Sunday 18 June 2017

Solar PV upgrades being sold by pushy sales calls

Over the last year, I have found a plethora of Companies have started hard sales campaigns to sell  products or services to existing Solar PV owners. This has not really been helped along by the availability of databases that can be purchased detailing solar owners contact data, making it so much easier for them to get in contact.

Many of you existing solar owners will have had calls or letters from organisations proposing to make your system work far better than it currently does. While most of the products are good,  in most cases here, it is the selling that is suspect, along with the highly inflated prices to go with it.

To give you a ‘heads up’ on current sales company’s promotions, I have compiled a short list below:

1    1) Solar Edge optimised systems. The technology works well to minimise shading problems on solar panels with some clever technology, and will boost generation for part shaded systems. However, the salesmen are indicating far higher gains, and a far higher price than an ‘honest’ company would charge. If your solar is in the clear and has no shading, the Solar Edge system will never pay for itself. A recent example I was told by a customer the dodgy salesman quoted £5400 for a system that should have been just £3000.

      2) Voltage Optimisers . For very few solar owners, their grid voltage is quite high, causing the inverter to shut down when it is sunny. For this 2% of people, a voltage optimizer will sort the problem, bringing the grid voltage down. Sales guys are selling them to just about anyone and at hugely inflated prices, ie £3000 instead of £500

      3)Maintenance Contracts. Many people are getting a misleading letter, telling them their solar installer is now out of business. That statement is not true for around 20% of people, so is being investigated by Trading Standards. This particular company (and I'm sure others too), are selling expensive maintenance contracts amounting to £250 a year. Your system will only need a 5 year check at best for around £100.  You can keep an eye on the panels being clean and your system is working in between times by yourself.

      3)A very naughty  company are even calling people to tell them someone is going to come and maintain the system for free as part of their warranty that is just about to expire. The maintenance will not end up free, as they will expect you to sign up for monthly payments or whatever they can get away with. In addition, as part of any solar warranty, there is never a maintenance included. Don’t be fooled!

There will be other scams and highly priced devices being sold over the phone, not only to Solar Owners, but to anyone. The best advice as always is never to buy anything from telephone sales.

If you would like some idea of pricing for Solar PV add on products, call us at 

Friday 2 June 2017

Powering your outdoor event .. Quietly..

We’ve all been there, festivals, country shows and countryside events where the atmosphere is shattered by the buzz of generators. For trade stands, power can be essential, music events need lights and amplifiers, even the local gymkhana needs to have commentary over a public address system.

Times have moved on and portable power is becoming the domain of Hybrid generators, a combination of silent battery power with occasional generator noise. The idea is quite simple really, the batteries operate an electronic inverter to provide 230v mains power, just like a normal generator. When the batteries get low, a fuel generator runs for half hour or so and allows the battery system to run again quietly for hours. The original concept came about simply to save money on fuel, but the side effect is low noise as well.

Hybrid generators come in all sizes, from full container size to power a large business or large off grid house right down to a few boxes being tucked in a corner of a van for site use. To save fuel even further, if space permits, a solar panel or two can be bolted on keeping generator time even shorter.

Many people across the UK are using fixed hybrid systems to power their houses and businesses full time, usually because of no grid availability. The whole idea is easily transferred to a portable version.

For small events and trade stands, the ideal solution will be to have a hybrid generator fitted within a vehicle. For larger events requiring more power, a modular unit can be used, easily removed after the event by trailer or tractor. If you regularly have to have a generator running for your trade, consider going Hybrid, the fuel savings will be wonderful now fossil fuels are going up in price again. Plus think of life without endless noise and exhaust fumes.

Chris Rudge. 01392 368724

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Getting the best out of your Solar PV system

Many of you will have a solar PV system installed on your house or barn roof and will be enjoying the annual Summer upsurge in generated power that will not only earn you Feed in Tariff payments, but save you buying power off the grid as well.

As some of the earlier systems installed are now over 5 years old, is it still operating as well as it used to? One of the things you can easily check will be dirt and moss buildup on the panels. Many areas in rural locations we find are vulnerable to a deposit of verdigris on the glass. If left there, it will cause your power generation to drop off dramatically. Getting the panels cleaned will bring the generated power back to healthy levels. The cost of a clean can be covered by a couple of weeks generation in midsummer, so well worth the effort.

Again with older systems, older technology solar inverters fitted to convert DC power into Mains 230v, will have been limited in capabilities and were suited for solar array’s with no shading. If any shading occurs from, say, a chimney or tree on one of the panels, the whole array will suffer from reduced power output. This would common on many houses.
To combat this problem, a new optimizer system was developed enabling solar PV with shading problems to get more generation simply by letting each panel generate to best of its ability, without being affected by shading on another panel. The market leader is Solar Edge, and can be retro installed on any existing solar PV installation. Older installations on a high rate of FiT could benefit from this upgrade, which though usually costs around £3000, can enable your PV system to make that cost back within 10 years if you have shading problems during the day. See our website for more information

If you have noticed a drop off in generated power over the current life of your PV system, now will be the best time to have the system serviced. Though you can anticipate a small drop in generation each year to panel efficiency drop off, other factors such as loose connections can create really large losses. Many Solar installers will carry out a standard service every 5 years, the recommended period, for around £100 and can save you much more if catching a problem early on. We offer this service to people in the South West UK

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Making the most of your excess Solar PV generation

Its been a while since I have written a post, though I see I have a whole load of half completed drafts. Things have been busy over the last few months!

Just this week I have put together this editorial for a regional magazine, The Landsman, and thought it would be a good idea to reproduce here as solar storage has changed dramatically since just last year, with far better batteries available at really good prices that mean Li-Ion is now leading the way over Lead Acid on performance and cost!

If you’re an owner of solar PV panels, you will already be aware of the benefits that are brought simply by daylight. Lower power bills and free to use electricity count as main drivers of course, along with Feed in Tariff payments meaning you receive a payment simply for generating your own power.

One of the small drawbacks of this seemingly utopian system is that a proportion of this generated power will be exported straight out onto the grid without any benefit to you but add some technology and this could change. There are devices available that can be retro fitted to grab power before it gets exported allowing you to store it for later use.

The budget version is just one of the many power diversion devices on the market. A reliable unit is the Solar iBoost, costing around £400, which keeps a check on that excess PV power and sends it to the immersion heater in your hot water cylinder to store as hot water. Great if you have a hot water cylinder to use, if not, maybe look at battery storage?

Until a few years ago, Solar battery technology was still based on traditional lead/acid, like a car battery. This was mainly due to economics as compact lithium based batteries were still really expensive, but they do offer a 10-15 year lifespan and require no maintenance.

This situation has now changed, and since Tesla’s introduction of the cumbersomely large Lithium Ion battery a year or so ago, other manufacturers such as LG, Victron and SolaX are now producing more compact storage devices, ideal for installation inside your home. Based on the same concept as hot water diversion, battery storage systems divert the excess power to be exported into a set of batteries. A controller keeps that power securely stored away until your house needs to draw power off the grid, then releases if back for you to use. In an ideal situation, with a good balance between battery and solar array size, you should see a dramatic reduction in the amount of electricity you purchase.
Most are easy to fit, and can be easily accommodated in your house and integrated with your existing Solar PV system. Some models also provide you with a backup power socket to keep you supplied with 230v power if in the case of a power cut - handy for rurally situated people.

Though the concept of payback is not used in the battery storage world, we have recently seen what may be the first of many energy price increases, so it does spur us to consider ways of keeping electricity bills as low as possible. You’ll find that good quality systems start at around £4,000 installed and will provide you with either online or in home monitoring too. For more information speak to Chris Rudge on or visit

Sunday 31 January 2016

Battery Storage 1: Which battery is best?

Battery storage bolt-on options for existing renewable energy generation systems are now becoming the next 'must have' for people looking to either reduce their energy bills, which will surely be rising again soon, to providing energy security times of power cuts.

I have been providing different types of battery systems for customers over the last 10 years and have seen a huge upsurge in interest in the last 6 months. There has always' been some bafflement over the best battery technology to use with different installations, which has escalated recently now that Lithium-Ion batteries are coming down in cost.

For this first part of a two part battery storage blog, I'll simply outline the features and cost benefits of  some currently available battery types offered for renewables.

The main battery types currently offered to customers wanting a battery add on are based on either Lead Acid or Lithium-Ion technology.

Lead Acid.
These batteries have been available for a very long time and until recent years, would have been the only option available for anyone to use. Originally provided as what we refer to as 'flooded', you may be familiar with the need to keep these topped up with distilled water regularly in your car. Really big versions were made for fork lifts, submarines, commercial backup supplies, etc. Though this is still the case as flooded batteries are quite robust when scaled up to commercial size, most Lead Acid offerings' for domestic and small commercial are either Sealed AGM or Gel types.

Without going into the internal technology, which you can easily discover on Wikipedia, the practicality for non commercial users mean that Sealed batteries do not need regular maintenance such as topping up with water. Sealed AGM's will usually be able to take a far higher charge current than Flooded, thus making them ideal for the Solar PV market where potentially a lot of power is available to be stored during peak times of the day. Likewise, Gel batteries have a good storage capability, but cannot be heavily charged without decreasing lifespan.

Both types will have a lifespan of no more than 5 years and you will need to keep in mind that you'll need to replace them at this point or before. As either type contain a good amount of lead, they will attract a good price at the recycling centre. Typically around 20% of their cost as new. Lead Acid batteries are about the only battery type that can be recycled in this way. So disposal is straightforward through recycling with income!

As with anything, the less you pay for your batteries, the lower the performance. No matter what the salesman tells you, a typical lifetime of an AGM or Gel battery is around 800 - 1000 charge discharge cycles to 50% depth of discharge. This is around 2.5 years if cycled to 50% every day of the year. For many households this will not be the case, thus the batteries will last much longer

This reminds me to mention that all lead acid batteries do not fare well if deeply discharged, which will considerably reduce their storage capacity and longevity. As part of the battery management which will be installed with your add-on storage system, it will be set up to ensure the batteries will not drop below 50%, this is critical for any system, as well as carefully charging the batteries according to their individual characteristics.

Another big advantage with any Lead-Acid battery type is the lowest cost of any current storage type. You may find this aspect appealing, even though you will get much less charge/discharge cycles. You will know without heavy use you will get 5 years of life and a small payback for selling them at the end of this time. You can then ask your installer what the cost of other more efficient technologies are, which may have dropped in cost by that time. See the chart below to get an idea of cost effectiveness at the moment.

These fairly recent storage devices have been hailed as the holy grail of battery technology and you will find it fitted in most portable devices, such as your phone, due to their far higher efficiency and space saving over all other types available to us.

Even more recently, Lithium-Ion has been offered to the renewable energy market in easy to use packages making it far safer than ever before to use. As Lithium-Ion has a really low internal resistance, allowing them to be charged really quickly if needed, they can also discharge very fast if given the opportunity and will overhead and cause a fire very quickly. The very reason for all the
Hoverboard fires recently.

All approved Lithium-Ion battery sets contain a battery management system which will shut them down with excess charge/discharge or fire, etc. So nice and safe to use in the house. With Li-Ion systems such as the LG Chem RESU, the battery management will need to also have a data connection to your inverter system to enable safety 'handshaking'.

The huge advantages over Lead Acid is the smaller space required, higher lifetime cycles and that you'll be able to discharge to 80% or more daily if you wanted with little lifetime effect.

Most Lithium Ion batteries will come with a 10 year or 6000 cycle warranty and will work across a far wider temperature range, far far better than Lead Acid. The Lithium Ion battery really is a just about a fit and forget battery.

 So, though Lithium Ion costs much more on initial purchase, the lifetime will be at least 3 times more, and easily in excess of this if you keep the discharge down to 60% or less. See the chart below for cost effectiveness against Lead Acid.

One of the drawbacks with Lithium Ion, there had to be one, will be the recyclability is practically zero. Once the battery set is depleted you'll need to find a way of safe disposal, which you need to pay for as they are listed as a pollutant. Disposal will be in at least 10 years, so as Lithium is a limited resource, the situation may have changed by then, but right now its a difficult disposal issue.

Aquion Batteries
For the real Eco warrior, the recent release of the Aquion Battery is a major leap in clean power. Being based on a harmless saline solution with other natural products such as coconut husk, the Aquion unit will never be a hazard in its own environment.

They can be deeply discharged and each 'module' will store 2kWh of power.

As you will imagine, this natural solution does come at a cost, which though is more than either of the above per kWh, is currently not excessively so, and as production ramps up the price will come down to make it a far more economic solution.

Aquion battery charge and discharge rates are far lower than either Lead-Acid or Lithium-Ion, so are more suited to low capacity loads such as lighting and electronics. Though the 2kwh of storage is available in each cell, it will need around 5 hours to charge or discharge that amount. Obviously stacking more in parallel will double the power and storage at the same time.

This chart easily shows that though Lead-Acid wins on initial system outlay, for system economic longevity, Lithium-Ion wins hands down!
The Aquion, (which I have scaled to be representative of the others), is also great on long term economics, but you need to be careful the installation does not have a big current draw.

Datasheet links:
Aquion Batteries:
LG Chem:
Rolls batteries:

Thursday 27 August 2015

DECC confirm Solar PV tariffs to be slashed

Today DECC the Climate Change Government department have released a 'consultation' the review of Feed in Tariff rates for solar and other renewable technologies. SEE IT HERE

The lengthy document rambles on about providing better value for money to all energy payers, obviously without a thought to future climate issues. Reading through makes it quite clear that this Government are dropping renewable power technologies like a hot potato!

To take the proposed feed in tariff chart that will start on January 1st 2016 as the prime example, the typical option that any viable house in the UK is able to install, giving them much more control over their power destiny will have the FiT rate dropped from 12.67p to 1.63p for every Kw generated. Its pretty much the same across the board, including Wind and Hydro too.

Just as there will be an explosion in power storage devices that are cost effective, thus enabling businesses and homeowners to use that daytime generated power overnight and stabilising the grid, DECC announce these measures to just about stop people being able to engage in their own future.

We know for certain that the Government are 'backing' companies like EDF to build Nuclear Power Stations, which incidentally are far more expensive than ANY renewables incentive to both build and maintain, plus as we have seen again and again is dangerous when broken.
The other Government candidate for 'funding' will be fracking in the short term future as they have seen the massive success in the USA of that technology. This tiny island will obviously not stand up to the high pressure plundering of resources for all that long, with our water and other resources eventually poisoned with fracking chemicals.

Its all about money and short term futures, usually around 5 years, the term of Government.

Over the next few weeks, watch social media for everyones opinion on the UK's about turn on what most of civilised Europe have embraced .. Renewables for the future of the planet.. From 2016, it will all decline from the high ground we stood on to a cauldron of chemical gloop.

Friday 7 August 2015

Running an AGA on Solar electricity

We have had many queries over the years asking if we can arrange a system that will use the Solar PV electricity to run an AGA cooker. As any AGA owner will know, this device is the one big consumer of electricity/gas or oil in any household. They are beautiful cooking and heating devices, but boy, they do eat the utility bills! Eco they are not!

I've recently met up with Malcolm Stickler who runs a company specifically to install electronic free electric heaters to AGA's . These are compatible with Immersun's and most other add on PV power diversion devices.

People who already have a PV power diversion device for their hot water will know the massive savings they can make simply by using that spare power that would have been exported to the grid sent to the immersion heater. This exact technology can now be safely used on an AGA.

You will need to have the conversion carried out by Malcolms crew, who cover the whole of the UK. The cost is £1950 + VAT and entails replacing the existing oil/ gas or electric heater with a complete custom new module.

However, for maximum effectiveness, you'll need a 4kwp south facing solar PV system, possibly even bigger to cope with the low winter light levels. As well as getting Government Feed in Tariff payments, you'll be running your AGA for far less cost than you could believe possible previously!

This is just one way you can use more of your generated solar PV power thus getting great value for money out your investment.

For a solar PV quote in the South West UK, call Rudge Energy on 01392 368724

For the AGA conversion, call: 01278 769802