Are Thin-Film Solar Cells the Next Generation of Renewables?

thin film solar panels

Renewable-energy professionals make advances in new technologies daily, striving to meet the steadily increasing demand for renewables worldwide. When it comes to solar, one of the most exciting and promising innovations may be thin-film solar cells.

Learn more about thin-film solar cells and how they shape up as an alternative to current materials.

How Do Thin-Film Solar Panels Compare to Popular Options?

Traditionally, companies construct most solar panels with silicon photovoltaic cells. This material makes up around 95% of solar panels shipped and installed in the past few decades. The wide use of silicon PV cells is due to how quickly they can convert light into electricity as a semiconductor. Further, silicon solar cells are long-lasting and affordable.

Still, silicon cells are not the only available option for consumers. In recent years, thin-film solar cells have emerged as a potentially worthy alternative. These cells feature light-absorbing layers that are hundreds of times smaller than silicon cells. The design of thin-film solar cells makes them the most lightweight yet durable cell option for solar panels on the market.

Like many solar panel concepts — including fiber-optic solar panels that require the use of fiber-optic cables — thin-film solar cells are not yet as widely used as more popular options. However, it is worth learning more about them because of the benefits they can potentially provide.


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Materials That Can Make Up Thin-Film Solar Cells

Manufacturers can make these kinds of solar cells from one of four materials — copper indium gallium selenide, amorphous silicon, gallium arsenide or cadmium telluride. A-Si and CdTe are the most well-known of these technologies and are viable for general thin-film solar applications.

Amorphous silicon is the most similar thin-film technology to silicon and is more durable than some of its counterparts. These cells are also easier to manufacture than silicon cells and are more durable. However, a-Si cells are less efficient, making them difficult to scale.

Cadmium telluride is the most common type of thin-film solar cell. The main benefit of CdTe is companies can produce straightforwardly and affordably. However, CdTe contains cadmium, which is toxic in certain amounts.

The other two technologies — CIGS and GaAs — are expensive and difficult to scale.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Thin-Film Solar Cells?

When compared to silicon cells, thin-film cells come with a couple of advantages that have positioned them as a potential popular option for future solar panel installations:

  • Eco-friendliness: Because of the structure of thin-film cells, they are much less carbon-intensive than silicon cells. This way, thin-film cells are more sustainable than their more commonly used counterparts. That said, manufacturers must remember some types of thin-film cells contain toxins.
  • Labour Costs: A series of panels using thin-film solar cells are easier to install, making them more affordable. The thin, flexible structure of thin-film panels makes them simple for many experienced contractors.

At the same time, it is essential to understand the reasons why thin-film solar cells have had trouble experiencing the same level of popularity as silicon cells:

  • Efficiency: When you compare the two in terms of efficiency, silicon solar panels come out on top. They offer around 14-16% efficiency, sometimes increasing to 20%. Thin film’s newest recorded record for efficiency is just under 10%. As a result, it makes more sense from an investment standpoint to choose silicon solar panels.
  • Space: To maximise efficiency, it is necessary to install several thin-cell solar panels. Therefore, their installation requires more space, meaning only consumers with larger homes or businesses can use them.

Comparing the advantages and downfalls of thin-film solar panels can give you further insight into why they are not as widespread as traditional silicon solar panels yet.

With Adjustments, Thin-Film Solar Cells Are Promising

Ultimately, thin-film solar panels hold significant promise as part of the next generation of renewables — they are easy to install, sustainable and affordable.

However, thin-film solar panels will remain second to other alternatives unless experts can maximise their efficiency, limit their toxicity and minimise how much space they require for installation.

Still, thin-film solar cells are worth keeping an eye on as they continue to develop in the coming years.

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

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.


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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

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 or call Emma Bohan on t. 0114 327 0100

How to collect rainwater for your garden


We tend to take the water that comes out of our tap for granted. We are lucky enough to be able to access clean water whenever we want without much thought. However, like many of the resources on our planet, water is precious, and we should do all we can to use it responsibly. The future is likely to be one of the hotter and drier summers, meaning drought and shortages of water. Using water from the tap also uses energy. Conserving energy is a means of reducing the need for fuels that are causing the climate crisis in the first place.

Consequently, we should be doing all we can, as individuals, to make the most of our resources. There is little need to water your garden from your tap when there are copious amounts of rainwater to gather and use instead.  Here we explore how to harvest rainwater, and maybe it could be one more contribution your make to preserving our environment.

What other reasons are there for collecting rainwater?

Apart from the significant benefits to the environment, collecting rainwater has many other benefits. For gardeners, the main pay-out is the nitrates received by the plants from rain, which are essential for their health. By watering with rainwater, these nitrates become available as nitrogen, one of the three key micro-nutrients your plants need to thrive. This nutrient will help your plants look lush green and with plenty of leaves. Many forms of nitrogen are not absorbable by plants. Gardeners often resort to expensive methods of fertilising their soil when all they need to do is spray a little more rainwater in their direction.

Collecting rainwater also helps to reduce your water bill, especially if you are on a water meter. You can use the rainwater not only to water your garden but also wash the car and your family pets.

Where can I collect rainwater?

There are different options as to where you can collect rainwater. The popular choice is to set up a barrel that collects rainwater that falls from your roof. This is an excellent place to start, and you can add to your collections with barrels near to sheds and other outbuildings too. If you have a polytunnel, it is even possible to harvest water from this also by attaching a timber rail and some home guttering brackets to the top of the tunnel and adding a water butt at the downpipe.

Another way to collect rainwater is by creating a pond at the lowest point of your garden. If your garden slopes, you want the water to run down and into the pond.


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How to harvest water

If you want to harvest water that is good enough to drink, then you will need to create a filtering system. There are many ways of doing this, and a lot use natural resources. This potable water harvesting is more common in countries where you get water from ground sources.

For your garden, you need only harvest non-potable water. The simplest way to do this is to invest in a water butt. This butt will fill up each time it rains. The most effective butts are placed directly under the downpipe from your gutters. You can then use a watering can to water your flowers and plants.

There are water butts available that create a pressure system that allows you to attach a hose pipe or irrigation system. This is the ultimate way of creating a self-watering garden. With no fuss at all water will be drawn from the water butt to your borders, allotments and polytunnels.

Once collected, conserve

Collecting rainwater is the first step to using conservation methods when gardening. However, as well as preserving rainwater, you then need to take steps to conserve the amount of this water you use.

Consequently, you should only direct the water to where it is really needed. There is no point in allowing water to go everywhere in your garden, even to that muddy patch you have not sorted yet. So, makes sure you use perforated pipes in an irrigation system that only goes to areas that need this supply.

You can also improve the humus content in the soil, meaning your garden will not need watering as often. The earth will store the water, trapping it as leaching and runoff are reduced. Finally, you can also add mulch to your garden to further reduce moisture loss and maintain your rainwater supplies. 

Cheshire Energy Hub to Deliver the UK’s First Smart Energy Blueprint

The Cheshire Energy Hub has been awarded more than £700,000 of government funding to deliver what will be the first smart energy blueprint in the UK. The plan is for the project to deliver the E-Port Net-Zero blueprint, setting out a 10-year roadmap for a cost-effective transition to net zero which could result in £100 million being invested in the region by 2025. The model created could go on to be applied nationally and exported internationally.

The blueprint will define a local low carbon smart energy system for the Energy Innovation District (EID), the area in the North West surrounding the industrial area of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, which could deliver cheaper and cleaner energy for power, heating, and transport. This blueprint will ensure a supply of secure, low-carbon and low-cost energy which will help unlock supply chain and global investment opportunities.

Established by the Cheshire Energy Hub the new district will boost innovation in the energy industry. The Hub represents the sub-region on Net-Zero North West, the new industry-led industrial cluster which is aiming to develop the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030.


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Being one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters, the area around Ellesmere Port consumes around 5% of the nation’s energy. The area includes some of the UK’s largest manufacturers including oil refining, glass, nuclear, chemical production, and automotive as well as large-scale energy assets and research and development destinations.

Largely due to the dominance of these energy-intensive companies West Cheshire is the fourth largest CO2 emitter in the UK. Understanding the danger involved in continuing as they were, Cheshire West & Chester Council declared a climate emergency last year with its main priority to drive industrial decarbonisation in the Energy Innovation District (EID).

Spearheaded by the Cheshire Energy Hub, the EID brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners, including EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester.

Energy intensive industries sit alongside low-carbon energy generation within the EID, including Peel L&P Environmental’s strategic energy hub, Protos. Previous research conducted by Amion Consulting for Peel L&P estimated a potential 33,000 jobs could be created in the region with the creation of a local energy system.

Philip Cox, chief executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said:

“The low-carbon agenda is one of the great challenges of our time, not just for our sub-region, but the whole economy. We see a huge opportunity for Ellesmere Port to become a leading player in the low-carbon sector, so it is incredibly exciting to be working with our partners at the Cheshire Energy Hub on this enabling project which could identify a roadmap for more than £100m of capital investment, the creation of 33,000 jobs, and significantly reducing carbon emissions.”

The total project will cost £930k, with the government’s Local Growth Fund contributing 77% of the funding, and the rest coming from local private sector partners.

Working in partnership with EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), current and future energy generation in the area will be investigated, including renewables as well as research being conducted into how electric vehicles (EVs) and new fuels like hydrogen could change the energy market.

Ged Barlow, chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub, said:

“Reaching net-zero emissions is going to require a significant amount of investment in new technologies and infrastructure to decarbonise power, heating, and transport. In the area around Ellesmere Port alone we are looking at £100m by 2025. But for these investments to be made there needs to be a holistic plan which looks at the whole energy system. This isn’t something that can be led centrally. To decarbonise successfully, in a timely and cost-effective way, we need to be looking at local solutions that set out the various projects and enable informed capital investment decisions to be made. Investors don’t want to look at piecemeal initiatives, they want to see a joined-up approach to decarbonisation. The E-Port smart energy system will be the first of its kind in the UK and will develop a model which can be rolled out nationally and exported overseas. This funding is an important step forward and demonstrates how Cheshire, and the North West, is leading the way on the net-zero agenda.”

The Energy Innovation District is looking to work with the government on various issues which include developing heat networks that can support local communities and business as well as providing an electrical micro-grid that connects electricity generating assets directly to large industrial users to provide secure, low carbon and lower cost electricity. They would also like to see hydrogen being promoted, along with carbon capture and storage, as a means of decarbonising the gas network. On top of that they will seek to work with the government to provide a network of charging and hydrogen refuelling stations to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and to stimulate the deployment of innovative energy technology as well as developing a skilled workforce through work with the University of Chester, local colleges and the Cheshire Energy Hub Graduate Programme

Liam O’Sullivan, SP Manweb director at SP Energy Networks, said:

“Investment in low-carbon, clean energy will be vital to achieving wider net-zero emissions targets so we’re proud to be involved in the innovative E-Port blueprint project. Developing and investing in clean, green energy solutions now will provide sustained benefits to the UK economy. We’re leading the way when it comes to developing the green recovery and excited to be helping play a crucial role in the net-zero transition for the Ellesmere Port area. By working together, we can develop a better future, quicker.”

Is Refurbished The Future Of Smartphones?

refurbished smartphones

Turnover rates of old to new smartphones are slowing down in 2019, which makes total sense as consumers are more cautious of pulling the trigger and spending a thousand dollars over a new model device.

Refurbished Smartphone Industry On The Rise

It all started in 2017, when consumers started choosing refurbished units over brand-new mobile phones. According to the report made by Counterpoint, the global refurbished market grew by 13 percent, which accounts for approximately 140 million products. Back Market U.S. coordinator Serge Verdoux states that the figure could get closer to around 22 percent.

The website Back Market was established in 2014 and handled aggregrate sales of refurbished electronics in Europe. In 2018, the site started handling U.S. customers and discovered the high demand for refurbished smartphones. Furthermore, the site found out that sales for refurbished electronics were about ten times as much as its Europe-based counterpart in the same six-month span.

What Are The Factors Revving Up Refurbs?

In 2016, data showed a forecasted slowdown in the mobile phone industry, more notably the lack of new phone buyers in regions Europe, China and the United States. Companies turned their attention to other markets to compensate for the potential loss of profit. To match the financial capabilities and expectations of the consumers, smartphone manufacturers turned to refurbished as a way to sell at a lower price without losing sales or profits.

The problem with this was that there were other smartphone companies who dominated this part of the market. Competition came from makers such as Xiaomi, OPPO and the like, who dominated with their budget offerings. In the fourth quarter of 2017, these companies were touted as the fastest growing brands according to the Global Smartphone Shipments Ranking and Market Share (

One factor that drives the refurbished market growth is the fact that shareholders are keen on maximizing the lifetime value of smart phones when they realized that there’s money to be had in refurbished models.

Companies Introduce Refurbished Policies and Systems

Profit potential hasn’t been lost with tech giants such as Samsung and Apple. These brands are major players in the refurbished niche, and each one has their own robust platform for collecting and selling refurbished products in many countries. Some of the better known model units that are getting a second life include the Galaxy S and the older iPhones.

Making some headway into the refurbished industry is a wise move to compensate for the loss of sales in the new phone department. Mobile network giants and carriers have been doing it for years, offering rebates and promos for older phones in a trade-in procedure. Increased turnover rate is better for both consumer and phone manufacturer alike, as brands get the revenue they need while satisfying the economic demands of the public.

What’s more, there are various recycling and take-back programs that make it easy to give your older device in exchange for a small amount of cash or a discount towards a refurbished model. Take a look at the following:

Samsung Responsible Recycling. Offers convenient take-back options on various electronic products.

Apple GiveBack. You get a competitive offer for a trade-in. Any eligible device may be inspected at an authorized Apple Store. If successful, you get a refund or an Apple Store gift card for your troubles.

Motorola Mobility. Has a few take back programs with recyclers, retailers, carriers and consumers.

The greatest response came in from Europe and the US, with rapidly emerging markets in India, Southeast Asia and Africa. All major mobile network operators have come up with initiatives to include full life cycle services.

What Effect May The Emerging Industry Have For The Future?

Consumers can look forward to being able to get a buyback for their current device at any point during their ownership. Possibly via manufacturers or independent specialists like Freestyll – which specialises in refurbished Apple products.

High costs of upgrading to the newer models can be offset a bit, which helps improve sales and turn the economy.

Refurbished units will continue to grow as they provide a win-win for both sides. According the newest IDC report, the market will grow up to $52 billion over the next 5 years.

The Switch to Refurbished Has Its Advantages

The lower price is the biggest benefit of buying refurbished. Consumers can now buy almost any kind of electronic appliance, item or device at a much lower cost than a brand-new one. Businesses can get refurbished TVs, tablets, laptops and smartphones and save money for use on other assets.

Buying refurbished is better for the environment in a number of ways. One, manufacture impact is slowed down; two, the less electronic items we buy, the lesser the amount of e-waste we produce. Last, less devices made equal less raw materials used, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.

Refurbished is here to stay for the considerable future. The benefits it has on the environment, the consumer and the smartphone brands are many and they are all positive. Buying refurbished means you save money and help save Mother Nature as well. For this reason the trend can only head one way- up!

Can renewable technologies affect an EPC rating?

According to leading assessors EPC For You, as of April 2018, anyone wanting to sell a property, or landlords wishing to tenant their property, will need to ensure their property has an energy efficiency rating of no lower than Grade E. As a result of this, many people have been wondering about the best ways to raise their EPC rating, while keeping their monthly costs to a minimum. So, today we will be looking at the effects of renewable technologies on an EPC rating.

In order to best answer this question, it is important to first understand what renewable energy technologies are and also, where they are sourced: Renewable energy uses natural resources which are also replenished naturally, like tides, wind, sunlight and geothermal heat. These renewable forms of energy have to make use of an energy, which is naturally quite dispersed, and so it needs to be concentrated into a form that can be readily used. This means that they do tend to be relatively costly to install, however, once installed, they are usually quite cheap to operate.

Almost all energy, until the Industrial Revolution, used to come from natural sources, although the use of it was mostly rather inefficient. Our modern day technology, however, is able to capture much more of this naturally occurring energy and convert it into readily available electricity. Today we have solar thermal panels, for heating water, we have photovoltaic panels to capture solar energy and to convert it into electricity and we can also use biomass, which is fuel derived from wood or other plants, which are often sustainable crops, specifically grown for that particular purpose. Some biomass power stations even capture the wasted heat from the combustion process and use it to heat homes and factories that are not too far away. This is known as biomass combined heat and power (CHP). We also have ground source heat pumps, which extract the sunlight energy that has been absorbed into the ground – and there are also air source heat pumps available today. These heat pumps make indirect use of the sun’s energy by extracting the residual warmth from the air and then passing it through a heat exchanger, in order to provide warmth for buildings.

Wind is another source of naturally occurring energy, which has been used for centuries for the grinding of grain and also to pump water. Our modern-day wind turbines are used, both on and offshore, to harness the wind in order to generate electricity. Wind power is currently known to be one of the cleanest and safest of all of the renewable, commercial methods of generating electricity.

For thousands of years, people have been using water wheels to harness the energy produced by moving water in order to generate the energy necessary for turning mills and later, even machines. In the UK today, there are very efficient water turbines and hydropower currently produces 2% of all their required electricity. There is still the potential to harness even more hydropower from large dam projects, across the UK.

The UK has an official target of producing 15% of all its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020. Considering that now, in 2018, it is still only producing 5% of its energy in through those means – there is still a very long way to go. There are currently a number of incentives, which are being offered by the British government to encourage British citizens to generate their own electricity, through the use of low carbon technology or renewable energy, like the Feed In Tariff (FIT), which was implemented in 2010. As long as the amount of power generated by an individual is less than 5MW per year, there is a government scheme that offers to pay back a certain amount to the generator towards the electricity that has been used, and also for any excess electricity which has been exported back into the grid. There is also the renewable heat incentive (RHI), which was introduced in 2011 to encourage homeowners, businesses and communities through financial reward to source their heat through renewable or low carbon sources.

There are increasing numbers of reports and studies, which show that the UK is capable of obtaining most of its energy from renewable resources. There is the WWF-UK that claim that by 2030, up to 90% of British electricity could come from a combination of solar panels, tidal and other renewable and sustainable resources, with the rest being supplied by an international supergrid and also gas power stations.

This clearly shows that the British government is encouraging its people to become more sustainable in their use of power. It also clearly demonstrates that renewable technologies can only have a positive effect on EPC ratings and this will hopefully encourage all citizens to help the UK to attain its target of producing 15% of all its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Solar Power: The Quickest-Developing Source of New Energy

Head back a few years and there were plenty of detractors who thought solar power generation was a lost cause. They said its success was vastly overstated and that it wouldn’t be able to survive without damaging subsidies which put too much pressure on the poor tax payer.

In recent times, solar prices have dropped and more and more panels have appeared on land and on rooftops.

The solar revolution, according to advocates, is now unstoppable. According to executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Dr Fatih Birol:

“We see renewables growing by about 1,000 GW by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build. What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV. We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”

What’s Driving Solar Power?

The biggest driver of solar power is undoubtedly China at the moment. Their investment in the sector and their desire to push the envelope has been dramatic to say the least. The fairly recent change in events in the country have been unprecedented.

A few decades ago, China had barely a solar industry to talk of – between 2008 and 2013, however, it suddenly burst onto the scene and was a major cause of prices coming down across the globe in the process. Now China is the leading solar innovator – they understand how important it is for the world’s energy mix and they also see a big commercial profit in it. Not only is solar bringing in huge amounts of revenue, it’s creating an awful lot of jobs.

We’ve also, as many experts point out, gone past the tipping point with renewables. Public opinion is more on board than it has ever been. According to the Guardian recently:

“New solar capacity even overtook the net growth in coal, previously the biggest new source of power generation. The shift was driven by falling prices and government policies, particularly in China, which accounted for almost half the solar panels installed.”

Why Battery Storage is Vital for Solar

The key factor that is set to underpin all renewable technologies, but particularly solar and wind, is energy storage. Currently we have a problem. When the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, these installations don’t produce electricity. This is definitely an issue with solar, which only produces it’s electricity at certain times of the day. If we can store that power and release it to the grid when it’s most needed, in the evenings, then solar suddenly becomes a lot more viable than tech such as nuclear.

The technology in this area isn’t quite there just yet but there have been some major steps forward in recent times. While it’s still fairly expensive, you can expect the cost to come down in the same way that solar panels have as competition increases and the technology improves. And you can expect it to happen quickly.

The Future of Solar Power in the UK

The solar industry took a hit at the beginning of last year and it’s had an impact. Initial news of companies going out of business, however, seem to have settled down. The cost of panels and installation is now at the lowest it’s ever been and those with the money are still investing. Regions like London, after a stall in installations, are introducing new and innovative ways to get solar installed including reverse auctions that allow interested parties to pool their resources to get projects off the ground.

This summer, solar power broke another record and provided a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs in May. Taking into account all other renewables, a total of 60% of the energy at that time was provided by low carbon technology. According to Ben Warren of EY’s renewable energy practice, the hard times in the last 12 months may well have equipped the solar industry in the UK for the future:

“By ‘growing up’ in the environment in which they have, solar developers have had to be very dynamic and tough. As it moves into an unsubsidised market and this uncertainty drifts away, it provides a much more sustainable platform on which to build these businesses rather than being purely responsive.”

For many, we’re at the start of an energy revolution that will transform how we generate power across the globe. Solar’s part in that is almost assured.

Scotland Bans Fracking: The First Country To Do So

There is no more divisive sector in energy production as fracking. Attempts to introduce it across the UK has encountered widespread opposition from local residents and activists. Now, Scotland has essentially banned fracking after a consultation that found public opinion largely against the energy extraction process.

According to campaign head for Friends of the Earth in Scotland, Mary Church:

“This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking. This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.”

What is Fracking?

While many people are aware of fracking, as well as the controversy behind, a large percentage admit to being ill-informed about what it is in reality.

There is a large supply of natural gas underneath the ground but it’s difficult to extract. Fracking is a process where we drill down into the earth and then use high pressure water, sand and chemicals which work to release the gas inside. It’s proved popular and profitable in countries like the USA but it hasn’t been without it’s controversies.

Why Is It So Divisive?

There are major environmental concerns with the fracking process. Environmentalists contest that forcing water down into the ground releases potentially harmful chemicals and contaminates ground water.

The industry counters this by saying that this is down to companies using bad processes and that this can be guarded against using legislation and best practice. The environmentalists, in turn, counter that there are better, more cost effective methods of energy production such as renewables which we should be concentrating on rather than trying to extract fossil fuels from the ground.

The potential for fracking operations to start work all over the UK has led to widespread protests. It was made worse when the Government decided, in principal, to allow fracking in National Parks.

The Future of Fracking in the UK

Scottish MPs voted to endorse an effective ban on fracking by 91 to 28 in October this year. It came after a consultation found that there was widespread opposition to the process and the belief that it would hamper the Scottish Government’s attempts to cut down their own carbon footprint.

The consultation got around 65,000 responses of which an overwhelming number were against fracking. Many of these respondents were in old coal mining districts that had been specifically targeted by fracking companies. This leads on from a ban in Wales that essentially leaves England isolated. Wales introduced a moratorium in 2015 which opposes fracking and blocks the practice, at least until further evidence comes to light.

The decision in Scotland hasn’t gone down well with fracking companies, including Ineos who operate the Grangemouth petrochemical plant in Scotland. Their contention is that England will now benefit from billions of pounds of investment and jobs through the fracking industry and those north of the border will miss out.

According the Ineo’s Shale Operations Director, Tom Pickering:

“It is a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making. The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings.”

Others naturally see it as a victory for the environment and there is now a push by the Scottish parliament to have the moratorium enshrined in law. There’s no appetite for fracking in the UK, especially now that more of us want to see renewables given their fair shake.

4KW Solar PV Systems for as Little as £4,000

It seems you can’t go down a street nowadays without seeing at least one rooftop with a set of solar panels boldly attached. More and more of us are embracing the ideal of making our own energy, saving money in the long term, and contributing to the green agenda in the process.

The good news is that, in recent times, the cost of installing solar PV has come down dramatically.

Whereas just a decade or so a 4KW array may have cost you in the region of £10,000 to £14,000, the latest installations, if you shop around, may only set you back some £4,000 to £6,000. That’s a major change in price and something which has been bought about by cheaper manufacturing processes as well as greater competition in the market.

It could get even better in the future. The BBC reported last year on newly developed solar panels that could greatly increase the efficiency of electricity production:

“Researchers in Switzerland are looking to develop a solar panel that can push out twice the energy of existing standard roof panels. The increase in efficiency could mean a rooftop system paying for itself in five years and turn solar energy into a major player.”

And, with new storage batteries coming onto the market and that side of the technology improving, the possibility of becoming self-sustaining and actually producing all our own home electricity is no longer a pipe dream.

The Benefits of Solar PV

When we talk of renewable energy, one of the first things we normally think about is solar. You take the heat from the sun, turn it into energy and produce electricity. It’s almost as simple as that.

Solar has had its detractors in the last decade or two but it is now one of the big players in the energy market. Solar panels last, on average, for twenty to twenty five years and require little or no maintenance during that time. Probably the only piece that will definitely have to be changed is the inverter (the device that feeds the current into the grid and your home) but even that can last between 5 and 10 years and only costs between £400 and £600 to replace.

Despite the reduction of feed in tariffs (the price the Government says you can be paid for the energy you produce), you can still get some decent money back for every kWh that you produce. Add in the savings on your electricity bill because you’re making your own power and there are plenty of cost savings involved in just a small solar array on your home.

The Cost of Solar

It’s not just the cost in the UK that has dropped dramatically. It’s happening all over the world including in the United States and across Europe. Most online sites are currently stating that the installation of a standard solar panel array is going to cost you, on average, around £6,000 which is some 70% cheaper than it was just seven years ago in 2010.

Solar Panel Kits: Are They Worth It?

One option that is beginning to get some coverage at the moment is the DIY installation kit which can be bought online. What it does is provide electricity direct to your home and the manufacturers say that it can save you about £1,500 on your electricity bills a year. With a purchase cost of just around £4,000 that means you could get a return on investment in a little over 3 years. If the figures add up, of course.

The kit contains the 4 kW solar panels, a micro-inverter, roof mount unit and the all-important plug in solar connection unit. According to one UK supplier, Plug In Solar, the accumulative savings over the expected 20 year life of the array is over £30,0000.

Yes, this is fairly cheap and the figures are impressive but there are also some potential disadvantages to consider. For a start, because you’re doing a DIY installation, you can’t get the Feed in Tariff – to have this it must be installed by a MCS certified technician.

While this isn’t a particularly new concept, the sector has been plagued a little by substandard systems and even some actual cons which might give you pause for thought if you are thinking of going down this route. If you are intending to invest a good amount of money, the truth is that just a few extra thousand pounds will get you a MCS certified system that will also provide extra payments through the Feed in Tariff. Potentially this should also deliver a return on investment in a relatively short space of time.

Where to Find a Solar PV Installer

Despite the recent knock to the industry in recent years because of the reduction in subsidies, solar is actually still going strong. If you want to find a reputable supplier or installer in your area, then search our dedicated database here.

Tesla Solar System | Costs & Money Return Expectations

tesla powerwall 2 installed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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