25 Apr 2013

Solar PV: FAQs

Guest Post by  Daniel Kentfield. 

There are some common questions you hear banded about by customers and the general public alike when the subject of solar PV arises. I’ve compiled a short list of the most frequently asked questions. My intention is to separate the fact from fiction and give it to you straight!

Myth: Solar PV doesn’t work in the UK because it’s not sunny enough.

Fact: WRONG! Solar works great in the UK climate, it may not be a tropical paradise but it does just well for solar. In fact the UK receives 148 hours of sunlight each year. An average south facing 4kW system will produce approximately 3221kWh per yeah that’s about 50 – 75% of your annual electricity!

Solar PV is actually more efficient in colder conditions! So a bright clear and freezing cold day are actually the perfect conditions for solar!

Myth: Solar costs a lot!

Fact: Prices have actually dropped dramatically! You can now install a high quality 4kW system for about £8,000 (in total), that’s compared to prices of around £15,000 in 2011!

Although £8000 is still a large amount of money it should be understood as an investment. Firstly you will get this money back through the feed in tariff (index linked and guaranteed by the government for 20 years). It will take on average 8 to 10 years to recoup this investment after which you will make potentially 12 to 10 years profit (approx. £8,400 for 4Kw).

Secondly it is buying electricity in one upfront lump, the costs of the equivalent are vast in comparison. You will instantly notice how much money you are saving from not buying as much electricity in the traditional way! Not only this but you are saving C02! 1.7 tonners per year!

Myth: Some people are offering solar for free!

Fact: Some companies are offering solar for free yes, but it is definitely not as good as it sounds! The way it works is a business offers to install solar on your roof for ‘free’ in exchange for you using all of the electricity produced for no charge; they then take all the feed in tariffs. In reality they are buying your roof in exchange for a ‘free’ installation. Yes that’s right they actually own your roof!

Be careful! If you have a mortgage, you will have to ask your mortgage company about this! Selling your home will also be very difficult, have you ever tried to sell a home without a roof?

Myth: Solar is so expensive it will never pay for itself

Fact: In reality this is completely untrue. On average it takes between 8 to 10 years for solar to ‘earn itself back’ financially. This means the generation feed in tariff earnings (15.44p/kWh) are added to the export feed in tariff earnings (4.5p/kWh) as well as money saved from not buying electricity from the grid (average 15p/kWh). This is also all tax free!

Myth: A solar PV install cost more in C02 than it saves

Fact: Solar PV can save about 1.7 tonnes in C02 emissions each year that’s 34 tonnes of Carbon dioxide that haven’t been put in the atmosphere all from just one solar PV installation of 20 years!

The carbon payback period of our Solar PV panels are usually recovered within 2 years then its 100% carbon and conscience free energy!

Myth: Solar power doesn’t actually save any money on electricity

Fact: As 3221kWh are produced from a 4kW roof system on average over a year, this means a maximum saving of up to £483 can be achieved per year. It must be noted that the “SAP” calculation is almost always exceeded with the high quality panels we use, sometimes by as much as 30%.

Myth: Solar only works on south facing roofs

Fact: Solar actually works on any roof orientation although installing on a north facing roof will lead to poor results. A generally accepted rule of thumb is south facing is best, although east and west facing are also acceptable. For a more accurate report get a solar installer to give you a free quote and “SAP” which will tell you how much energy you will generate, how much money you could save and how much the installation will cost. We do this completely free in the west midlands area.
Daniel Kentfield is MD of Green Panels Ltd, a Coventry based Ethical Solar PV company.
Follow Daniel on twitter @DanielKentfield or @GreenPanelsUK for more handy little tips!

24 Apr 2013

Firefox OS powered mobile phones

In case you are not aware, Mozilla recently released the Firefox OS for mobile phones under their Boot to Gecko (B2G) project. This operating system uses a Linux kernel and boots into a Gecko-based runtime engine. This should be a blessing to developers (and amateurs alike) as users can run apps developed using HTML, JavaScript, and other open web application APIs.

Anyway, Keon and Peak, the first phones running the Fierfox OS were built by Spanish startup Geeksphone have already sold out.

It should be noted that these phone were meant only for developers as the OS is still in it's early stages - which really makes it exciting. I would love to get my hands on one as well.

15 Apr 2013

EU Vs Chinese made solar PV panels

Guest Post by Daniel Kentfield

Much talk has been made recently of the potential levies to be weighed on Chinese manufactured solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in the EU. Although the general public don’t all understand the reasons why!

It all stems from Chinese panels flooding the European market, pushing prices down. This anti-competitive move is thought to be encouraged by subsidies from the Chinese government allowing Chinese panels to be sold at below cost price.

An obviously unsustainable move; done perhaps to aggressively take market share. It may have proven somewhat successful after capturing 80% of the global solar PV market. The USA was first to take action, applying levies of up to 250% on Chinese imports in 2012.

An important question still remains, how do cheap imports affect the quality the public is receiving?

Well, it seems the difference in quality is vast, it proves the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. This is also somewhat reflected in the warranties offered by the manufacturers. For instance German manufacturer Solar World offers a 25 year linear warranty; meaning they guarantee their panels won’t lose more than 0.7% efficiency per year. Whilst a leading Chinese company, promises incremental drops 5% at 5 years up to 80% of efficiency at 25 years.

Solar Buyer (an independent auditor of solar manufacturers) found fault rates a high as 8% and in some cases up to 20% in some Chinese factories!

Issues ranged from damaged glass to cracked solar cells, leading to the cracked part being electronically disconnected from the rest of the cell. Essentially leaving you with less surface area of operational solar PV, the direct result is less electricity being produced.

It would also therefore seem prudent to stay away from Chinese solar panels over the coming years not least to avert a warranty invalidity issue. As many Chinese solar manufacturers are expected to go bankrupt/ merge within the next few years after the Chinese government is said to have reduced support for the ailing industry. Leaving thousands of solar customers without a warranty or protected solar PV system.

Daniel Kentfield is MD of Green Panels Ltd, a Coventry based Ethical Solar PV company.