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pv in UK

Discussion in 'Photovoltaics' started by Mary Fisher, Feb 14, 2006.

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  1. Mary Fisher

    Mary Fisher Guest

    Is anyone here from UK?

    I'd like to know your experiences of domestic generation. Please don't refer
    me to CAT, I want personal stories.


  2. I've used PV on a vehicle where it seems to be convenient, effective and
    cost justified, but I wouldn't bother with it at (on grid) home. It's
    just not cost effective yet.

    Cheers, J/.
  3. Mary Fisher

    Mary Fisher Guest

    I recognise your name.
    Well, we use it on one of our caravans.

    What you say isn't your experience, it's your opinion.

  4. Energy21 connection, ?

    Yes, though I suppose the opinion is based on experience.

    Cheers, J/.
  5. Mary Fisher

    Mary Fisher Guest

    No, other ngs.
    So what IS that experience?


  6. Mary Fisher

    Mary Fisher Guest

    I'd be interested - there's no rush (if we live long enough!).
    Thank you, Phil. 20% - or15% - would be useful (we're in Yorkshire).
    Economic considerations are irrelevant, I don't consider payback when I buy
    a bottle of wine, for instance. although our very recently ( two weeks ago)
    installed solar water heater is doing a damn good job already.

    What I'm more interested in is the system itself and reliable sources. The
    language is new to me!

    If you're in East Anglia, don't you have wind power?

    For instance, in UK would we need to have batteries? I can't find any
    reference to them on UK suppliers' words on google.

    Would you rather I mailed you privately?

  7. Well, re PV, we ran a 300W PV array on the Derbyshire Alternative
    Technology Associations mobile exhibition lorry for a few years. Along
    with a few hundred watts of wind turbine which didn't do much during the
    UK summer unless you took it to Orkney, these charged four banks of
    150AH 24 volt battery strings which in turn fed a 25 amp 12 volt buck
    switch mode supply for 'automotive appliances', a 600W sine wave
    inverter for 240VAC audio applications, and a 250W 250VAC squareish wave
    inverter for other stuff. We could run a fairly decent sound stage, and
    even provide useful amounts of lighting for brief periods.

    We provided power for events, festivals etc, as well as taking on an
    awareness raising and technical education remit. We were equally at
    home at Orkney Science week or working as part of the Green Roadshow at
    the Glastonbury Festival.

    When used at weekends only, the PVs had plenty of time to recharge the
    batteries during the weeks, but reserves did get depleted if you spent a
    week or so at a festival in dull conditions, providing power for ad hoc
    use during the day, running a sound stage in the evening and providing
    site lighting at night.

    Although the exhibition work ended about a year ago, we still have the
    PVs, but it doesn't seem worth connecting them for domestic use, so
    we've loaned them to a group in Manchester to use in their educational
    work. Think Generator X are borrowing them now.

    We toyed with the idea of signing up as installers for the Major PV
    Demonstration program, but rejected the idea in the end because there
    seemed to be so little benefit to the consumer that it's bordering on
    the unethical, and there are so many better environmental investments
    they could make. We are fully accredited solar thermal installers
    however. Whatever the merits or otherwise of government intervention in
    the market, this technology does seem to stack up a lot better for
    users, especially as energy prices seem to be set to go on rising. Pay
    back times are still quite long though.

    People do ask us about installing PVs, but in general loose interest
    when we expose them to the maths. I was at a Carbon Trust renewable
    energy training meeting this morning, and none of their consultants
    could take PV seriously. No doubt it has a role on vehicles, boats,
    countries with little grid infrastructure and high insolation etc, and
    it may be massively important in the future in the UK, but in the UK
    right now, with this generation of PV technology, my _opinion_ is that
    where it is installed, it's more of a political statement than a
    sensible investment.

    Of course, it's up to each of us how we invest our resources... It's
    probably a good thing that a few people install PV - 'experiential
    learning in the community' etc, but right now, it's hard to see that
    buying PV is where the public can make the most cost effective
    contribution to environmental improvement, or that it sends the best
    message to rest of society. 'Low hanging fruit' it ain't !

    Cheers, J/.
  8. That can't be true in the long run.

    The fact that I don't have 100kW of PV in my garden reflects the fact
    that economic considerations impose huge restrictions in that

    a) I can't afford that many panels


    b) I can't afford that much garden.

    That hardly means that PV energy delivered per unit cost doesn't matter.

    Unless you just enjoy the sensation of PV ownership of course.

    The question is

    'Why are you wanting to use PV ?'.

    If it's to save the world there are much more cost effective ways to do

    If it's to bask in sense of a statement well made, then carry on...
    But beware how that statement might be interpreted !

    :) Yes, though it'll do a lot better in summer !

    Why would we as we have a grid ?

    Cheers, J/.
  9. Mary Fisher

    Mary Fisher Guest

    That's very interesting, thank you, but what I would have expected - that is
    I wouldn't expect 24/7 generation.
    Why? I'm genuinely interested.
    Can you suggest some, please?
    That's not the prime consideration for our family.
    Our caravan use of pv to charge the leisure battery was because Spouse
    wanted to power a mover because we're getting too weak to push even a 12'
    van up our drive. Having got the battery he then bought an instant, constant
    hot water system which needed power for the pump. We don't use electrical
    power for anything else.
    But that doesn't make it either 100% useless or irrelevant.
    No, but I wouldn't mind being one of the few. The future isn't ours but we
    want to leave as small a footprint as possible.

    Thanks for your patience but you make me want to know more :)

  10. Mary Fisher

    Mary Fisher Guest

    Why not? We're not spring chickens so the long run is irrelevant :)
    I wouldn't want panels in the garden and I realise that our usable roof area
    probably isn't big enough to power all even our modest demands but a
    contribution would be good.
    Are you saying that the unit cost (excluding the capital outlay) is more
    expensive than the grid price?
    I would :)
    One runs out of ways. There's always something else. And my horizon doesn't
    end with pv.
    Oh I'd be prepared for that. The neighbours are used to the crazy Fishers
    who kept bees and now have hens and grow strange vegetables instead of
    pretty flowers, ride bikes and a scooter instead of using a car and now have
    something on their roof they don't like to ask about. And make their own
    shoes and ... well, that's enough.
    Oh I know that - trouble is, we don't use all that much hot water!
    Well, John,this is one of the basic questions because on this ng everyone
    talks about the batteries. All the information I've seen has come from USA
    and batteries are a major factor. Even Spouse, a highly intelligent and
    practical man, has the impression that it would be unsuitable for us because
    you need batteries. I couldn't see why we couldn't alternate or use both
    according to need.

    That's why I asked on this group if anyone had experience of using pv in UK.

    It seems that there are fundamental differences at each side of the
    Atlantic, yet pv does seem to be popular over there.

    By the way, we looked into wind power but don't think that we could put up
    with possible vibration. Our house certainly isn't suitable and the garage
    (workshop)wasn't built with that sort of stress in mind. The neighbours
    certainly would object if we had a 'free standing' mast which they could see
    and complain about.

  11. Indeed.

    But the depressing thing is that on many days even in summer, you might
    only get two or three hours at a respectable fraction of full power.

    Well - it's not that we are short of loads, more a question of how to
    connect them all together.

    The simplest think would be to dump the power into the grid on my side
    of the meter, and while there a G77 synchronous inverters etc on sale,
    most of them are many kW and I only want a few hundred watts. I'm not
    aware of any small ones approved for UK use. It's not that I'm an
    approvals junkie by the way, it's just that as they aren't approved,
    they aren't in the shops. Next time I go to Europe...

    I could use batteries and hook those into my low voltage loads, but that
    requires quite a bit of fiddly electronics if it's to be efficient, but
    while I have the skills, I don't have the time, and there would be costs
    too. Then there is the environmental impact of the batteries...

    Well - the example I use with prospective PV customers goes something
    like this, but it gets tailored to their particular situations.

    Q: So you want to save the planet ?
    A: Oh yes !

    Q: And you are willing to spend £6,000 per installed kWep ?
    A: Oh yes !

    Q: Do you know how much energy you might save by spending
    £600 on loft insulation.
    A: Errr,,, My loft is already insulated !

    (A lot of people who say this none the less have crap loft insulation !)

    Q: OK, but had you thought how much energy / CO2 emission
    you might save by breaking into your neighbours attics and
    insulating those ? (Which might also help alleviate fuel poverty !)

    In short, you can do far more to save the planet for a given spend by
    reducing waste than by buying esoteric technology.

    Now in the end, sustainability requires renewable energy, but it makes
    sense to do the cheap things first, hence while my main enthusiasm is
    for renewable energy, it makes a lot of sense for me to work as a
    consultant to the Carbon Trust on energy conservation when I'm not doing
    RE installation or consultancy. (Two more solar water heating systems
    commissioned this week !)

    Nor ours...

    Well no - but nor does it make it the most sensible technology to

    At these prices it's pretty irrelevant on grid connected sites.

    Nor would I. If I had more PVs I'd probably have done something with
    them at home. As it is they are probably better used in educational
    projects though.

    Agreed, but for a given spend, energy conservation drops your foot print
    a lot more than buying a meagre (but expensive) area of PV !

    That's fine !

    Cheers, J/.
  12. Well, their outliving you doesn't preclude their being a benefit.

    Our roof is a really silly shape, and the flat bits we do have are taken
    up with windows to let the light in and a 30 tube Thermomax evacuated
    tube system.

    Well, it depends what assumptions you make about future energy price
    rises. At current energy prices, even with grants, the pay back time
    for PVs seems to be over 40 years, or over 80 without.

    If energy prices rise 25% year on year, those times will come down by
    about a factor of three, but the design life of pretty much the best PVs
    is only 25 years and the warranty typically about 5 years.

    If you were an accountant, what advice would yo give ?

    I would unless it indicated my inumerate decision making...

    So do the most cost effective things first ?

    Well - it's all good stuff, but you may have reached the point when you
    can benefit the environment more by changing the habits of others rather
    than making disproportionate and risky investment in PV.

    Bound to be if you live off grid...

    Well, consider the energy, chemicals etc that go into batteries -
    manufacture AND disposal. Their use is justified off grid, but what
    advantage do they have over grid connection ?

    It may be down to the size of the off grid community.

    If you are off the grid here PV makes some sense if it means you can
    avoid starting a diesel generator as often.

    Very wise...

    :) Possibly. But have you seen PPG22 ?

    Cheers, J/.
  13. Jim Baber

    Jim Baber Guest

    Jim Baber (USA) replies:
    Mary, there, is no requirement for batteries, unless you are located so
    far from the mains, that you would be charged an exorbitant amount to be
    attached to the grid mains. I have to say that there are a lot of
    individuals that write a lot in these news groups with a personal point
    of view and not even much knowledge that seems to imply a requirement
    for batteries. (I am being polite)

    I wish I knew more about the financial structure for putting a
    photovoltaic solar system in place in Britain. I suspect the panel cost
    are similar to what we see in California, because the prices here are
    driven by the world market (Germany Japan and California being the
    largest markets). I do not know if you have any rebates to offset
    initial costs or perhaps a buyback for power you produce and export to
    the grid. Generally, the high cost of equipment necessitates one or the
    other to make PV Solar economically practical in the USA at this tine.

    We were fortunate enough to be able to qualify for a rebate to offset
    50% of the initial cost and also we received a tax credit of $6,100 on
    subsequent state income taxes. These combined to reduce our out of
    pocket costs from $81,000 to $34,900. In my case our bill the year
    before we installed the 10,000 Watt system we have now was $5,000.
    Simplistically 7 years of saving that $5,000 will amount to a $35,000
    savings to offset our $34,900 investment. A seven year return is not a
    bad return on investment, and there has been several surprises that
    actually improve the picture.

    1. We must have air conditioning because of my health. The panels
    themselves provide enough shade to reduce the attic heat by 5
    degrees without even turning the panels on. This reduced the air
    conditioning load and its power usage.
    2. We obtained a new mortgage to pay for the system. This new
    mortgage started the interest deduction over fresh at the maximum
    income tax deduction allowed on the interest paid on any mortgage
    (declining balance interest payments). This increased deduction
    from our taxable income (both state and federal) is a considerable
    reduction in our actual tax payment.
    3. Partially because of a recent large increase in gas prices (14%)
    our electric power rates went up by 11% on the average, but for a
    heavy user like myself, it would have amounted to a bump from
    $0.29016 to $0.49422 / kWh in the summer during the hot noon to 6
    PM time period.
    4. Because of my solar system, I just take reasonable care to not use
    much power then myself, because the power company gives me $
    credits for all the power I export to the GRID at that ridiculous
    49 cent rate rather than charging me for electricity I import from
    the grid. Guess what time I generate the most power. I generated
    56.2% of all the power we generated year round between noon and 6 PM

    I realize that I said that you don't need batteries. I did, but you
    can consider the grid as if it was a battery. Export your generated
    power onto the grid in the daylight, and then import their power
    whenever you need it (bad weather or at night.) The only thing you have
    to research is what your local utility will allow and how they will
    treat you as far as billing / credit transfers for the your site.

    There are some very interesting things happening in the UK, for one I
    know there is a company that is marketing a combined water heater and
    generator that is really neat. A small motor generator is used to use
    natural gas from your mains to generate 1 kWh of power all the time and
    at the same time it uses the heat form the engine to heat your hot water
    for either heating or your domestic hot water needs. It is quite small,
    quiet, and reasonably priced(?), in a cabinet designed to replace the
    regular water heater.

  14. Hmmm... Can't say I really agree.

    Yes - it mounts up !

    Still takes time though !

    Cheers, J/.
  15. Not sure about that. There is certainly a system on the way that uses a
    free piston stirling engine.

    If it's the one I've seen it's floor standing and fits under a standard
    kitchen work top. Photos available if you're interested.

    If I was changing my boiler I'd give it serious consideration, but I
    understand they are expensive for the 2kW they produce when you happen
    to be running the heating.

    Cheers, J/.
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