Saturday 31 December 2011

Has DECC published their response before 4th Jan?

With reference to the recent Judicial Review, where DECC were found to be unlawful by the High Court to cut the FiT before the end of their own consultation, a few days ago the following document was uploaded to DECC's website:

At the top of the list is document:

Abstract:First Progress Report on the Promotion and Use of Energy from Renewable Sources for the United Kingdom Article 22 of the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/E... Date of publication: 29/12/2011

If you refer to page 22, you'll see the intention is to keep the FiT running as-is until start of April 2012.

Obviously, we will need to await an official announcement to confirm this, as it may be simply another DECC office blunder (as before), but we should hear definite news on 4th January.

Saturday 24 December 2011

The court case is won but all still in the air!

As you will probably have heard, the court case brought against the Government for generally not planning the FiT reduction in a healthy manner. It seems they had their strings tugged by the power companies, and had run off a half cocked plan to drop the FiT payments for solar PV without getting the legal side checked out.

Three organisations with the fortitude to fight this plan by DECC to trash planned installations and put thousands out of work, which would have cost the Government far far more then the alleged 'budget' they have been working to, has been won over by the High Court and DECC, etc have been proved to have not carried out this process correctly.

For the current situation on 24th December, and probably all over Christmas period, see the release from the REA a couple of days ago.....

Judicial Review - Friends of Earth/HomeSun/Solarcentury win case against government on solar

The implications of the JR decision mean that the pre 12th December tariffs cannot be changed until after the full parliamentary process – i.e. an 8 week consultation, followed by a review of the responses and then a 40 day period before the legislation takes effect. This is unless the Government wins an appeal.

Government was not given leave to appeal, but if it wants to make a case it must put that forward by 4th January 2012.

Effectively the situation for systems going in now is one of two things.

· If Government is able to appeal, and then wins, we go back to the current situation. I.e. there is a consultation ongoing, and a domestic system can expect to earn 21p (or whatever government concludes after the consultation) from 1st April.

· If government is not able to appeal, or if it loses on appeal, then the 43p tariff remains in place until the Parliamentary process has concluded (expected to be 1st April 2012).

REA’s position

The REA’s position is that we are deeply concerned about the implications of this JR decision. Securing the future of the UK solar industry and the wider Feed In Tariff are our top priorities. It is essential to secure more budget and for there to be some stability in the policy.

The predominant feedback from members expressed so far is that they want look forward, and to carry on their businesses focused on the new proposed tariff levels, and are concerned about the budgetary implications of a return to 43p, albeit they may be pleased that DECC has been sent a message that there must be stability for investors and careful management of changes to support mechanisms.

Additional news is the publication of two select committee reports which criticise Government’s handling of the tariff changes. Listen again to Tim Yeo on Radio 4.

Other examples of coverage in the media can be found on Andy Atkins, Howard Johns quoted Gaynor Hartnell quoted Tim Yeo, Joan Walley, Andy Atkins.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

The Good Guys win the High Court Battle??

As you may have heard today through the press, etc, two solar installation company's and Friends of the Earth have been taking the Government to court due to alleged illegally fixing a date for the Feed in Tariff to be slashed even before the official consultation was complete.
Today, the High Court upheld the Solar industry's case. The Government (not for the first time), have been proved to be trying to imitate a Dictatorship by simply trampling over the Law, thinking they were above all of that nonsense!!.. Thankfully it has been proved they are not.

We are all right at this moment in a Christmas limbo awaiting the outcome of this
case.. The Government will lodge an appeal in January (using our money again!), so will take until February to see the outcome ... Its weird to think that the Government are able to use our own money to defend not their own political standpoint, but the bank balances of their chums, i.e. the power company's.. The whole thing does stink of some 'back scratching' scandal. I suspect it will all come out in 5 years or so when another Government is in power, and we are stuck with EDF Nuclear!

However.. There is an indication from insiders that our loving Government will simply slash the tariff to nothing after February/ April (whenever they can get away with), if the ruling is upheld to keep up their end of the bargain with their chums..

Remember the 'budget' that Uncle Greg Barker keeps mentioning is not taxpayers money, but Power Company Profit!

Friday 16 December 2011

More FiT changes in April 2012?

As the big day signifying the end of FiT alleged consultation draws near, little hints from Uncle Greg Barker seem to make us think he is looking to try and drop the 21p FiT rate yet again from April 1st.

Coupled with the proposed excessive energy saving measures most buildings will have to endure simply to be able to receive a barely adequate FiT rate, which is incidentally timed to drop in at the end of March, will most definately mean yet another 'last minute rush' of PV installations.

As already, PV buy-in costs have been dropping, meaning we are able already to install a 4kWp system for just £9,250. For a South facing roof, this will give people a 10% return, though not so good for either East or West! PV is still proving to be a great investment, and one of the good things that the lower 21p rate will lose the market sector of dodgy charlatans overcharging for poorly designed installations.

Good luck to the re-hearing of the case brought by Solar Century, Homesun and Friends of the Earth agains the Government to quash the FiT rate and rapidity of dropping us into a financially desperate situation. see

Thursday 8 December 2011

Dont try and cheat the MCS system!

Couple of things have popped up today..

1) Yesterday an 'update' email was sent out by Gemserve, with the following paragraph:
Registering jobs prior to commissioning: Please be aware that if a job is not fully installed and commissioned, it is a breach of MCS Standards to create a certificate, and any installation company doing so could lose their certification. Additionally, a customer using such a certificate to apply for FITS could be convicted of fraud.

2) Today we hear that one of the associated Government agencies have realised, through Gemserve, that there have been some PV installation companies uploading far more jobs than they normally would, indicating they are stocking up a bank of work after the cutoff date. Apparently there are going to be site visits, checks and court action to enforce the above paragraph in (1)..

Luckily, we are completing our last job tomorrow already knowing that bucking the system is just too risky for any company and our customers. This proves that fact.. Look out you naughty people!

Possible further delay to the RHI.. ?

An exerpt from an email release by the REA today...

Following the delay to phase 1, DECC are re-evaluating the timing for phase 2. The previous position was that there would be a consultation by the end of 2011, with implementation October 2012 alongside the Green Deal. We do not now expect a consultation before Christmas. Our view is that, if that doesn’t rule out October 2012 implementation, it certainly makes it less likely. It should be noted that DECC pre-notified the European Commission of their outline plans for the RHI in December 2010 and did not get a final response until September 2011.

DECC plan to make an announcement on their timeline early in the New Year. They are determined that this should be deliverable and credible. They also intend to publish details of various milestones along the way, so it will be easier to monitor progress.

.... So lets hope there are no more stumbling blocks along the way!

Friday 25 November 2011

Walled Garden PV system

The big switch on of a 20kWp ground mount system installed in a walled garden today. Now, there will be much harvesting of the sun to supply the house with clean and green electricity.

This system has taken some time to assemble as has been installed at the same time as ongoing building works. Though the timing ha
s been perfect to allow the owner to sign up onto the UK Feed in Tariff before the 12th December reduction date.

Our guys have been working long days and weekends to get everyones systems installed before 12/12 FiT changeover day. Its going to be tight, but looking good!

RHI announced!

At last, we can start making applications for the RHI from Monday 28th November!
For all the details from DECC, see THIS LINK

Its the Phase 1 commercial and large system version, to be followed early next year by the Phase 2 Domestic version.

After the fun & games over prematurely slashing the Feed in Tariff, possibly DECC are trying a little harder to keep the Renewables industry going?

Thursday 24 November 2011

The Green Deal is announced

In a strange change of direction after reducing the Solar PV Feed in Tariff a few weeks back, DECC have today announced details of the Green Deal, see press announcement here

This new incentive will enable people to to install all sorts of energy saving measures to their house at no up front cost. These hopefully will include solar PV, solar thermal and heat pumps which we can supply for you! Though these technologies may only get included in the RHI, (see below).

The Green Deal is currently going through a consultation till January, so you have an opportunity to have some input. Download the full document here. It looks like a scheme for more long term debt?

We are now eagerly awaiting the details of the long awaited RHI re-write, possibly going to be announced in the next few days. This is what people have been waiting all year for, as we will know definitely what our new Solar Thermal, Heat Pump and Biomass systems will earn, which in turn will enable to you decide the viability of having one of these technologies installed. We'll keep you informed.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Progress at the RNLI Poole.

The guys have completed mounting all the 180 modules onto the roof today. All in 3 days!
We had a hold up with brackets when they got delivered to completely the wrong place, but all overcome.
Just a big sub main cable to install tomorrow, and await Saturday for the final connection .

Time is ticking away!

Yup!.. The 'leaked document' from last Friday, although claimed to be incorrect, was not really so far from the truth!
Though the FiT rate will be dropping from 43.3p to 21p a generated unit, the rate of return will still be good for southerly facing PV systems. Plus after 12th December installed PV costs will be dropping again.
It looks like the payback time on a typical 2kWp system will be around 11 years for a South facing system after the new installed costs come out in the next few weeks.
As the return will still be far better than the Banks can offer (around 6.5%), Solar PV still offers one of the best investments around.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Leaked FiT reduction document....

Many of you will have either seen or heard about the alleged 'leaked' document onto the Energy Savings Trust (EST) website. In a nutshell, it indicated the current 43.3p FiT will be reduced to 21p on December 8th 2011.

Obviously, this is a bombshell to many people, whether installers or customers booking installations before the well documented FiT adjustment date of 31st March.

However, DECC have come back on Twitter with the short statement:
'Consultation on changes to the solar PV FIT to be published to Parlt on Mon. Doc on EST site earlier was neither final nor accurate'
Thus admitting this was an error!!

So, we will need to wait till Monday 31st Oct 2011 for the real version. Lets hope the document was wildly innaccurate on the date. However, a rate of 25p has been assumed for some time, as this will bring the payback time back to 10-12 years as was originally designed at the start of the FiT, and still far better than the Bank can offer!

To see the rogue document click here for a link

Check in with us on Tuesday 1st November to get an update on the real facts.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Learning the ropes

Yet more rope access training today for the guys. This new RNLI project has proved to be a good chance to improve the guys skills.

Lets hope the rains stays off for the rest of this week!

Sunday 23 October 2011

RNLI Sea Survival School

This week we are starting to install a 44kWp system on the RNLI's Sea Survival School in Poole, Dorset.
This is the culmination of putting a number of designs together to enable the RNLI to generate as much power during the day to offset importing power to run the famous Sea Survival School, as recently seen on TV channel Dave .
The plant used to regulate and operate the pool, wave machine and other hi tech bad weather simulation for Lifeboat crew training will soon be run using Green power generated from one of our Solar PV systems installed onto the roof.
As the installation progresses, updates will be posted here.

Website Offline

Over the last week or so we have had an interruption to our Website at as the server was hacked to try and redirect people to another website.

While this was very inconvenient, and caused some confusion to quite a few people, everything now appears to be back to normal following work carried out by our server provider, plus we have now moved to a new more secure server.

Thanks to everyone who called and reported the problem, as we were quite oblivious to the problem.

Monday 19 September 2011

Look out for Solar 'Sales' only company's

As heard on Radio 4 today by clicking here for iplayer (only last for 7 days), there are an ever growing number of sales based company's simply out selling 'Free Solar Systems' to customers.

While the whole concept of free solar panels also described on Radio 4, works for some who cannot afford but would like Solar panels to assist in supplementing their daytime electricity use, it does have a seedy side to it!

Most of the Free Solar companies are simply investment groups looking for a fast buck, and are quite happy to let 'sales' companies go and sell systems for them and buy the completed sale from them.

As you can imagine, this practice is bringing the free solar industry into disrepute, and the REAL assurance scheme are about to beef up the rules over this practice in the next few months to stop this practice.

Not only free solar is affected, to a lesser extent some sales only companies have been set up to simply sell the product and then sub contract the work off to a real installer to actually do the work. Obviously, some larger companies like EDF & Tesco who carry out this practice we would hope keep some control over what happens on the actual installation, but the best bet for any potential Solar PV owner is to look for an installer who has a track record and will be accountable, plus now that PV module prices are dropping, payback times are usually only 7 - 8 years.

Monday 29 August 2011

Optimised power use with a PV system. Make more use of your Free to Use power!

One of the side issues of the Feed in Tariff with Solar PV is besides the wonderful 43.3p your system will earn from for each unit generated, you are able to use as much of that generated power as you can at your premises without penalty. However, most dwellings will only use around a third of all the available power generated. Most houses are big power users during hours of darkness with lights, TV, etc, PV generated power not much benefit in this case! Even if you are at home all day and running the washing machine, lawn mower, computer, etc this will only scratch the surface of peak generated power of a standard 4kWp system in the summer.

At customer’s request, we put together a test unit a while back and it’s been running faultlessly on test in a customer’s house for some 6 months or so with great effect. They have not needed to use gas to heat their water all summer, beats getting a Solar Thermal system! It will also be of considerable benefit to people who have had 'free' PV systems, only to find minimal financial gain and will be going through a period of disapointment.

The unit is fairly straightforward, and does require you to have a hot water tank with an immersion heater installed. If you have it does the job for very little outlay. There are intelligent units on the market which do the job far more elegantly, such as the EMMA and the Power Router (which we install), but as you can imagine, the purchase cost of such units are into £1000’s rather than this little control circuit which comes in at under £100 in components, or £180 + VAT to buy complete from us.

Before going any further, I strongly insist this is only assembled and installed by qualified personnel who have the knowledge and capability of recognising safe working with electricity and protection of components and wiring.

The Circuit (click on the image above to get full size)

The live output from your inverter is diverted through a Current Sense unit, which is set for a switch point optimum this application. This Current Sense unit has a built in low current relay, which is used to switch a suitable contactor. I would suggest a 10Amp contactor at the very lowest for the sort of use we are looking at.

You will see from the description below, together with reference to the circuit diagram, the ideal location for the completed unit is adjacent to your consumer unit (fuse box). As both the inverter and your immersion heater will be connected directly to this point, it really does make sense.

You can refer to the circuit/ layout diagram for the following:

1) The mains 230v AC output from the inverter needs to have the live conductor diverted through the current sense unit, but otherwise remains connected as normal.

2) The Current Sense built in relay terminal is supplied by a spare 6A MCB in the consumer unit. This relay will switch the contactor. As well as the 6A MCB, it is advisable to provide a 1A inline fuse to protect the relay and contactor coil adequately.

3) The main relay on the contactor will switch the live output from the water / immersion heater in the Consumer unit. To do this will involve diverting the existing immersion heater wiring to route through this unit. Due to regular switching this circuit will now be cycling through an inductive load, it is recommended you change the 16A MCB to a ‘C’ type 16A MCB to avoid nuisance tripping.

At the hot water tank, you will need to disconnect the immersion heater wiring from the wall switch and fit with a 110v yellow plug. Change the immersion switch to a standard switched socket. Plug a 3kVa 110v builder’s site transformer into the socket, and the newly plugged immersion heater cable into the transformer. That’s it!


Normally, your immersion heater runs at 3kW. To make the most of the free to use electricity available, we need to make the heater use less power. By far the easiest way to do this using standard and cheap to buy parts is by a 110v site transformer, available from screwfix, etc, at around £50 each. Once the transformer is in place, this will limit the power consumption of the immersion heater to around 700W. For a standard 200ltr water tank, we have found the immersion running for most of the day will heat the whole tank to around 50 degrees. This obviously assumes the day is bright and sunny all day of course!

On a unit supplied by us we would set the current switch to around 800W, so will only switch your immersion heater on when the inverter is generating more than 800W, ensuring immersion heater usage is powered by the PV system.

It must be mentioned, that although the Current Switch has a built in hysteresis to avoid relay chatter when passing current is marginally over or under the set point, on a day with patchy cloud you will experience the contactor clicking in and out regularly. This can’t really be avoided on a simple circuit as this, but has not proved to be an issue in the 6 months of operation in our test unit.

In essence, the controller is very basic and I will always welcome suggestions to improve the design.

Sunday 28 August 2011

4kW or not 4kW? That is the system..

Many of you guys may have already encountered the newly enforced grid connected inverter G83/1 requirements recently. In simple terms, all the District Network Operators (DNO's) have finally got together and are now insisting that all installations should completely comply with G83/1 requirements. Click here for ENA guideline document

For the purposes of changes that affect us, this means you can no longer have a Grid connected renewable power system that can export more than 16Amps without special permission. In principle, this has always been the case, however when we first started installing PV some years back the DNO's were quite happy to bend the rules a little to accomodate a possible maximum of 17.4Amps. Now due to the heavier installation rates of PV, and possibly upsetting the balance of local electricity networks, the DNO's have laid out simple rules:

1) If the output of the system will never be more than 16A, install as normal with normal notification when the work is complete.
2) If the output of the system may exceed 16A, then a G83/1 Stage 2 application will need to be carried out. The DNO will carry out a network study to ensure the local network will take this extra power, possibly charging you up to £250 for costs, and will advise if you can indeed install this system. Do not install and connect the system first, or you may be issued with a disconnection notice.

This all sounds pretty harsh, but in practice its not so bad if you can adjust your thinking. One of the main problems until recently has been availability of a good range of 3.6kW inverters to match the UK G83/1 standard. These are now coming on board by all the manufacturers quite quickly. SMA (Sunny Boy) for example are simply de-rating their 4kW range and certifying for the UK.. Easy!

On the other side of the coin, in the UK for the most part a 4kWp system will hardly ever generate 4kW. There will be occasions on a south facing roof in midsummer, when the module temperature will be low enough to maintain efficiency, you will see the meter clock over the 4kW mark, otherwise it will lurk around 3.5kW, in bright sun, obviously less as brightness reduces.
Thus, carry on installing those arrays of 3.98kWp, etc and connect a 3.6kW inverter. That way, you'll still be generating just about the same annually as you would by fitting a 4kW inverter.

While I could ramble on about ideal inverter sizing for a given size of array, the above info kind of covers this in itself, plus re assuring you the new DNO requirements are really not a problem, simply adjust your thinking.

Monday 20 June 2011

MCS approval for Wind & Thermal

After much work, we have now just passed the MCS accreditation for Wind Turbine and Solar Thermal installation.
This now means that as well as our existing Solar PV systems, you will be abl
e to obtain FiT payments from Wind Turbine systems installed by ourselves. MCS approv
al for Solar Thermal installations is a must to be able to obtain the soon-to-be-here
Renewable Heat Incentive.

To go with these new technologies, we have taken on specialists to cover these installation areas, plus of course our guys are getting specialist training to cover these new disciplines.

Renewables are the way forward when new gas heating comes to an end in 2016, and we are prepared for the demand.

Sunday 24 April 2011

National Trust goes Green

The National Trust have been entrusting us with Solar PV projects in the South West as they know the future of the Trust needs to be Green, avoiding use of grid power and driving their carbon footprint down.
This particular project near Dartmouth enabled us to use the steel kitchen roof for system mounting, keeping the system as low profile as possible with respect to the listed building that is nearby.
An ideal system connected directly to the kitchen means that during peak sunshine, the NT will be getting peak customers, thus using most electricity at that time.

If you have any unusual installation requirements, let us know.

Friday 15 April 2011

Sun power for field studies centre

A recent 'Off Grid' solar system we have installed enabling this field classroom to enjoy the benefits of 'mains' electricity at any time.
Low cost systems such as this can be fitted to anywhere without power to provide lights, fridge, etc

Friday 8 April 2011

Working in all weathers!

Looking through some archive photos, I found this along with a few others of the same day.
The guys were working in Dartmoor in the Winter and got caught in a snow shower that often occurs in that area over the dark winter months.

You have to admit this does show some dedication!

Sunday 3 April 2011

Illumininated Turbines

Illumininated Turbines by ChrisRudge
Illumininated Turbines, a photo by ChrisRudge on Flickr.

Almost forgot to mention we had been invited by Good Energy to exhibit with a couple of other local suppliers at the big switch on day of the new Delabole wind turbines in Cornwall.
Good day, a few contacts, nice people, plus Chris Huhne environment secretary, was there to re iterate the Governments intention to limit investors harvesting huge amounts of Government money via field PV systems. Much of this cash just goes straight offshore to foreign investment companies.

Saturday 2 April 2011

A Free Solar PV installation sir?. No thanks!

Over the last year of the Solar PV Feed in Tariff boom, an outcrop of installers set up to install a 'free' solar PV system onto your home or business have appeared.

These guys have been set up by investment companies specifically to harvest Feed in Tariff payments generated by homeowners systems, leaving the occupiers with minimal financial gain of free to use electricity during daylight hours.

Despite claims by some of these companies, the most anyone could realistically hope to get back as free to use electricity is around £150 a year, while the investing company will rake in £1500 a year FiT payments.

It makes sense to pay for your own system to be installed, avoiding issues such as ownership, and legal wrangles when you come to sell your house, etc

See which highlights just how bad this deal is for the homeowner.

New Feed in Tariff rates

From April 1st the now 1 year old Feed in Tariff (FiT) scheme has had the annual inflation review. For this coming year a 4.8% increase will be applied, taking the original 41.3p a generated unit to 43.3p!.

The annual review is based on the previous years perfomance of the Retail Price Index (RPI), and is good news for this coming year.

As an example, a 2.22kWp system could generate around 1950 units a year. Last year, that would have equated to £805. This coming year that will increase to £844... Yay!!

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Devon ground mount solar PV

Just testing the flickr interface with a repeat image.. New stuff coming soon.

Friday 25 March 2011

Ground Mount solar

So, you've not got enough space on the roof, or your house/ outbuilding roof faces the wrong way (ie not South'ish), then why not look at this option of getting a ground mount.

We installed t
his system for a customer who liked the idea of keeping the system below the level of the stone wall that can be seen in the background enabling him to have an unobstructed view from the house.

The system could have
been installed 2 modules high, but this method keeps everything nicely low profile.

Feed in Tariff April update

Great news for people getting the Feed in Tariff from their Renewable Power Systems, Ofgem have announced the annual inflation based review of the Feed in Tariff rates. See HERE for the full table.
For standard under 4kWp systems, the 41.3p a unit rate will be increasing on the 1st April to 43.3p for every generated unit.

See the chart for other rates.