficient and are known for their reliability and consistency.

Air source heat pumps look very much like air-conditioning units. Their size depends on how much heat they’ll need to generate for your home, the more heat, the bigger the heat pump. They are usually positioned outdoors at the side or back of a property and they need plenty of space around them for air to circulate. Inside, you will usually have a unit containing pumps and hot water. ASHPs are normally smaller than a standard boiler.

Generating your own electricity by installing solar panels on your roof can give you more freedom and control as air source heat pumps work well with solar panels. They also work in conjunction with underfloor heating as both can operate under a low consistent temperature system.

ASHPs are also adaptable as they can double up as an air conditioning unit in the summer and even heat a swimming pool whilst not being used to heat the home.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

A ground source heat pump system harnesses natural heat from deep underground by pumping water through it in pipes. The heat pump increases the temperature and the heat produced is used to heat homes or hot water. Ground source heat pump systems are made up of a ground loop (a network of water pipes buried underground) and a heat pump at ground level. A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pumped around the ground loop and absorbs the naturally occurring heat stored in the ground.  The water mixture is compressed and goes through a heat exchanger, which extracts the heat and transfers it to the heat pump. The heat is then transferred to your home heating system. A ground source heat pump can increase the temperature from the ground to around 50°C.

You do need plenty of space for the GHSP to be installed, generally a garden that is accessible to digging machinery. The size of the ground loop will depend on big your home is and how much heat you need.

Like ASHPs they need electricity to run, and they use less electrical energy than the heat they generate. The pump carries out the same role as the boiler in a central heating system. However, rather than burning fuel to generate heat, it uses ambient heat from the ground. GHSPs are ideal for new or self-builds as the installation requires a lot of soil upheaval in the garden space or drilling deep down into the earth. As you can imagine installation isn’t cheap, but the end result is a heating system which has an extremely low running cost. There is also an attractive financial incentive which we’ll take a look at and will give you a good return on your investment over 7 years.

Financial Incentive for Renewable Heat

If you generate heat for your home via a renewable source, you may be eligible to apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. The domestic RHI was launched in 2014 to provide financial support to owners of renewable heating systems for seven years. The government scheme aimed to encourage the uptake of renewable heat technologies and covers England, Wales and Scotland. It means that the homeowner can enjoy financial returns for up to seven years after instalment meaning the end cost is minimal. The cash payments are paid quarterly and the amount you receive depends on a few factors including the technology you install, the latest tariffs available for each technology and in some cases metering. There are some limits on the amount of space heating a home can receive payments for. The heat demand limits are set at 20,000kWh for ASHPs and 30,000kWh for GSHPs. There is no limit for solar water heating systems. 

In order to apply for the RHI scheme you will need:

  • Microgeneration Certification Scheme installation certificate number for the heating system
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) number
  • Bank details

Choosing renewable energy sources to power your home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, make your home more sustainable, and potentially lower your energy costs. Renewable energy minimises carbon pollution and has a much lower impact on our environment. Stablished carbon neutral technologies have never been more affordable. With renewable energy prices dropping lower than ever and incentivesto go green still very much to play for, 2021 is the ideal time to power your home with renewable energy sources.

 

8 Startups Moving the UK Towards Renewable Energy

When the United Nations established the Paris Agreement in 2015, the UK began developing renewable energy advancements. Parliament plans on improving its climate change prevention efforts by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning the country’s energy reliance away from fossil fuels towards clean electricity can preserve natural resources.

Generating a compatible infrastructure requires the help of UK startups. Private companies can conduct independent research, developing efficient renewable energy technology and structures. Seven businesses have made significant strides in generating reliable, clean power systems, improving England’s sustainability efforts.

1. Oxford PV

The Oxford PV startup developed solar panel efficiency advancement technology, expanding the UK’s renewable energy production. Their researchers crafted tandem solar cells, working within a panel to improve its performance. The perovskite cells generate more electricity per square meter than conventional panel technologies.

An Oxford professor established the company in 2010 by expanding his lab research. This year, the company will install a solar system in Brandenburg combining perovskite and silicon cell technology. The increased efficiency of their panels expands their potential production uses throughout the country.

2. H2GO Power

Expanding the renewable energy sector also requires efficient storage technology. Clean power production devices send direct currents of electricity to a structure. Developing a reliable electric grid requires excess energy containment appliances.

H2GO Power generated hydrogen storage technology, containing it in a solid-state structure. They offer utility-scale units, collecting clean energy from the source and converting it into hydrogen. It releases emission-free electricity based on real-time demands.

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3. OVO Energy

Another UK startup that privately provides clean electricity is OVO Energy. The company originated in 2009, following a mission of increasing society’s access to emission-free energy sources. They offer 100% renewable power to the residential sector, helping individuals shrink their carbon footprints.

OVO also plants a tree for every new member they gain. Today, the company provides clean electricity to over 3.5 million residents. They also help homeowners eliminate their carbon emissions, suggesting efficient electric devices for installation.

4. Zeroavia

Zeroavia is increasing the transportation sector’s sustainability with hydrogen plane engines. Their aircraft generate zero greenhouse gas emissions in flight and are more cost-effective than conventional engines. The company creates fuel by collecting solar and wind power, converting it into stored hydrogen for energy.

The transportation sector creates 27% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Converting aviation’s dependence away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources can significantly decrease atmospheric degradation.

5. BBOXX

BBOXX is helping expand the renewable energy sector by crafting solar-powered battery boxes. The company sends its electricity containers to regions with limited access. Individuals can plug small devices into the system, charging their phones, medical equipment, laptops, and more.

The company charges the boxes using solar power, decreasing related emissions. They require minimal installation and production efforts, helping individuals access clean electricity immediately. BBOXX’s next step will place remote monitoring systems in the devices, helping companies to control regional energy consumption.

6. EnergyTag

EnergyTag is a nonprofit startup that generates transparency in the renewable energy market. The company developed a market framework to compare clean electricity production and consumption rates. Some organizations claim the utilization of 100% renewable energy but continue producing emissions.

Comparing the real-time use of electricity with production patterns expands the transparency of green companies. Unlike other renewable companies, EnergyTag claims zero profits, creating the framework to better the industry. Their charitable development outshines other companies and corporations, which generate only 4% of annual philanthropic efforts.

7. Origami Energy

Origami Energy developed technology helping renewable electricity companies succeed. Efficiently trading, planning, and developing clean energy is essential when meeting regional demands. Origami utilizes smart technology to assist companies in accessing real-time data quickly.

The startup offers automated scheduling and asset dispatching for optimal energy trading. They also provide renewable electricity generation, demand, and marketing cost forecasts. Origami uses artificial intelligence technology, enhancing the accuracy and speed of readings and trading.

8. Bulb

Bulb is another private renewable energy provider in the UK. They generate 100% of their electricity from renewable sources using solar, wind, and hydro technology. The company calculates all its emissions, from production to transportation, offsetting pollution for carbon neutrality.

Bulb’s customers lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 3.2 tons annually using renewable energy. The company also developed a smart tariff, determining price discrepancies based on different areas and peak rates. It calculates an individual’s carbon emissions and provides offsetting features.

Powering the Future

Previously, the renewable energy sector relied on individuals installing solar panels and wind turbines on their properties. Today, companies are stepping up to the plate and demanding corporations’ involvement. The country also plans on developing an electric grid, decreasing its reliance on fossil fuel-derived energy.

Author: Shannon Flynn