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Tuesday
May312011

Solar Photovoltaic

It was raining all day on and off. When it was off, the lovely crew from British Gas were up on my office roof, fixing a fairly impressive slab of Solar Photovoltaic panels, 14 in total.

I’m told that they will produce 2.52 kilowatt peak.  I nod knowingly, ‘2.25 kilowatt peak.’ I say. ‘Yeah, cool, that’s should be enough.’

Secretly I was panicking. Suddenly a whole new measurement, I know kilowatt-hours, but kilowatt peak? Huh. I don’t know what that means. I look at the stats sheet and it doesn’t help. 2.52 kWp Numbers and letters together, it all goes blurry.  

Thankfully the technicians who set this system up for me were patient and understanding. They knew they are talking to a man who’d had his brains overheated under rubber for many years.

I now know that kilowatt-peak refers to the peak output of a photovoltaic system. Put as simply as I can, it means that at the peak time of the day, early afternoon, summer, clear sky, strong sunlight, they can produce 2.25 kilowatts. I’ve also been told that on a clear sunny day between early May and late September, between sunrise and sunset they will produce roughly 70% of the power needed to charge the Nissan Leaf battery i.e. 24 KWh (kilowatt hours). 

We also all know that for the majority of the time in the jolly old United Kingdom, it’s grey, dull, overcast, raining, cold, wet, miserable and grim. However, even when it’s raining, even when it’s really cloudy the panels are still producing considerable amounts of electricity. It’s very dark and overcast at the moment and I’ve just checked, 576 watts.


I can see what is being generated thanks to a very cool bluetooth gizmo, which itself is solar powered. This tells me how much power is generated at any one time, the total that day, and the grand total.


(Just checked this morning 2 days after pic was taken, E-total now stands at 57.42 kWh)

It’s got a USB connection so I can download the data and have a datagasm with it. This should only be done in private.

Up to now, I have always diligently charged the car during the off peak period, 11pm to 7 am. From now on I will try and charge the car as much as possible during the daytime.

However, when it’s sunny and I’m out driving the Leaf and we're not using any electricity at home, then the entire amount generated goes back into the grid. For this I receive a ‘feed in tariff’ currently set at 43.5p per unit.

So, if you have solar panels on your roof you stand to actually make some money. Not a fortune, but British Gas estimate somewhere around £1,200 a year.


What you see there is the inverter (the red box) and beside them, the two meters The one on the left shows what the panels generate and on the right, what the car is using. So far (3 days) I have used 72.4 kWh in the car, and generated 38.57 kWh.

This means the sun has powered over 120 miles of driving in the last three, dull, grey drizzling days.

Of course all this renewable goodness has to be offset against what the system costs. The set up I have sets you back a little over £10,000. That includes the installation, the wall charger for the car, the metering and all the other gubbins. It’s definitely not cheap. However, my back of an envelope calculations suggest that the system should pay for itself in under 10 years. What is painfully obvious though is that all new houses should have these built into them, that every architect should make sure there's a big enough roof on the building that's pretty much south facing, that every planning officer should say 'if it ain't got solar panels on it, you can't build it chum.'

What's also interesting is that 3 years ago the exact same configuration (14 solar panels) would have cost £15,000 and would have generated considerably less power. The panels have got cheaper and more efficient and will continue to do so.

As I may have said before, half of the entire global stock of solar panels are installed in Germany. Yes, that’s right, forget towels on the sun bed in the morning, the Germans have gone and swiped half of them already. They’ve been using them for years and now produce 20% of their electricity using renewables. Some of that is wind, but an enormous amount is solar and they have very similar Northern European climate to the UK, where we produce about 5% of our electricity using renewables at best. The Germans have spent a lot of money installing this, but now they are reaping the benefits, 20% of their electricity bill is now effectively free. That adds up to billions of Euros a year.

Of course when I tweeted about the solar panels I immediately got a few responses about the carbon footprint of the manufacturing of the panels. The implication being ‘they are not green.’ The subtle sub text of that reaction is they are ‘just as bad as an unfiltered coal burning power station.’

The day they came out of the factory they did have a considerable carbon impact, I certainly don’t dispute that. But from now on, for the 20+ years of their expected life, that carbon impact is constantly reduced as they produce power without anything other than sunlight.

I will update regularly on how they are doing, and I'll even try and do some groovy graph things to show monthly generating levels. Feeling a bit down now, it's just clouded over.

UPDATE:  (June 2nd)  Checked this morning, car has used 95 kWh since we had panels installed, panels have generated 57.42 kWh, have driven the car 337 miles in same period. This means I have had to buy 37.6 kWh at 6p per kWh off peak, which means in my clunky maths it's cost £2.25 to drive 337 miles. And yes, I'm not including the cost of the car or the panels, but still.... come on.... that's not bad.

References (3)

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Reader Comments (53)

"What is painfully obvious though is that all new houses should have these built into them, that every architect should make sure there's a big enough roof on the building that's pretty much south facing, that every planning officer should say 'if it ain't got solar panels on it, you can't build it chum.'"

I would absolutely agree with this. It's criminal we aren't taking this approach. As someone familiar with north western Germany I have personally lived in a street where whole rows of houses have solar panels and benefit directly from the simple shining of the sun. If we all did this it would make a huge difference. My experience of the German weather over a 6 year period is that when it's cold there it's colder than the UK and when it's warm it's warmer. But you should see the system go on long hot sunny days. Be careful you don't have a coronary Robert!!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Rock

So, basically, the electricity you use in your house still comes from the link to the grid, but it evens out somewhat in relation to what the panels you feed into the grid?

To be clear, my question is: you still pay the same electric bill (for consumption), but with a deduction of the kw you feed back in?

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commentereded

Nice stuff Robert. Interesting what you say about the cost and efficiency. I'd like to see more about that. Also I wonder if the panels 'age' and become less efficient? Still, cool to recharge your car for free and get paid for the excess.

Given you are in 'telly' have you heard about the grand new BBC 'Drama Village' studios in Roath Lock, Cardiff? Apparently they have been fitted with a large set of solar panels on the roof - for 'sustainability' and all that. All well and good. But there is now concern that they can't rig the studios with as many lights as expected as the roof may not have been designed to hold that much weight!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVoyager03

2.52 or 2.25??!! lol Nice sunny day for you today!!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWill Bick

eded

Good question and it is complicated. I know that for instance I won't pay for the 38.75 kWh the panels have generated and I would think I've used most of that either in the house (computers, fridge etc) or the car. If the car is charged or I'm out and the sun is shining and we're not using much electricity, all the power goes into the grid and earns money. If we are using the power, then we are clearly using less power from the grid hence a reduction in demand and cost.
Other people who've had these systems a long time all say their power bills have reduced dramatically.
Hope that answers it a bit.

May 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobert Llewellyn

"The day they came out of the factory they did have a considerable carbon impact, I certainly don’t dispute that. But from now on, for the 20+ years of their expected life, that carbon impact is constantly reduced as they produce power without anything other than sunlight."

If we're comparing like for like, aren't we comparing the carbon impacts of the equipment reqiured to generate the power? If I'm right, I wonder what the carbon impact is of building a power station, compared to solar panels? (I'm sure someone will point out the flaw in that logic...)

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave Knill

I think it's fantastic Robert! I have been working at an energy consultant's for the last 3 months designing PV rigs just like yours and it's fascinating stuff. The project we are on is for a large housing association down in London where they are filling the roof of every property they cover (3500+ homes) so it is coming along.

I can't wait to get some on my own roof. I want funky graphs too dammit!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Reader

Id love to fit my own and get the FIT but I'm not allowed to.The fact that those panels are only £2k per Kw means Id be paying thousands to have them fitted.You paid roughly £5K ,Ouch!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commentershawn deCave

Thrilled for you, Robert! I also use a Sunny Beam bluetooth monitor with my solar array, and download its data which I post on a website at the end of each month. Coincidentally, yesterday my array (much larger than yours) generated its top high record to date: 59.54 kWh. I was astounded!

I don't have my LEAF yet, unfortunately, but I have wondered if it really matters to charge it in the day, since either way I am both taking and giving the solar-generated electricity to the grid over a 24-hour period. In other words, if I don't plug an EV in during the day, the emission-free electricity is going down the lines to my neighbors, thus helping to lower the demand on the system and reduce the pollution at the plant. Then, if I charge an EV at night, I am simply taking back what I already donated to the grid during the day, but at off-peak hours, thus avoiding overloading the system. I wonder if I am missing something with this assumption...? What do you think?

Having a 3.96Kw installation done in a couple of weeks. Given the low return on selling units back to the grid and anticipating a rise on cost of fuel having the following installed at the same time that will send as much excess energy to the immersion in the hot water cylinder before exporting as a last resort http://www.coolpowerproducts.com/fr/emma-sp15.html.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Hi Robert,

Is it really 47p/kWh? I'm getting 42.8p/kWh - that's 41.3p/kWh (FiT) plus 1.5p/kWh (export) - the 3p/kWh for exported units is moot, because British Gas "deem" that I will export 50% of what I generate (though it can vary wildly & I think it's way more than that).

I'm delighted to see that you're gone for SolarPV and hope that many follow your famous footsteps, having made SolarPV "trendy". Even when I'm sat at work and looking out at the sunshine I'm missing not being in, I have a little smile inside, as it's earning me cash!

eded: I've seen dramatic electricity bill reduction since my installation went live. You can tell that my system went in on the end of August 2010 & that September was a stunningly sunny month... My Electricity Usage Stats. I am saving about £50/month in electricity bills and making about £70/month from FiT payments (though it's paid quarterly), so I'm up about £120/month, which ain't bad considering that it cost me £5.5k and the FiT is a 25 year arrangement.

Mark D Larsen (Yanquetino): My system (http://insomniac.me.uk/solarpv) is tiny 1.84kW (but fills all available real-estate on my roof) - yours is awesome - and cool graphs too! I've gone for less maths (averages over time etc) but using Google Graph API to do the drawing - impressive... My SolarPV Generation Stats are a little too detailed to be maintainable - I got bored generating them!

For anyone interested , here's the low-down on the Feed-in-Tarrif (when I joined it in October 2010): -

Guaranteed payment for 25 years
Tax- free income
The payments are inflation linked
Government has aimed to provide a 7-10% rate of return
3p export tariff

The price that you are paid depends on the size of system you have installed: -

Installation Capacity: ≤ 4kW (retrofit)
Feed-In Tarrif (pence/kWh): 41.3 (year1), 41.3 (year2), 37.8 (year3)

The rates paid above are for EVERY UNIT of electricity that your system generates. If you don't use it all it will be exported back to the national grid and you will receive an ADDITIONAL 3p for each of these units.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChrisP

Re. embodied carbon: Ecotricity reckon their panels, in UK weather, will pay back in about 2.5 years. Given that theirs aren't particularly special, that's a good figure to go by.

Robert: from a purely environmental point of view, it might still make more sense to charge off-peak, when more electricity is being produced than there's demand for. So, during the day, you're helping the grid and a little less gas is burnt to spin turbines and manage the load, and at night you get that electricity back from the grid when it's just power stations ticking over. Then you're helping to actually reduce the peak demand on power stations.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTomDM

Fantastic to see Robert. Living in Australia I see houses with solar as well and was wondering if angle of your roof is the optimum angle for the latitude? Also how many Watts are each panel, I know I looked at solar panels as we get a government rebate for installing them so say a 1.5Kw system, which is the most common, is installed may only cost the home owner a few thousand(that is Aussie Dollars of course) and is about 6panels.

You are lucky to get a feed in tariff where I live in Australia, the only state that doesn't do it and has a monopoly running the electricity there technically is no feed-in tariff, they pay homeowners the same as they charge, so about $0.22/kwh.

I look forward to hearing how they are running, talking to someone who had them on their previous home they said the way to look at it was on an annual basis rather than monthly or quarterly, whatever your electricity is billed at, as the generation fluctuates throughout the year. I also agree, all homes should have a PV system installed as well as all schools/businesses/etc.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTassieEV

Mark D Larsen

Wow. That is truly inspiring. And the graphs on your site, and 59.54 kWh in one day! OMG. Very very impressive. I will study your site with great interest and try to get some tips. That said, the Sunny Boy is brilliant isn't it, is that where most of your data comes from?

Robert

May 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobert Llewellyn

You are lucky Robert. I was an early adopter of solar PV with my 4kWp system installed 3 years ago, I don't qualify for the full FIT. I only get 16p per kWh from Ecotricity, but that is better than the 9p per kWh the government say I should get! The Conservatives promised, pre-election, that early adopters would get the full FIT, but they reneged on their promise.

I am a big EV enthusiast and used to have a little G-Wiz electric car which I charged with my own green electricity. I run a Toyota Auris Hybrid at the moment, but will wait until there are more EV's on offer maybe next year?

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNigel Hunt

Hi, Robert!

Yes, I download all my data from the little Sunny Beam monitor, but then I copy-and-paste those stats into a Numbers spreadsheet to create the graphs.

I won't top yesterday's record today, as the sky has been overcast and so far (4:00 pm here) the array has only produced 37 kWh. Tomorrow I'll update the website with the data for May, so stay tuned.

I am sure that my array seems like overkill to a lot of people, but when I built this home last year, I had already reserved my LEAF and wanted to make sure I generated enough electricity to someday power it as well as our entire household. I am now set, and even have my EVSE installed in the garage, but I still can't take delivery for at least another year due to Nissan's rollout restrictions. Sigh....

Mark

Unfortunately, at present the amount of electricity that you feed back in to the mains isn't reduced from the overall generated output from power stations. The reason being that the techniques used to monitor the amount of demand required by the system and to ensure the demand is catered for are still fairly basic.A Lot of energy is wasted as a result of this inaccuracy. The recent BBC documentary on the grid highlighted this where a few guys were shown to be looking to see when Eastenders finished so as to have stations powered up in time for the late evening cup of tea.
Come the improvements with smart grid technology this will undoubtedly improve. However, in terms of the economic justification of running these systems, the comments above clearly highlight that the long term gain is there, especially with the guaranteed feed in tariffs offered and the likely continuation in the surge of oil prices over the coming years.
I am a great believer that we should extract power locally from PV and wind power. I hope that these will soon be held in the same regard as the necessity to have a household boiler and that the large electricity distribution losses will be reduced as a result.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve H

Great post Bobby,

I have often thought how ridiculous it is that government don't tighten up on building regulations and force house builders to fit solar panels, ground souce heat pumps, groundwater collection etc.

Given your relative "celebrity" status and high profile, have you ever considered writing a letter to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, asking him why he doesn't feel it necessary to bring any of this blatantly necessary and simple legislation into force?

I appreciate you are probably terribly busy but I imagine you may be more likely to receive a response than us mere mortals. I'd be very interested to read his response.

Kind regards, as always.

Brett

The Fed in Tariff payment increased by 4.8% in April to 43.3p per kWh for <4 kWp PV retrofit systems due to the high level of inflation in the UK.

So that's 43.3p for every kWh generated by the PV array regardless if it is used onsite or fed into the grid. Every kWh that is fed back into the grid earns an extra 3p. All solar PV systems must have a generation meter fitted but an export meter is optional and thus most installers don’t fit export meters opting instead for the 50% assumed export figure.

Thus in systems without an export meter the owner will receive 43.3p + 1.5p = 44.8p per kWh generated.

If you get lucky and have and old electricity meter (import meter) it will start to spin backwards when the PV system exports surplus electricity back to the grid. Thus you get some of the electricity you have already used (imported) for free. However import meters which spin backwards must be reported to the local grid operator so the meter can be replaced at some point with a meter that stops spinning / moving when exporting.

My meter spins backwards, so we ticked the “Has your meter started spinning backwards” box on the Scottish Power feed in tariff (cash back scheme) application form back in January and the meter still hasn’t been replaced yet!

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Tebbutt

Hi Robert

Really enjoyed the post, thanks. We've had a 4KW system since April this year. I rigged up my own site for it here. There are a couple of funky graphs but the best bit is that it updates all by itself, so I can check it while I'm away. Because I'm a bit of a geek I wrote an Android phone widget for it too...

Anyway, keep up the good work and glad you are spreading good renewable vibes around :-)

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Good work, it's quite an impressive array!

The problem is, that without the HUGE government subsidy, the panels would take a very long time to pay for themselves. People complain, for example, that new nuclear power is horrendously expensive at about 10-15p/kWh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source), and yet we are spending 3x that, to achieve what is going to amount to a very small amount of UK demand. And unlike the baseload nuclear power, solar power is almost non-existent when it's cloudy, and 0 at nighttime. So you then have to pay extra on top of that! Either with energy storage (i.e pumped hydro) or backup plants (most likely gas, which damages the whole eco angle).

Germany has got so much solar because it's the same there, there is a large feed in tariff and so it makes absolute financial sense to do it, regardless of whether you are green minded or not. They happen to have had it for longer, hence the greater penetration.

Solar PV doesn't really make much sense in the UK. Here is a map of the irradiation across Europe, irradiation map

The same array in Southern France / Spain would generate almost 2x as much electricity. Without any subsidies, it simply wouldn't make sense in the UK. Solar panels, to heat water, are relatively more effective here, not to mention being a lot cheaper.

However, as it currently stands it definitely makes sense to go for PV if you have the roof space and can afford the up front cost!

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

solar power is almost non-existent when it's cloudy, and 0 at nighttime. So you then have to pay extra on top of that! Either with energy storage (i.e pumped hydro) or backup plants (most likely gas, which damages the whole eco angle)... ...The same array in Southern France / Spain would generate almost 2x as much electricity.

A few points to pick up there:

1) Output is still pretty good when it's cloudy. Nighttime is likely to remain an issue though :)

2) Yes, backup or storage is required, but that applies for most sources. But having to use gas half the time is still a whole lot better than having to use it all the time. It's not really paying extra in the sense of paying for the same thing twice, so much as paying for the balance of what's required.

3) It's quite true the same array further south would produce more. So it's just as well this isn't an either/or situation - we can have arrays here AND arrays in France & Spain. They'll all make a contribution to the overall energy supply, just to differing degrees. Otherwise we might as well only allow arrays to be built on the equator.

I must admit I do have some qualms about the way the FIT is set up - the panels are effectively being funded by everyone else's electricity bills (the money doesn't come from the government, but from the electricity suppliers). But, if you're looking for an investment, then a ~10% tax-free and index-linked return is pretty much impossible to beat; even if you regard the capital investment as a complete loss, then the payback comes in 10 years and after that there are 15 years of pure profit, with a relatively small tail off as the panels degrade. Plus you also gain a certain amount of protection from energy price rises.

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThisIsNotAPseudonym

"Also I wonder if the panels 'age' and become less efficient?"

Voyager03 - They definately do age, though not by a massive amount. Most installations in this country are done under MCS Accreditation (without this you will not get a penny of FiT). All MCS approved panels must meet set criteria on their degradation over time (80% after 25yrs IIRC). The panels we install (Schott) guarantee 97% of the stated output from day 1 with a 0.7% degradation per annum thereafter.

Interestingly the rate of degradation is usually higher than the stated figures. To avoid them having large warranty claims for any shortfall they normally underspec the output of their panels. This means you'll still get 80%+ of the stated output after 25yrs but in year 1 you may actually hit a peak output higher than the stated figure.

Andrew
www.ecovisionsystems.co.uk

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Thisisnotapseudonym:

1) Robert reports that his panels were generating 576W on an overcast day (out of 2,500W peak), so it's true that this is probably still a substantial portion of what the average house needs. But when you scale it up to a country size solution, if the clouds come over you are losing 80% of what could be a significant part of the energy mix. 80% is a lot!!

2) In terms of CO2 emissions, you're right. But if the Government was truly interested in reducing them, we could have already done that. The real problem is the cost. The upfront cost of building a gas plant, which may only be used say 1/3 of the time, is the same, and its cost of operation (per kWh) is going to be a lot higher. The owners will want compensation for the hassle of having to always be ready to fire up, and also for the extra maintenance required due to the constant cycling. Given that it's not too much to build a gas plant, these extra operating costs could well make it more expensive than being used in a base load capacity.

So at the end of the day, if you want 1GW of generation, you can either build a 1GW nuclear or gas station - or you can build 1GW worth of solar panels, plus ~1GW of gas generation AS WELL, for when the sun doesn't shine. It's definitely more expensive! So if money was no object, then that's fine - but unfortunately it's rather constricting...

Of those options, for a reasonable cost + CO2 free, nuclear seems to be the only sensible option.

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I am somewhat perplexed by the above comments that remind us of the already obvious limitations of solar. True, cloudy weather can significantly reduce its output, which then falls to zero every night. Yet those are the very times when wind generation is usually at its highest. The two renewable sources go hand-in-hand and should be developed in parallel.

And when neither solar nor wind is functioning well? That's when the 24-hour-per-day availability of hydro power can fill in the gaps (like the Tellisford mill that Robert highlighted in his recent Fully Charged episode). Moreover, energy storage devices, like high-capacity lithium battery packs, can also help compensate for periods of bad weather.

Yes, we'll still need coal, gas, and nuclear plants for many years to come while we transition to renewable sources of energy, but someday it actually will be possible to dispose of their pollution and waste once and for all.

Are the costs "too high"? Renewable energy certainly is expensive right now. Yet how much is "too high" of a price to pay when we are talking about our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? Shall we save a few dollars, pounds, and euros right now and just let them worry about it after we're gone? We've got to start sometime, so it might as well be today. The longer we delay, the longer it will be until mass markets make renewables more affordable. Such has always been the case with cutting-edge technology, be it laptops, iPods, flatscreen TVs, cellphones, or... solar panels, wind generators, and hydro turbines.

And while on the subject of cost, I will freely admit that I received subsidies to help pay for my solar array. Some people complain about that, as though I am taking the money out of their pockets. I therefore think it prudent to point out that for many years --decades, really-- I have being paying taxes that the government then used to subsidize the oil companies, i.e., the richest corporations in the history of the planet.

I think it is only right and fair that I should now get some of that money back, especially since I never "donated" it willingly in the first place. There was never a checkbox on my tax forms to say "yay" or "nay" to those oil subsidies --unfortunately. So am I picking others' pockets by now receiving subsidies for my solar array? Or simply recovering a small portion of the money that was picked out of my own pockets all my working life?

Let me put it this way: I would be more than willing to pay the full price for my solar array, and for my electric car, if the government would likewise do away with all such subsidies. Let's see what price we have to pay at the pump without subsidizing the oil companies, and I predict that the public will more readily favor the transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy.

Also, for all its disadvantages regarding output in cloudy weather and at night, photovoltaics have one enormous advantage: they're silent and unobtrusive.

Unlike windmills, or power stations, or dams, they don't really intrude. They don't seem to cause NIMBYism, and for that alone I think they're worth promoting.

Yes, they're expensive, but soon, fossil fuel powered electricity will start reaching the same costs as PV. So let's encourage installation, and let mass production bring the cost down.

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTomDM

TomDM:

I again recommend Without Hot Air. In it, David Mackay works how energy source could contribute towards maintaining our current energy consumption without using fossil fuels.

Chapter 6 deals with solar - and it shows that powering anything more than a tiny percentage of the UK with rooftop panels isn't going to happen. Covering 5% of the UK countryside with solar panels would only produce approx 50kWh per day per person (out of approx 125kWh per day per person energy consumption). This would most definitely be into NIMBY territory, as all of the UK roads cover ~1.5% of the surface area!

Mark D Larsen:

Wind and solar are often inversely proportional - but this relationship is definitely not a phyiscal law, and so there is still plenty of uncertainty and instability as far as the Grid would be concerned. And again, if the country needs 2GW of guaranteed output, then that means that you need 2GW of solar, and another 2GW of wind, so that they can make up for the shortfall in the other at different times in the year. Again, a VERY expensive way of producing that electricity!

Hydroelectricity in the UK will never provide much energy, we simply aren't hilly enough. I refer again to Without Hot Air (max. of approx 1.5kWh per day per person = <1% of current consumption)

Personally I don't think it is acceptable to continue using coal fired power stations. My view is that, believing the various IPCC predictions about climate change, and also the threat of diminishing fossil fuel reserves, we need to do something right now to move off them. And renewables simply are not ready yet on anything like the scale that is needed. I don't want to bankrupt future generations by paying through the nose for them either, especially when nuclear is there, as a mature technology that can provide us with all of this low CO2 energy that we need. Without Hot Air also comes to this conclusion.

I agree with you about all the hidden subsidies though - it's not a perfect world!

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Joe:

I prefer to pass on nuclear, thanks. Maybe, perhaps, possibly more nuclear plants would cost significantly less than solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal power, as you seem to suggest, but I have my doubts, given the most recent estimates that I have seen. Moreover, I have yet to hear of a truly reassuring way of safely dealing with the waste. I guess I would be more convinced if those who advocated nuclear power were willing and happy to dispose of that waste in proximity to their own homes --rather than in someone else's area.

Now, if the government and scientists would finally produce nuclear fusion instead of fission, I'd be on board, no problem. I remember very well in the 70s hearing that we would have fusion by the end of the century. Why, even the Back to the Future movies showed a belief in that possibility, as exemplified by the "Mr. Fusion" device powering the DeLorean. Sadly, however, now that we are a full decade into this century, we don't hear much about fusion anymore, do we? I guess that prediction was no more reliable than the one repeated every five years for the last twenty that auto makers would sell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles "within five years." Sigh....

It's a no brainer, so long as you can find the money up front to pay for the installation. I have to agree with the new build having solar, even better now that you can get solar tiles so it wouldn't look much different from a standard house.

It would be nice if there was some grant or even interest free loan you could get to install solar.

I just love the idea of having a car that effectively runs on the sun :)

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIan

@Andrew at Ecovision, Thanks for your comments on panels ageing and their efficiency.

I am going to look quite hard at your 'free' installation - but what I want is to be able to charge an EV battery without taking from the grid at all - even during power outages. Possible?

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVoyager03

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