Solar-powered business park a UK first

January 31, 2012 by Tania Pickstone  
Filed under Technology

The Howbery Business Park in Wallingford, Oxfordshire is claiming to be the UK’s first solar-powered business park. Powered by a ground-mounted solar array consisting of 3,000 solar panels, the site was connected to the National Grid today.

The installation is 748kWp in size and was developed by HR Wallingford and Lightsource Renewable Energy. It is one of the first large scale ground-mounted systems of its kind to be connected to the National Grid under the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme. It is expected to generate more than 682MWh of clean electricity annually.

Solar photovoltaic panels will provide the power for more than 25% of the site, allowing them to cut their CO2 emissions by over 350 tonnes a year. Octopus Investments and a local private investor named Andrew Troup provided financial backing, whilst construction, engineering and procurement were handled by Solarcentury – a company with experience building similar parks in Europe.

According to John Ormston, Chief Executive at HR Wallingford, Howberry Business Park has always had a green approach. He said “with two highly sustainable, BREEAM Excellent rated office buildings and an operational Green Travel Plan, we are committed to leading the way in renewable energy and are proud to be showcasing the UK’s first solar business park.” It will join a small community of business parks in the UK where tenants are able to get electricity directly from a solar array.

With the Government proposing to make substantial cuts to the feed-in tariff scheme, supporters of this project are eager to hold it up as an example of the potential of solar power as a key component of a cleaner energy future. Solar is the fastest-growing energy technology in the world, and it would clearly be a mistake to dismiss its importance as we confront the challenges that will define the future of life on Earth.

Find out more about solar PV installation for your home, and speak to free solar panel installers today.


UK commercial solar industry could be brought to its knees

December 22, 2011 by Tania Pickstone  
Filed under Environment

The so-called feed-in tariff currently provides a significant incentive for large scale solar projects, but the Government is planning to cut this drastically as part of its spending review.

In response to the Government’s proposed 70% cuts to feed-in tariff rates for large scale solar projects, consultancy firm Ernst & young have published a report entitled the UK Solar PV Industry Outlook. The report concludes that the cuts are avoidable, and that the commercial viability of big solar projects could have been protected.

The feed-in tariff is set to be lowered radically for any systems over 50 kilowatts, with systems over 250 kilowatts set to receive just 8.5p per kilowatt hour. Ernst & Young’s report shows that cuts to the tariff will decimate the UK solar industry, and dismissed the effectiveness of the Renewables Obligation (an alternative scheme).

The report recommends that, for installations generating between 50kW and 5MW, a slightly increased feed-in tariff rate of between 20p and 24p would allow plans for large solar farms and community projects to proceed. The report also shows that, if the UK went ahead with a net metering scheme, rates of 16p to 21p per kilowatt hour would be sufficient. That would mean that solar electricity would be sold to the grid at its true wholesale value, instead of at a price significantly below the retail rate.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has called for improved transparency in the Government’s decision-making process, which has been criticised for failing to use up-to-date cost inputs, and not taking a full assessment of benefits or fully considering strategic and practical issues. The solar industry could collapse if the 70% cuts go ahead, so Ernst & Young’s report is certainly a welcome contribution to the debate. Whether it’s too little, too late, will soon become clear.

The Government is planning on cutting feed in tariff rates for domestic users, so you can still benefit from free solar panel installation.


UK solar industry set for legal battle with Government

December 14, 2011 by Tania Pickstone  
Filed under Environment

Last week, the Government announced that after a hasty consultation on feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy, it has decided to cut subsidies for large-scale solar power installations. Ministers hope this will free up funds for homeowners to install their own solar panels for micro-generation.

The renewable energy industry and environmental campaigners have disparaged the Government’s reforms, claiming that the cuts will sabotage community schemes being planned by hospitals, schools and housing associations, and that the overall market penetration of renewable energy will be hindered.

“Crushing solar makes zero economic sense for UK plc because it will lose us major manufacturing opportunities, jobs and global competitiveness,” according to Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association. He added that the move risks limiting cheap energy options in the future and expressed disbelief at the Treasury’s ignorance of the bigger picture.

The government wants to build “a more decentralised energy economy,” according to Greg Barker, minister for energy and climate change. However, the reforms to feed-in tariffs that were only introduced in April 2010 have been widely condemned. There is also a further review due next year, propagating a sense of uncertainty that may well discourage investors and put manufacturing jobs at risk. Against this background, a group of solar companies have joined forces in order to challenge the Government in the High Court.

The Department of Energy has been quick in its efforts to assuage the concerns of the solar industry, with reports emerging that it has been making plans to stimulate large solar farms through the Renewable Obligation project – another environmental subsidy scheme which encourages energy companies to purchase more solar-generated electricity. The size of the subsidy to large-scale projects will be announced in the autumn, with new tariffs expected to come into effect in 2013. However, Howards Johns at the Solar Trade Association has cast doubt on whether the industry can even survive that long in present conditions.

You can generate your own electricity with solar PV installation. This is a fast-growing industry, making it the perfect time to invest in solar panels.


How you can Save Money by Installing Solar Panels

November 9, 2011 by Tania Pickstone  
Filed under Environment

Solar panels take the energy from the sun, and convert it into electricity. There is a lot of worry about whether it is worth it to install solar panels, like whether or not it costs too much to install, or whether they produce enough energy to make it a good investment. What follows is a look at the cost of installation and also the amount of time it takes for them to pay for themselves.

There is a developing market for solar panels, and as a result they are getting cheaper and easier to get a hold of; right not, however, they cost around 3,000 to 20,000 to install, depending on the area of coverage and the location. They do, however, last a long time, around 90% of them lasting 30 years at the moment, and with technology improving all the time this figure can only go up.

Unfortunately, at the moment, it is not the most cost effective option. Once you have grid-parity (which is the point at which solar energy is at least as cheap as grid energy) then it can still be up to ten years before you actually start benefiting from you investment. Though obviously this depends on how much you spent to have them installed, as some of the more expensive installations may not actually pay for themselves before they stop working.

If you are desperately looking for ways to reduce your monthly domestic costs, then, it might be more beneficial for you to look into other ways of doing this. Insulation is a popular option, and for a good reason for it can pay for itself in just 3 years. Cavity insulation and loft insulation are good options.

However, if you already have a well insulated house, and you are still looking for ways to reduce your bills, then investing in solar panels might be a good idea. Though it may not pay for itself in energy bills for a while, it will certainly add to the value of your house, and as the technology gets better, installing newer models of solar panel will be easier.

Find out more about solar PV installation and solar investment.


Flying on Solar Energy

November 6, 2011 by Tania Pickstone  
Filed under Environment

In the last year a plane has been flown from Switzerland to Belgium powered entirely by the sun, making it the first solar powered international flight. Solar Impulse, a Swiss technical institute, was responsible, and they did it to show that international flying does not necessarily have to impact the environment negatively. The wings, covered in solar panels, gave the plane enough power to carry on flying through the night, without the sun to charge them.

Despite having nearly the same wingspan as some of the commercial planes, because it needs the room for all the solar panels, it saved on weight by having a very small body. This means that it is a long way off until commercial passenger flights are powered by the sun because clearly a lot more weight will need to be carried to account for the amount of passengers.

We have done well over the past few decades, however. The first solar powered man carrying aircraft was built in 1979 by Larry Mauro, inspired by the technology of the Easy Rider biplane hang glider. The solar panels produced 350 watts at 30 volts which charged a Hughes 500 helicopter battery which was used to turn an electric motor. It was capable of powering the engine for only up to five minutes after charging for an hour and a half, giving it just enough power to get to a height from which it could glide the rest of its journey.

11 years later, the Sunseeker flew across the entire United States of America successfully. There was a striking resemblance between the Sunseeker and the more recent solar aircraft – the design was based on a large wingspan, with solar panels on the wings. The one major difference, however was that flying after the sun went down wasn’t possible.

The technology has come along fast, then, for the milestone of being able to fly once the sun has gone down has been reached. Before this in any way helps humanities impact on climate change, however, we need it to be able to carry the weight of a lot of people.

Find out about getting PV solar panels installed, and get information on renewable energy investment.