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.”

Could Heat Pumps Replace Our Gas Boilers?

The fossil fuels used in our homes for heating, hot water and cooking are responsible for more than a fifth of the UK’s carbon emissions and are one of the greatest contributors to pollution in our everyday life. In total 85% of homes use natural gas boilers at the present time so replacing them could be monumental for the environment.

For this reason, in the spring of 2019 the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, Philip Hammond announced that ‘fossil-fuel heating systems’ would not be installed in any domestic new build properties from 2025 as part of the Future Homes Standard. These systems include gas and oil boilers. This decision was part of the government’s plan to tackle climate change and growing carbon emissions in order to reach their net-zero emissions target by 2050.

Boris Johnson, the current British Prime Minister, further developed this plan and announced in November 2020 a ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’.

The policy which bans all fossil fuel heating systems in new builds could be extended to all new gas boilers in homes from the mid-2030s. As it stands now, only heating systems installed in new builds from 2025 will need to be low carbon. It is encouraging to see the government taking steps to reduce the number of new gas boilers installed but it’s thought to be unlikely that gas boilers will be banned altogether in the immediate future.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that the UK should ban all fossil fuel boilers from 2025. The agency has proposed 400 steps in a special report to reach net-zero and this is just one of them. The UK government is expected to reveal its own strategy in the next month, before the crucial Climate Summit in Glasgow (COP26) starting at the end of October. It is thought that the new strategy could spell the end of the great British gas boiler once and for all.

The current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, has predicted that the cost of electric-powered heat pumps will halve if the government backs them as a replacement for gas boilers which is a clear sign that the government will endorse this technology later this year.

When challenged as to whether the cost of the technology would make it a feasible solution on a large scale, the Business Secretary said:

“Once you’ve made a very clear indication as a government that that is the way you want to go, suppliers will invest in producing heat pumps and will be able to produce them at a much cheaper cost so that the retail price would be considerably lower than £10,000.”

The heat and buildings strategy is due to be published in the Autumn and is expected to lay out a detailed timeline for the removal of boilers from not only new-build homes but existing housing stock, to help decarbonise our homes. It is anticipated that this long-awaited policy paper will include a replacement for the current Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which is due to close in March 2022.

The Renewable Heat Incentive gives financial support to people who use certain renewable technologies such as heat pumps, to heat their homes. The payments help you offset the cost of installing and running your new heating system. You could cover your initial outlay with the quarterly instalments paid to you over a 7 -year period. It has been reported that ministers are considering replacing the RHI with a £400m boiler scrappage scheme, which would offer £7,000 grants to homeowners when the RHI scheme closes.

Though the government is continuing its trials on hydrogen boilers as an alternative to our current gas boilers, heat pumps have emerged as the clear choice for individual households. They are deemed to be the most viable option at this time. Heat pumps are already popular despite them being a lot more expensive than gas boilers at present. A good heat pump installation will tend to have a longer lifespan than gas boilers and many offer cooling in the summer months as well as heat during the summer.

According to the Heat Pump Association, at least 36,000 heat pumps were installed in homes and businesses across the UK last year and this number is expected to almost double this year to between 60,000 and 70,000. However, this figure will need to rise tenfold within the next 7 years to meet the target set by Boris Johnson last November to install 600,000 a year by 2028. It has been estimated that gas systems need to be replaced in an estimated 23 million homes in the UK.

Many homes need extensive insulation work before heat pumps can be installed which is an additional though necessary expense. Heat pump technology is improving all the time and the more popular they become the lower the upfront costs will be.

In simple terms, a heat pumps works like a reverse fridge, by extracting energy or warmth from the outside air, the ground or nearby water, and concentrating the heat before transferring it inside.

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Richard Lowes, a heating expert at the Regulatory Assistance Project says:

“It requires a mindset change. Rather than relying on a powerful burst of fossil fuels to quickly heat a cold house, it is more important for heat pumps to run continuously – albeit at a very low level – to gently top up the heating to an even temperature. Your fridge doesn’t blast cold air constantly. But it keeps your food cool by adjusting to very slight increases in temperatures, and only when necessary.”

There are 3 main obstacles that the government will need to overcome if heat pumps are to go mainstream; the high upfront cost; generally low levels of home insulation; and the negative word of mouth stories created by faulty installations.

Richard Lowes says:

“Heat pumps are rarely faulty. So, when you hear horror stories, it’s usually due to bad advice or poor installation. It’s a myth that heat pumps can’t work in old or terraced houses – they just might require a little more work. Even if you can’t manage to do internal wall insulation, a heat pump can still work – you just might have to get a bigger one.”

It’s not just heat pumps that work best in homes which are well-insulated, but it particularly applies to them because they provide a steady, gentle source of heat to maintain an even temperature rather than the blast of fossil fuels that draughty buildings need to warm up.

Possibly the greatest challenge faced by the the home heating revolution is the large numbers of trained installers that will be needed to carry it out.

Mark McManus, the managing director of heat pump maker Stiebel Eltron UK says:

“If there’s any problem in the industry, it’s probably the skills gap. There are a small number of well-trained installers in the UK. But once this skills gap closes there is likely to be better service and greater competition, which could cause costs to fall further.”

The Heat Pump Association has set up a new programme in order to bridge the skills gap which in theory could train up to 40,000 installers a year.

Business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng has welcomed this move which he sees as critical in turning up the heat on the government’s low-carbon ambitions and creating more jobs within the green economy.

He says:

“There is a transition, and that’s something we’re focused on, and we want to try and help people make that transition.”

There are many advantages to installing a heat pump including amongst others, lower running costs, less maintenance, better safety and most important of all lower carbon emissions. If there’s the political will to instigate a heating revolution and it’s backed by robust training programmes, we should see heat pumps becoming widespread across the UK.

REA Calls for 2021 to be a Turning Point for Renewables

2022 renewable Energy

Though the UK government has made historic climate promises in the past year, delivery on them has been too slow. New climate strategies have been shrouded in uncertainty and those that have emerged have too often not been unsuccessful. According to a new report from the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), the UK will not meet its net zero target without additional investment and policy support. Every month of inaction will make it harder for the UK to get on track.

The REA noted in its annual state of the industry report, REview21, that despite the renewable energy and clean technology sector continuing to be buoyant, it was being stifled by a lack of consistent, proactive and long-term support from the government.

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, CEO of the REA, said:

“The same goes for employment. Again, we have seen decent progress, with nearly 140,000 people now being employed by the renewable energy and clean tech industry and we believe that nearly 200,000 extra jobs could be created by 2035.”

She believes that the number of new jobs created could be even greater if the government backs the renewables industry properly and puts it at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery. She cautioned however, that these job projections are not guaranteed.

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She went on to say:

“If the sector continues to receive patchy and short-term support from the government then we could fall well short of our sector’s, and, indeed, the country’s economic potential. We need these new jobs to be fairly distributed across every region and country that makes up the United Kingdom too.”

The Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan for a green industrial revolution was an important initiative but it has yet to be backed with robust policies. So far there hasn’t been any real engagement with the public as to what changes lie ahead.

It is now critical that the new strategy is published before the COP26 climate summit due to be held in Glasgow, with clear policy plans that are backed by the Treasury. Importantly, though, the new strategy must be accompanied by a commitment to get the country ready for the serious climate risks facing the UK, as the next phase of adaptation planning starts.

According to government statistics, renewables provided a record 43% of the UK’s electricity last year, up from 37% in 2019.

The Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published that for the first time ever in 2020, increased wind generation meant that renewable energy sources generated more electricity than fossil fuels. Wind generation increased by 18% compared with 2019 which set a record in the annual quantity of power it produced, providing 75.7 terawatt hours (TWh), up from 64TWh in 2019.

Fossil fuel generation fell to a record low in 2020, providing 37.7% of electricity. Gas produced 35.7% while coal fell to just 1.8%.

The pace of growth in new renewable capacity was also thought to be slowing down with just 1GW added in 2020 which was the lowest since 2007. However, the UK’s solar sector appears to be picking up again. Research from Current± publisher Solar Media found earlier this year, that in the 12 months to 21 March 2021, 660MW of new PV was installed, and that there is now in excess of 15GW in the pipeline.

RenewableUK CEO Dan McGrail said:

“This is stellar news in the year that the UK is hosting the biggest international summit on climate change for years. It shows that this country is playing a leading role in the global energy transition, with renewables becoming the dominant source of new power generation – outstripping fossil fuels for the first year ever and setting new record highs across the board. It’s another significant step on the road to net zero emissions, but we need to move even faster and decarbonise the power sector by 2035.”

The Met Office is warning that the UK is already undergoing disruptive climate change and that it is vital that practical action is taken at scale against the biggest threat that we face to our way of life.

The REA are calling for six monthly contracts of difference (CfD) auctions to allow further renewables to come onto the UK’s grid. They want adequate budgeting with a clear rolling timetable for these auctions, as well as new support for small scale projects and the removal of VAT on domestic installations. The Treasury recently revealed that it had no plans to change the VAT levels on ‘green products such as solar panels and heat pumps despite repeated calls from the industry to use such a change to drive growth. 

The REA’s report REview21, said that support should be provided for all technologies including bioenergy, which they believe has a “vital value” the government should acknowledge, and that innovation funding should be reformed to enable more renewable and clean technologies to benefit from it.

It is essential for the grid to be reformed to ensure that the UK has an efficient grid network that facilitates renewables and clean tech and aids their growth. The REA would also like to see a definitive decarbonisation priority incorporated into Ofgem’s key performance indicators and activities.

In response to the increasing calls for the decarbonisation of heat to become a priority in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson released his ten-point plan in November 2020. The plan set out a goal of 600,000 heat pumps to be installed every year by 2028. The Green Homes Grant launched in September 2020 was designed to support the installation of energy efficiency measures as well as heat pumps and solar thermal. However, the grant was dropped after just 6 months which led to a rise again in calls for action.

The REA is asking for a coordinated, long-term policy framework to enable the decarbonisation of heat in the UK. The policy framework should support all renewable technologies, and work should be undertaken to close policy gaps for business and industry. The REA thinks that there should be tariff support for the replacement of fossil fuels, funded CfDs for industrial heat decarbonisation and tax benefits.

Impressive progress has been made in recent times to decarbonise the transport sector, according to the REA. This is thanks in part to the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid market. Now that there is a ban in place on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2030 the growth in EVs is clear to see. Between 2019 and 2020, the market share of new car registrations for EVs and hybrid cars rose from 3.17% to 10.56% the REA said.

The REA believe that the government should look to offer long-term support to the transport sector by maintaining adequate grant funding to overcome areas of market failure and by supporting local authorities to improve charging infrastructure networks.

The REA and Innovas put employment figures together for the renewable industry as part of the finance chapter of the Review21 report. They found that for the financial year 2018/2019, there were 133,977 people employed in the sector, while in 2019/2020 there were 138,264 people employed. This is an increase of 3.2% from 2018/2019.

Once again, the REA think that the right policy environment would make a big difference. They forecast that there could be 222,000 jobs in the renewable energy and clean technologies sector by 2035, more than double employment figures for 2019/2020.

Though the renewable industry is continuing to grow, the REA would like to see further support across the country to make the most of the opportunities green energy growth provides for job creation. Their findings back up a recent call to action from the Green Jobs Taskforce amongst others, for the UK government to support the ambition to create 2 million skilled jobs by 2030.

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, CEO of the REA, said:

“If the government is serious about reaching their net zero ambitions, and about ‘levelling up’, they need to back our sector, remove the barriers preventing the growth of our technologies and help us deliver new jobs and investment. 2021, the year the UK is hosting COP26, must be a watershed moment. The time for rhetoric is over, we need to see action.”

We saw UK emissions falling to nearly 50% of their 1990 levels during the 2020 lockdown, but the journey to Net Zero is far from even half completed. Emissions are expected to rebound this year which suggests that lasting progress in reducing emissions is on a very unstable footing. The relative success we have achieved in decarbonising electricity must continue, but it needs to be matched with solid commitments to decarbonise buildings, transport, industry and agriculture.

Green Energy Suppliers in the UK: Who’s Who?

There’s no denying that the future of UK energy is green. In our race to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2050, the UK is slowly starting to eschew the burning of coal, oil and natural gas for energy in favor of more renewable methods. Solar power, wind energy, and hydropower are slowly becoming a greater presence in our nation’s energy fuel mix. Around 900,000 UK households have PV solar panels installed. And energy suppliers of all shapes and sizes are tripping over themselves to bring 100% renewable energy tariffs to the market. Making your home more renewable doesn’t have to mean spending money on new installations. It can simply be a matter of choosing the right green supplier and tariff.

But just because a supplier offers a green energy tariff doesn’t necessarily make them a green energy supplier. In this post we’ll look at some of the UK’s major players in the green energy market, and why they’re so popular.

Who are the UK’s green energy suppliers?

The energy experts at Papernest have a useful guide to all of the UK’s green energy suppliers. As you’ll see, there are a great many, some of which you may not have been aware of. And while they are too numerous to list here, let’s take a look at some of the major players and how they can help give your energy supply a green makeover.

Octopus

Octopus Energy has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence since it was first founded in 2015. They offer 100% renewable electricity from wind and solar power, as well as carbon offset natural gas. They have won multiple supplier of the year awards and are widely lauded for their high standards of customer service. 

Bulb

Another extremely popular green energy supplier is Bulb. It also offers 100% renewable energy as well as a combination of carbon offset and green biomethane gas. What makes Bulb unique, however, is its singular ‘vari-fair’ tariff. Rather than offering a slew of different tariffs, it has only one variable-rate plan that is constantly checked to ensure that it is competitively priced.

Ecotricity

Ecotricity is arguably the UK’s greenest energy supplier. As well as offering 100% renewable energy and biomethane / carbon offset gas, Ecotricity is also actively involved in anti-fracking campaigns at home and overseas. 

Ecotricity remains the UK’s only  vegan energy supplier as its biomethane gas is exclusively sourced from plant matter with no animal waste. While it may not be the most affordable supplier on the market, Ecotricity’s green credentials are nonetheless impeccable. 

Bristol Energy

Bristol Energy is one of the last remaining municipal energy suppliers, and a great choice if you want to support an energy supplier that places ethics first. As a municipal energy supplier, Bristol Energy is not beholden to shareholders. Instead, it channels its profits into supporting local communities, helping to combat fuel poverty, and ensuring access to affordable renewable energy.

Getting to know the UK’s green energy suppliers is a great first step in reducing your home’s carbon footprint and making your energy supply more sustainable.

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All New Prisons to be Zero-Carbon in the Future

The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. In order to achieve this target, the UK needs to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. This is more ambitious than the previous target which required at least an 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

With this aim in mind, the government is working towards tackling climate change by adopting many different strategies. In May this year, the Ministry of Justice announced plans for 4 new prisons to be built in England that would be all-electric. The prisons will use heat pumps instead of gas for heating and a range of energy efficiency measures such as smart lighting systems and solar technology in order to reduce energy demand by half. The aim is to cut energy costs by £100 million over the next 60 years and to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 85% the equivalent of 280,000 tonnes, in comparison to other prisons already under construction.

The prison buildings will use new technology and modern methods of construction that produce as much or more energy than they consume.

An all-electric design will remove the need for gas boilers which means that once the National Grid decarbonises, they will produce net-zero emissions.

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Once the grid is fully decarbonised, the prisons’ use of both the self-generated electricity and the grid for heating and electricity will mean they can run net-zero.

The Ministry of Justice said that it was looking to achieve the gold standard ‘outstanding’ rating in Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method for its four new prisons. Future prison expansions will also be built to similar standards.

The first of the four new prisons are being built adjacent to HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire. In the meantime, work is underway to identify locations for another site in the north-west of England and two more in the south-east of England.

Lessons are being learnt from the construction of other prisons in the UK, such as HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire and HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire to help cut carbon in both construction and operation. Everyone is benefiting from the reduction in CO2 emissions as both are being constructed more sustainably than existing prisons by using recycled concrete and steel as well as incorporating green energy.

Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, said:

“Our ambitious approach offers a unique opportunity to build back a safer and greener prison system. New jails will use new green technologies and modern methods of construction to ensure our prisons cut carbon emissions as well as reoffending.”

Existing prisons are also benefiting from a £15 million investment to cut their emissions. Solar modules are being installed at a further 16 locations in the UK in order to meet 20% of their power demand bringing the total number of solar panels across the government’s estate to over 20,000. Further to this, more than 200 electric vehicle charging points are also being installed across 40 prisons.

Even as far back as February this year, Gov Facility Services announced that it was planning to install solar on 2 prisons in Southern England. One of these was a rooftop installation at HMP Bure near Norwich in Norfolk and the other a ground-mounted installation at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire.

This move by the Ministry of Justice to rollout solar followed the quiet end to the government solar initiative in 2018 after only 100MW of a promised 1GW was installed across HMG property.

The latest developments are part of the government’s £4 billion programme to create 18,000 additional modern prison places that could boost rehabilitation and cut re-offending.

The future of new build homes and renewable energy

Anyone involved in the property industry especially within the development stage has a responsibility to factor in the environment. After all, the lifespan of a home does not end when a buyer has been secured. Instead, every effort must be made to reduce the environmental impact of the building itself, along with all those who will use it for as long as it stands. 

To achieve this aim, the home needs to be designed with the latest in renewable technology. Doing so will give the property the best chance of remaining as eco-friendly as possible since comprehensive improvements will not need to be made to bring it in line with current environmental targets. 

In recent years, the renewables market has expanded at a lightning pace. Here are some of the top renewable energy picks to consider for anyone involved in the home building or buying process. 

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Geothermal heat pumps

Even the most energy-efficient boilers are no match for geothermal heat pumps, which are soon to become a more regular feature, especially in new build homes. Geothermal heat pumps harness the heat from under the ground to provide heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. 

They are far friendlier for the environment since they don’t primarily run on an external fuel source, unlike boilers which are usually powered by the gas network. Whatsmore, geothermal heat pumps also generate far lower energy bills and are also safer versus gas boilers which can be prone to safety faults. 

New build homes are particularly ideal candidates for the installation of geothermal heat pumps as ground excavation is required. Therefore, it’s far easier to install a geothermal heat pump when building a home from scratch versus trying to adapt an older property. As boilers eventually become phased out, expect the demand for geothermal heat pumps to soar. 

Solar roof tiles

Solar roof panels have long been the gold standard for renewable energy, particularly in older homes. However, Tesla founder Elon Musk has now developed solar roof tiles, which take the technology one step further, by integrating the ability to harness solar power within the roof tile itself. 

The launch is expected imminently, with homeowners currently able to put down a deposit on Tesla roof tiles. As you might expect, the cost far exceeds that of a regular roof and even solar panels, costing £16.71 per square foot. However, given a new roof can last decades, the technology will pay for itself over time. 

Solar water heating

Roofs aren’t just capable of heating our rooms but our water too. Solar water heating can either be supplied by evacuated tubes that are placed over the existing roof tiles or fixed place collectors, which can also be placed on the roof or integrated into the roof space itself. 

Solar water heating systems work best during the summer months, like a boiler or geothermal heat pump is required for the winter months. As with any solar technology, developers can maximise the overall carbon footprint by ensuring the roofs with the solar technology are south facing. 

By also minimising any north-facing developments wherever possible, this will also mean living spaces feel less cold in general, which will reduce the need to heat them. 

Electric Vehicle Charging Points

While it’s easy to focus on energy efficiency changes within the home itself, what about getting to and from your home? 

It’s no secret that diesel vehicles are on their way out, in line with efforts to combat climate change. By 2025, it’s estimated that 20% of vehicles will be electric. Expect that number to shoot up sharply once the diesel ban comes into force in 2030. 

Of course, without the traditional petrol station to go to, we are all going to need a way of charging our vehicles. Making what once seemed like something out of The Jetsons a reality, electric vehicle charging points are expected to become a popular feature outside of most homes. There have even been suggestions that lampposts could be converted to be able to hold electric vehicle charging points. 

So, it makes sense that developers should integrate electric car charging stations outside their properties wherever possible. Extra bonus points if the charging station is powered by a renewable energy source such as solar or wind power, reducing the carbon footprint of the property’s occupants even further. 

Bio

Aaron Cambden, Co-Founder of East Midlands estate agents Fairview Estates – https://www.fairviewestates.co.uk/

Fairview Estates is based in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. It provides a range of services to landlords and tenants alike, including property management services. With over 10 years in business, Fairview Estates is a small friendly team providing a tailored experience to the local property market, that is becoming ever more a rarity in the age of digital-only listings. 

As well as running Fairview Estates, Aaron has also recently co-founded Keyhive, which is a revolutionary key monitoring system for landlords and letting agents.  

Could Bladeless Wind Turbines Make Wind Energy More Environmentally Friendly?

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Leaders all over the globe are establishing ambitious climate change prevention goals. These plans include developing carbon-neutral nations and utilizing electric grids powered by renewable resources. Shrinking the world’s carbon footprint can significantly improve ecological conditions, conserving natural resources and healthy air quality.

Current technological development in the renewable energy industry is improving the accessibility of clean electricity. Once we improve the efficiency of production devices and decrease their environmental impacts, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. First, though, scientists must mitigate the few downsides of renewable power devices, including wind turbines.

Ecological Challenges

Wind turbines are historically efficient energy production devices. They generate more power from wind than other renewable systems, like solar panels. Unfortunately, their current design compromises their sustainability because of its adverse biodiversity effects, use of non-recyclable materials, and dependence on inconsistent weather patterns.

Tens of thousands of bats die each year in the U.K. because of deadly wind turbine interactions. The animals may view turbines as trees or water sources, fatally colliding with the blades. The mass collisions generate a threat to certain species’ existence.

The turbine blades also contain non-recyclable materials, which means placing them in landfills after reaching their expiration dates. When they are unusable, companies remove the blades and chop them into smaller pieces. They place the sections on trucks and take them to designated landfills.

When the blades reach the disposal location, workers bury them in shallow graves where they will remain indefinitely. The non-recyclable elements in the devices can leach out into the soil, polluting local resources. Professionals in America will bury over 8,000 blades in the next few years.

Over time, limited space will remain for the components’ disposal. The system’s reliance on changing wind patterns also decreases its efficiency and sustainability. Nearly 7% of the U.S. electricity supply was derived from wind power in 2019. The rates of production could increase if the mechanism wasn’t so reliant on unpredictable weather patterns.

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A Sustainable Solution

Solar power is one alternative to wind, but it’s also not perfect. Solar power can generate significant quantities of clean electricity for localized communities. But its low efficiency requires mass panel development, generating large amounts of waste over time.

Thermoelectric power is an additional alternative to wind production. Unfortunately, rising water scarcity in the world decreases the sustainability of systems using freshwater sources. Environmental engineers and scientists examined the issues in the renewable energy industry and generated a sustainable solution.

Environmental engineers at Vortex developed a bladeless solution to the efficiency and ecological challenges. The device relies on vortex shedding – a wind energy occurrence. It extends upward from a grounded generator, oscillating to create clean electricity.

Unlike conventional turbines, the new device reduces waste production. It also limits animal interference by engaging in smaller motions than rotating blades. Scientists also developed additional alternative turbine models that generate wind power with little environmental interference.

The European company Airborne generated a small, shaftless wind power production device using drone technology. The drones act as a turbine alternative, decreasing the adverse environmental effects associated with wind power production. Unlike traditional systems, the device connects to a thin tether.

It flies in circles, generating its own wind and decreasing its reliance on unpredictable weather patterns. Additionally, the drones reach 600 feet, which is 300 feet higher than conventional turbines. The systems can access peak wind patterns, fueling additional power production.

In the United States, about 16% of the land is suitable for wind energy generation. The extensive heights associated with wind drones increase available production space to 66%. In the U.K., powering the nation while going 100% renewable would require tens of thousands of acres. We can achieve carbon neutrality goals when using these new-age devices.

Unlike the Vortex, wind drones contain blades that are significantly smaller and less ecologically degrading than turbines. They generate less waste and cause fewer biodiversity impacts than turbine blades. As technology advances, we can expect wind power technology to increase its sustainability.

Down the Line

With further technological advancements, we can develop an electric grid using 100% renewable power. Supporting the world’s electric needs with wind-harnessing devices can significantly decrease our ecological impact. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will limit climate change and preserve Earth’s natural state.

Author bio:

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

Environment.co.