Monday 9 December 2013

A first look at the Immersun 2.

After the massive success of their original Immersun unit, 4Eco have finally released the Immersun version 2 after extensive delays due to component shortages.

Many Solar PV owners will be familiar with either the Immersun or the concept of diverting excess power from your PV to heat water rather than simply export onto the grid. This new version has changed in so many ways.

From the picture on the left, you can see the comparison between the original smaller Immersun, and the brand new Immersun 2, being around twice the size!

Once peeking inside the units, (below), the comparison is quite easy to see the beefier power components which indicate early on to us that the whole power control concept has changed.

Originally, the Immersun dumped your excess power into an immersion heater by sending small bursts of 230v in proportion to the amount of excess power available. The system worked, and still does, but proved to be a compromise which could cause power fluctuations on weak grid connections. The design was built to bring a good working product into the marketplace which already had a few basic power diversion units, though it did this very well, the guys at 4Eco soon started work on the version 2 and it's now available to buy.

The new unit clearly makes no apologies for changing technology from the lower cost 'power burst' to gradual and smooth transition of power over to the immersion heater. It looks robust and made for the job. As an added bonus, the Display and control software has been extensively upgraded to provide a far clearer operation, showing you what is excess power is being sent to your immersion heater and more.

On this initial comparison after opening the box, I can see quite why the new unit attracts a higher purchase cost. I understand that for people who want a basic unit at a basic cost, the original Immersun will be available for a time to come, but for those of you looking for some 'at a glance' readability of all those functions, this will be the one to go for.

Next week.. full review of installation and functionality.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Installing a Solar PV Self Use battery system... Shall I??

We have had a few queries about the possibility of installing a 'self use' battery backup system as an add on for solar PV. The text below is a recent blog entry I put together for YouGen, and I've brought it across here to share too.

Self Use systems

To understand why you might want to install a self use system, it is first useful to remind ourselves of the principles of the feed-in tariff scheme.
Feed-in tariff benefits are based on three tiers:

1) Basic FiT payments which get paid for every unit of power generated, whether you use it or not.
2) Export payments which are are currently paid on a 'deemed' basis. Under this tier, 50% of generated power is assumed to have been exported and payouts are made on that principle.
3) Using as much PV generated power within your house without affecting your FiT payments.
Until recently, homeowners have generally seen it as a no-brainer to go for tier three and try to use as much generated power as they could for themselves. For many people, this meant investing in devices such as the ImmerSun and SolariBoost which use the excess electricity to heat water in your cylinder.
However, there is another option which only the well-heeled have been able exploit until recently: storing the excess generated power to be used after the sun has gone down.
Though there have been a number of custom built devices based on existing off grid equipment and specialist contactors, the technology to achieve this goal has only become more widely available in the last couple of years.
How does it work?
For the vast majority of self use systems, the installer will need to split off your high power circuits from your consumer unit and have them operating on grid only. Ideally if the self-use unit runs your lights, central heating boiler and some low current circuits, this will make the best use of your stored power. Simply connecting the incoming power to the consumer unit will potentially rapidly drain the batteries within minutes of sundown as soon as you put the kettle on or have an electric shower. The batteries will need replacing very soon at that rate.
How much space do they take up?
There are an ever increasing array of self-use systems coming onto the market. Some are good, a few look very doubtful! They will need to  have a control box with pure sine inverter and a set of rechargable batteries. This all takes up space. The batteries are heavy and ideally need to be accessible and in a vented location if based on lead acid technology to ensure hydrogen build up cannot occur.
Most of the systems we have installed are in the customer's garage, which is an ideal location. Battery sizing is important as the larger the battery, the more you can store. In addition larger batteries generally have a longer life. Some low-cost self-use units have cheap, low-capacity batteries which will not do the job they promise. 
Which system should I choose?
One of the first units to hit the shelves in the UK was the Nedap Power Router. Made by an established Dutch electronics company, this diversion from their usual automation trade proved successful in Europe a few years back, and is growing in popularity in the UK, especially since their unit costs have come down. The identifiable green housing is a one-box solution, with solar PV inverter, battery charging and monitoring and control circuitry all in one neat housing. On top of this, they have a built in optional internet interface which allows you to be interactive with what your power is doing. Quite apart from the fact that this is a great one for gadget geeks, it was, for some time, the only system available for installers such as ourselves to offer.
To install one of these as a retrofit onto an existing PV system you will have to replace your existing inverter with the power router. Set up is quite straightforward, and it should include web monitoring, to help you get the best out of the system.
The big let down of this unit's design is that your total generation meter, on which that all-important feed-in tariff payment is based, has to be installed on the output, after the power has been stored in the batteries. However, since powr is lost in the charge, storage and power conversion process, you will potentially lose up to 20 per cent of FiT generation payments per year. Not so good if you are relying on these payments to cover an investment. Otherwise, the Power Router can still be seen as a flagship for domestic self use.
The Victron Power Hub is an alternative to the Power Router, and our current favourite. Although it does not have the comprehensive built-in internet interface that allows you to manage and view your usage, the cost is far less and it has real advantages on a retro-fit on an existing PV system.
1) You keep your existing PV inverter.
2) The total generation meter is fitted to record all the solar output ensuring you get paid for all the you've generated.
The Power Hub is simply retrofitted into existing PV systems. You just need space for the unit and a set of batteries. 
Victron only released its official Power Hub early in the summer, and we are getting lots of interest in this lower cost device that offers the same storage options as the Power Router, but without the price tag. As with any battery system, the battery set included will affect both short term and long term performance of your system. Victron systems have a recommended battery set for inverter/ Power Hub size combinations.
Harking back to their off-grid and marine roots, the Power Hub also works well as a backup system, which will switch in within 20ms (milliseconds) during a power cut. This application, which ensures your battery system only runs essential services such as lights and the boiler, is ideal as it will keep your house alight for hours when everyone else is in darkness. If your house is in a remote rural location with a weak grid connection, this unit really is the one for you as it will provide energy security with the self use option as well.
There are also a few other emerging self use devices coming onto the market. I've not actually seen any yet, but having heard from customers who tell us that their device's batteries are low capacity or, in one case, the subject of misleading national newspaper advertising, it becomes apparent that it really is crucial to do your research before
committing. We were approached recently to see if we wanted to attend product training on one device, but after some probing we found the training was simply how to sell it rather than technical specifying. Already it seems that the rogue traders whom we thought had gone from renewables have come back with a new angle.
If you are interested in getting a self-use system installed, and indeed there are a few good reasons why you should, make sure you make contact with an established local installer. Just as with any other product, going with the first cold call offer or with a company who approaches you while you're out shopping will never get you the best system, or indeed the best price. Make sure you get a few quotes before committing.
Currently, due to battery costs, the installations are not cheap and the financial payback will be long. However, we do have one customer who pays £15 a month for electricity, which gives him a cosy feeling of energy security as power prices continue to rise.

Friday 12 July 2013

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive has finally arrived!

Today (Friday July 12th 2013), the Dept for Energy & Climate Change has released firm figures for the  Domestic RHI, which scheduled to start in March 2014.

This is a major step as an incentive to change over to Renewable Heat from fossil fuels, especially Oil and LPG which are traditionally the only fuels available to the rural community, costing twice as much as mains gas.

Technologies and tariff levels included in the announcement are:

Biomass: 12.2p per kWh
Air Source Heat Pumps: 7.3p per kWh
Ground Source Heat Pumps: 18.8p per kWh
Solar Thermal: 19.2p per kWh

Payments will be made quarterly over a period of seven years. The rates are based on a 20 year generation of the installed equipment, which is why the kWh rates are much higher than expected.. You'll get 20 years worth of payments crammed into a 7 year period.

Obviously this incentive is designed to get people converting over to Renewables if their property is suitable.
The rates are really good, and taking Biomass as one example, a standard 4 bedroom house with a 14kW pellet boiler could typically use around 9130 units annually, which will earn £1113.86 every year and £7800 over the whole 7 year period!

Bearing in mind that typically converting an oil based heating system over to Biomass (14kW) can be around £4000, combined with the far lower fuel costs, being Green is a marvellous way to heat your home.

Obviously, the same story applies to other technologies listed.

Currently available, to help you in the change over, is a Renewable Heat Pre Payment. This voucher scheme goes hand in hand with the RHI, and releases a sum of money from the RHI to be earned.

For more details on the announcement Click HERE

Friday 29 March 2013

Its Official!.. We're now a Green Deal Installer

We are now an official Green Deal Installer. This means our survey, quotation, installation and certification systems have been upgraded to comply with requirements for the Governments new Green Deal incentive.

The Green Deal has been designed to enable people to have the cost of insulation, renewable energy and other energy saving products installed on their homes with long term finance attached to the electricity bill in affordable payments.

With the power prices soon to start ramping up, this scheme has been launched to enable people to bring their energy bills down as much as possible. Energy costs that are just about affordable now could soon be too high to be easily affordable.

For more information on the Green Deal and how to get a free assessment and Green Deal Providers, go to

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Another Big Step Closer to the RHI for domestic premises

Today, the website released a statement from Greg Barker and Ed Davey, which amongst some very interesting items, the following quotes appeared:

"RHPP extension: The Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme is being extended until the end of March 2014, ahead of the launch of the RHI for householders. This scheme, first launched in July 2011, offers money off the cost of renewable heating kit such as biomass boilers, solar thermal panels and heat pumps and is largely targeted at those living off the gas grid. The scheme was due to close at the end of March this year" 

This is good news, as the next quote definately says the Domestic RHI is starting in March 2014, with the rates being announced this Summer....

"RHI for householders: Following on from the consultation on scheme design in September last year, the Government will confirm how a RHI for householders will work and publish the tariff levels in Summer 2013. It is expected that the scheme will be up and running for householders in Spring 2014. Research on householder views on renewable heat has also been published today, which will help inform the design of the RHI scheme."

More updates on this as the next few days go by. But the good news is that although the rate announcement has been moved on a bit in time, it has been confirmed to actually be happening.

For the full document, see:

Saturday 9 March 2013

Duty to be imposed on Chinese Solar PV modules in June 2013

Announced this week by the EU are measures for combatting alleged 'dumping' by Chinese Solar PV manufacturers of products at cost or below price to force European manufacturers into decline.

Certainly, as an installer, this false module pricing has enabled us to offer a 4kWp system for around £5k, using these good quality modules, which we urge people to take advantage of soon.

It is proposed a Duty of 10% or more will be levied on all Chinese Solar PV modules being imported into Europe, and this Duty may well be backdated to 6th March when enforced, which will cause financial hardship to importers later this year. Examples of probable Chinese manufacturers hit by this Duty will be Suntech, Canadian Solar, Yingli, Trina and many more.

In the USA, a similar Duty has been imposed for some time, which has reduced use of Chinese PV modules by as much as 80%.

We find that good quality European based modules, which we currently use for our high end premium systems for maximum annual power generation, cost not much more per watt, but adds up to being substantially higher installed cost. Though the long term power generation will is a far better benefit, which can be seen on the latest Photon independant test, which shows Euro manufacturers having a better annual generation, we are finding people are currently going for the lowest cost.

Resource: Reuters

Friday 8 March 2013

Suntech presentation filmed at Ecobuild

Another few days at this years National Ecobuild trade show at the Excel, Docklands, London has proved again to give us some inspiration for new directions in Renewables.
Although the trade stand attendance was down by some 30%, the quality of the attendees was quite impressive, with many new products and innovations on display.

As well as all this I was presented with an iPad from Suntech in recognition of the amount of modules we have been ordering and installing during the normally quiet month of January. This was quite an achievement for us and I must compliment our guys for being out in all weathers to achieve the rapid installation turnaround for our customers, who are already reaping the benefits of saved power and FiT generation.

The presentation was filmed by Suntech Europe and anticipate it will pop up on the internet some time in the future.

We are working on some exciting new projects for the new Solar PV year, and exploring new avenues for Renewable heating in preperation for the Domestic RHI. More news on that as it occurs.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Solar Feed in Tariff rate confirmed into the Summer

This weeks OFGEM update of Feed in Tariff rates seems to be splitting the two basic industry PV installer disciplines wider apart.

While on one hand Domestic, Industrial and Agricultural aspect have remained unchanged and look like we will have a Summer ofcontinued fixed rate of FiT which allows us to talk to the customer with some confidence of rates they will be paid while they organise planning or finance. Huge stand alone field systems that have been proliferating across the country however will be hit.

At the end of March 2013, any system being installed under the ROC's scheme will see the rate cut from 2 ROC's per 1MW of generation to 1.5 ROC's.. To keep this trend going, dissuading investment companies making too much money from these large scale PV programs, after May 2013 any stand alone system under FiT over 100kWp will drop from 7.1p a unit to 6.85p.

The industry see this as a clear indication by the Government to put off investment in large scale stand alone PV systems, as in many quarters they are simply seen as being installed for cash generation rather than any thought of power offsetting, which will be the case on most building mounted systems. Also as many large scale stand alone systems are funded by offshore companies, the continued flow of UK funded cash out the country, there is probably a stand against this continuing.

Large schemes either building mounted or free standing that will connect into either a large domestic or commercial supply and will assist with lowering their carbon footprint are still being encouraged, as the Governments stance is still to keep PV to assist with exisitng supplies.

Thursday 21 February 2013

OFGEM confirm big energy price increases over next couple of years

Extensively publicised yesterday (20th Feb), the outgoing OFGEM chief Alistair Buchanan has warned that the UK's existing fleet of power stations are right at the start of a process for decommissioning dirty coal powered power stations.
The two viable alternatives Gas and Nuclear, (renewables have been conveniently ignored), have their own set of problems. Gas is no longer the plentiful and cheap fuel of a few years ago, and the UK is now forced to keep negotiating to purchase Gas from other nations who still have a supply available for sale. The purchase cost of Gas will rise extremely rapidly over the next few years, meaning a knock on effect that electricity costs are going to rise rapidly.
Government Nuclear subsidies got pulled in 2010, but these are set to be put back in place again, as the original Nuclear operating companies, such as EDF, shelved plans for projects such as Hinckley Point after these subsidies were withdrawn. The Government have now taken a U turn and have re-instated those Nuclear subsidies in an attempt to get 'low carbon' generation kickstarted. Obviously building a Nuclear power station takes some 5 years or more, so that option is some time off.
Do it yourself!
As we will have noticed, Government tax breaks, subsidies and concessions have been continuing for Oil and Gas generation, though have been dramatically cut for Renewable technologies, however on a small scale you are possibly able to help yourself against these huge rises.
Essential will be insulating your house and business as much as possible. The easy one is more loft insulation, still being sold very inexpensively at DIY outlets. Even if you have loft insulation, putting more on top will make the house less likely to lose heat through the roof.
Solar PV systems have suddenly turned around almost overnight from being investors 'money making machines' to the saviour to avoid huge power bills. Currently, the Feed in Tariff is still going strong and with a domestic 4kWp PV system costing an all time low of around £5000, from Rudge Renewables if you have the space available, its a no brainer to use a Solar PV system in conjunction with energy saving measures to reduce your power bills right down to a fraction of what you are paying now.
The emerging Green Deal could help immensly to finance all sorts of energy saving solutions on the home if money is tight. However, with massive 7.5% interest and admin rates, if you can afford to pay for it yourself or obtain conventional lower interest finance, you will be able to be more flexible without having to endure Government backed assessors surveying your home. Either way, carrying out energy saving measures will save you a big chunk of money in the couple of years to come.
Independant Newspaper OFGEM report
Scottish Herald report
BBC News report
Energy Savings Trust for energy savings guidance

Monday 21 January 2013

Richard is the Wilo competition winner!

Wilo, the famous German pump manufacturer in conjunction with giving away their promotional backpacks were last year running a competition to get a backpack photographed in the best location.
Our marketing guy, Richard Fuell took his backpack all the way to China for a holiday. His winning shot of the Wilo backpack on the Great Wall of China inspired the judges to offer him the main prize of a mountain bike.
As you can see, he's extremely excited about the win, and now plans to make use of the extensive cycle paths from our new offices into Exeter and avoid the traffic.

Thanks to Wilo for coming all the way down to hand over the prize bike to Richard. We promise to use more of your bore hole pumps for Off Grid projects this year!

Wednesday 16 January 2013

We've moved .. well sort of!

At the end of December, we moved our main office premises to a super new location of The Old School, Clyst Honiton, EX5 2LZ.

This prestigious location and historic building is right in the middle of the new development action in Exeter, being a few minutes walk from the airport, 2 minutes from the M5, 30 seconds from the A30, not to mention the close proximity of the new Science Park, Sky Park and Cranbrook developments only minutes away.

While we are still settling in, there are still boxes to unpack, we are now fully running with better phone and network systems.

More updates in the coming weeks. In the meantime we are going full steam ahead with installing Biomass and Solar Thermal systems for the Totnes Transition Town energy project, providing people in fuel poverty less expensive heating.