Posts tagged with: UK

We have teamed up with one of the UK’s leading Photo Voltaic installer and Distributor to enable us to offer you this amazing Solar Investment.

This company is enabling UK investors to take advantage of a new opportunity unlike anything previously accessible, which will appeal to individual investors, savers, businesses and financial institutions alike

You can now purchase an investment-grade, high-yield Solar Power System (SPS) along with the UK Government-guaranteed right to income from the energy it produces.

How much does it cost?

A single payment of £16000 (plus VAT at 5%) gives you ownership and the rights to any income generated by the SPS for up to 25 years. If you choose to retain ownership for the full term, the payments you receive would repay your capital outlay and produce an additional average return of 7%.

What Is The Return?

Through the SPS, investors and savers can gain a guaranteed income for 25 years which is index-linked and will provide an average return of 7% per annum, by taking advantage of the government’s Feed-in Tariff Scheme (FITS) scheme, also known as the Clean Energy Cash Back scheme, which came into effect on 1st April 2010.

Click Here For More Information

When thinking about renewable electricity for your home, two options spring to mind; photovoltaic panels and small wind turbines. But which one should you choose? The government has introduced a feed-in-tariff that pays a subsidized amount for the electricity they produce and the amount paid for small wind turbines is similar to that paid for small PV systems (34p/kWh compared to 41p/kWh).

The key criteria to deciding which technology will be the most profitable is the cost of producing a unit of energy from each one. For this you need to factor in the up front costs such as equipment and installation, and then look at how much energy they will produce once out there over an average year. Without going too heavily into numbers my argument is that in some instances, micro-wind turbines will have a lower cost of energy than solar panels, but for the majority of cases solar panels will be better and this can be explained by some basic science.

Without a doubt, on a large scale, wind energy is cheaper than solar. The cost of energy from large-scale wind farms is somewhere around 10p/kWh whereas the cost of energy from large-scale solar is three to four times greater at present. Big wind turbines are now very well designed products and many years of industry development means that the costs have fallen dramatically and continue to do so. Big solar farms are also rapidly reducing in cost and make a lot of sense in some locations, particularly in the many regions where wind farms are not suitable, but for now they do not compete.

On the small scale however, the economics are drastically different. As the size of a solar installation decreases, the performance falls linearly with the amount of area used, and therefore the cost of energy does not change so dramatically. In contrast, as wind turbines get smaller their performance gets disproportionately worse. This is for two mains reasons:

The first reason is that as the turbine blade length gets shorter, the ‘swept-area’ decreases quadratically. This means that if you decrease the length of a blade from 80 meters to 40 meters, the area covered by the blade decreases from 20 thousand square meters to just 5 thousand. The ‘swept-area’ determines how much wind energy the turbine can use. So when you decrease the blade length you still need all the expensive moving parts like the generator, but you get disproportionally less energy – for one big wind turbine you would need thousands of smaller ones to cover the same area. The second reason is that where you use micro-wind turbines the wind speed is generally slower. This is because most of us live in built up areas where there are other buildings nearby. These buildings disrupt the wind, making it irregular and slow. Wind speed is crucial to the effectiveness of a wind turbine, again because the energy contained in the wind is disproportional to its speed. If the wind speed drops by a factor of 2, the energy produced by a wind turbine decreases by a factor of 4. Comparing most built up areas, the average wind speed is much lower than half the wind speed found high-up in open spaces where you find most wind farms.

These two factors combine to mean that for most homeowners solar panels are the most sensible and safest option. Of course, if you live near an open space and get a lot of wind then a micro-wind turbine could be a great investment. However, if you do live near a windy open space, I would suggest trying to build as big a wind turbine as possible, as their cost effectiveness increases dramatically with size.

The UK feed-in-tariff announcement has generated a lot of interest in solar energy for homeowners. But what of the interest for organisations such as farms, businesses or local communities?

Some in the press have criticised the government’s proposed feed in tariff plans because they do not offer specific incentives to businesses as well as private individuals.

I would argue that the feed in tariff as it stands applies equally well to enterprises as it does homeowners. Businesses are often able to think longer term about investments. The incentives for installations above 50kW are still attractive for commercial roofspaces, especially if businesses use the electricity they generate for themselves, meaning that installing solar would be a prudent investment to have on a balance sheet. That is not to mention the kudos that comes with being a net exporter of green electricity.

In Germany the commercial rooftop segment of the market is the largest by volume, and with a feed in tariff pricing that now looks rather similar to the UK’s. We may therefore expect that companies start to explore using their roof space for PV. In fact if they haven’t thought of it yet, someone else will soon be approaching them with an offer.

That’s not to say the governments plans are flawless however. The UK is still pitifully behind the rest of Europe when it comes to renewable energy generation and particularly microgeneration.

Still lurking in government policy the ridiculously low target of 2 percent of energy coming from microgeneration by 2020. This is incomprehensible given that Germany is already at 4 percent from solar and other countries like Denmark with biomass gain nearly 40 percent from microgen. Surely this target must be revised!

Speaking as a professional in the global solar industry, the new UK feed in tariff has put us on the radar (a bit). Rather than smirking when I mention the potential for solar in the UK, my colleagues are now starting to take some interest…

If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that comment I’d be a rich man. That’s not to say it’s a dumb question though, it’s a perfectly reasonable question – it’s clearly sunnier in the south of Spain than in Blackpool. The question is by how much and does it matter?

At any given moment its not easy to predict how it’s going to be, but over the course of the year, the overall sunniness level can be accurately measured and predicted. This value is called the irradiation and can be defined as the amount of energy hitting a 1 square metre area pointed towards the sun over a whole year. In the south of England, according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Center, we get 1100 – 1200 kWh of irradiation per year (a kilowatt hour, kWh, is a typical unit of energy). In Devon and Cornwall you get between 1200-1300 kWh per year and in the North of England and Scotland its 1000-1000 kWh. In contrast, Barcelona gets 1700-1800 kWh of irradiation per year and in the very south of Spain and Italy it can get up to over 2000 kWh per year. So comparing London to Barcelona that’s 50% more irradiation for the Catalonians, which is significant but doesn’t mean we should give up hope for solar energy in the UK.

There are some other factors to consider here; irradiation doesn’t correspond exactly to the amount of solar energy you get out of a PV system. The best solar panels on the market today are only around 18% efficient under good conditions. At high temperatures for example, solar panels become less efficient. If the temperature of the solar panels increases by 20oC, they will only produce around 90% of the energy they would at room temperature. This means that on a clear but cold day in London, solar panels could produce more energy than a hot and sunny day in Spain.

Another factor is the difference between clear days and cloudy days. In the UK we get a lot of cloudy weather which blocks the sun and leads to ‘diffuse’ sunlight (meaning from all directions) rather than ‘direct’ sunlight. The four sunniest months of the year in the UK (May-August) deliver 5 times as much solar energy as the four winter months of the year (Nov-Feb). Solar panels can still turn diffuse light into electricity though, and there is evidence to suggest that some types of solar panels are better at collecting it that others. This means we may be able to improve the difference between London and Barcelona by using different technologies.

Despite these factors though, solar panels in Spain will of course still produce more energy than solar panels in the UK, which makes energy from solar cheaper in Spain than over here. But in some ways what happens in Spain is irrelevant, the question that really matters is whether solar energy makes sense or not in the UK.

I would say it does. With the feed-in-tariff, installing solar panels in the UK instantly becomes a highly profitable exercise yielding significantly better returns than most savings accounts (discussed in a previous article). Much of Germany, where over half the world’s solar panels were installed in 2009, is on the same latitude as the UK (northern Germany is in-line with Newcastle). So if it works over there, it should work over here.
The second point is that prices of solar energy systems are falling and electricity prices are due to rise, leading to so called ‘grid parity’ – the point at which solar electricity costs the same as regular electricity and can flourish without government support.

Because Spain is sunnier, grid parity is expected to happen there sooner than here (some claim it may have already happened in certain cases). Several predictions indicate however (in particular those from the EPIA – European Photovoltaic Industry Association), that we can expect grid parity in the UK as early as 2013 or 2014. In just a few years solar energy will be competing on real terms with retail electricity prices, hardly a waste of time in my opinion.

So the next time someone greets you with incredulity at the prospect of using solar panels in the UK, you at least have some numbers to back yourself up…