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It's a bit of a sun trap: installing a 10kW domestic solar PV system

Posted by Andy Barrowcliffe on 25 July 2012 at 9:54 am

Last summer, I was having a BBQ in my back garden when one of the guests commented that the garden was a 'bit of a sun trap'. I knew this already from time spent outside, but it triggered a thought about installing solar PV.  

I had recently picked up an electric car as part of a 12 month trial and thought that solar power could provide the ideal fuel with minimal impact on the environment. Doing my bit for the environment, and having a good long-term investment, against a backdrop of rising energy prices, helped me decide to install a PV system.

Planning the system was more difficult than I had imagined. I have quite a large roof and began to research the 'best fit' to utilise the available space. After a few hours of internet searching I came across the Sunpower 327W panel that was awaiting accreditation under the MCS scheme. This promised to be a very efficient option. So far so good I thought.

First hitch: finding a suitable installer. Having done my bit of research and knowing what I wanted, I thought it would be a straightforward task to arrange an installation. Unfortunately this was not the case, and I was told in no uncertain terms by a number of installers that the biggest system I could have was 4kW, and to forget about anything bigger! Also, I apparently 'didn’t want the Sunpower panels and was much better suited to a cheaper alternative'. 

Solution: JoJu Solar.  I was advised to give JoJu a call by a contact I had through the electric car scheme. I explained that I wanted a 10kW system to which I was told okay. I then said that I wanted the Sunpower panels to which I was told okay. JoJu explained that they would have no problems acquiring the panels following accreditation and that all that would need to happen was an application for a G59 [connection to the grid] instead of a G83 to be completed due to the 10KW system.

Assuming the local electricity supplier was happy, I would also be able to supply the grid on a single phase thereby avoiding the need for a 3-phase supply installation. I was reassured that they would take care of all of that and I could relax.

I therefore asked JoJu to measure up and they came round to take a look. Thy undertook a thorough site inspection and submitted a quote. I agreed to the quote and the system was installed without a hitch and to the exact time-scale advised.

The local electricity supplier was also happy for me to feed a single phase, thus avoiding a 3-phase installation.  JoJu provided a cracking, extremely professional, friendly service and I could not recommend them highly enough.

Since the panels have been installed (30 x 327w Sunpower with x2 Eltek Valere 4.4 inverters), they have performed above and beyond what was expected. So far, they have produced an extra 750 units of electricity (in addition to the predicted output) and even though the midlands received 50% of the normal sunlight hours for June, the system was only down by around 8%.

This concerned the electricity company that supply my feed-in tariff, as they wrote to me stating that I was producing too much power in regards to the system size (that felt nice). I invited them round to take a look but they declined. Currently I am enjoying using no electricity whilst the sun shines and a nice tax-free payment every 3 months.  

E.ON energy also calculate that I have saved around 12,000 miles worth of C02 in a standard car and considering that I have probably exported around 75% of electricity produced, that would equate to around 48,000 miles of  saved C02 production.

In summary:  Even though FIT payments have reduced, I feel solar PV  still offers a good return and a huge saving regarding rising energy costs.  

From experience, ensure that you have done your research regarding what suits you and take your time to pick the right accredited installer. JoJu provided an excellent service and although I did eventually find another company that could provide a system for a slightly cheaper price, I stuck with JoJu as I felt they provided the whole package regarding a 25 year+ investment.

Installers who want to demonstrate that they listen to their customers, and give good service, click here to find out how you can benefit from YouGen membership

Home and business owners: click here to find a local recommended installer

About the author: Andy Barrowcliffe is a self employed physiotherapist from Coventry

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

10 comments - read them below or add one

Andy Barrowcliffe

Andy Barrowcliffe from Comment left on: 25 October 2013 at 9:06 am

Hi Julia,

When I had my system installed, I had to apply to the local DNO via a G83 application.  If you have done this, I suspect that you have been given the correct advice, although no doubt one of the professional installers will be able to advise further.  I am on target to produce around 9000 units this year, so a 10Kw system is a good investment although I agree that 30k on top of the install is a bit unrealistic.

 

All the best, Andy.

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juliaa

juliaaComment left on: 25 October 2013 at 8:31 am

We have just been told we need to pay £30,000 to upgrade to 3 phase to have a 10kw system. Really disappointed as that is twice the cost of the system to install so clearly we are back to a 4kw array. They say it is because we are the only house served by a 460m electricity cable and it can't take the extra load. Is this true?

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 October 2013 at 8:11 am

Hi Julia - how the district network operators deal with cases like yours varies considerably from place to place and between operators - as you'll see from this blog.

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Andy 10K

Andy 10KComment left on: 26 July 2012 at 3:42 pm

I can obviously only speak from personal experience.  As I mentioned in the blog, I think the important thing to do is check out the credentials of the installer.  I was impressed with JoJu as they were able to give me sound advice that I new to be accurate from research already undertaken.  There was no 'hard sell' and in fact they gave me the lowest prediction regarding probable returns.  If you take a look at the JoJu site, you will also see that the employees are generally graduates with a specific interest and enthusiasm for renewable energy.  No doubt there are a number of installers as good as JoJu but my recommendation would be to give them a call as part of the quote process.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 26 July 2012 at 3:01 pm

utility-exchange - one of the key reasons I set up YouGen was to help people differentiate between installers. Our thinking reflects Andy's quite closely.

1. Give people well researched information, so they approach installers as informed consumers.

2. Encourage installers to ask for customer feedback to help people find trustworthy companies. The kind of installers who become YouGen members are the ones that generally get a lot of business through word of mouth, as they listen to what their customers want, and take care to do a good job. The installer he used is one of our members and has a lot of positive feedback.

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utility-exchange

utility-exchangeComment left on: 26 July 2012 at 2:58 pm

Really interesting but quite worrying that installers can give different advice. How do you know if the one you are speaking to is giving you the correct information?

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muymalestado

muymalestadoComment left on: 26 July 2012 at 12:25 pm

It will be interesting to hear how the perceived 'overgeneration' works out.

Is the calculating database wrong?  Will they try to install a 'slower' meter?

Glad you found an installer and DNO who gave you the service you wanted.  We also can only compliment the crew who installed here (3.89kW, Cairngorm Windows of Inverness).  Can't compliment the weather!

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Aldous Everard

Aldous Everard from Comment left on: 26 July 2012 at 12:22 pm

At a time when the margins are rapidly being shaved from the FiTS with solar PV installations, it is more important than ever to know how much you will get back if you get a system installed.

If you are considering installing PV and want to know how much your system is likely to generate, then you can look to see how other systems are performing in your area and around the UK with the Microgen Database.

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Andy 10K

Andy 10KComment left on: 25 July 2012 at 2:37 pm

Thanks for the reply.  I have to say that my DNO had no concerns approving the 10KW install and it did not cost me a penny.  

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NES Roofing and Energy Limited

NES Roofing and Energy LimitedComment left on: 25 July 2012 at 2:27 pm

Hi Andrew,

It is not surprising that many installers were telling you that 4kWp was the maximum you could have. Upon visiting clients myself, I have noticed that this seems to be what many companies are telling customers. Whether this seems to be because of the drop in the FiT after reaching the 4kWh mark, I am not sure. However, I believe it is simply because many companies do not know how to deal with the local DNO regarding G59 and for the fact that many DNOs do not like to give the approval, and if they do, there is generally a high cost involving it.

We had the possibility of intalling a 30kWp system on a business in Manchester, however, the DNO said a new sub-station would be required to deal with the added load, which according to them, would have cost an extra £70,000. Of course, this caused the installation to be cancelled which was a let-down for both ourselves and the client.

However, a different DNO we have worked with gave us the green light for a 25kWp system on the Wirral, and if anything, they were quite positive about the whole process.

I do believe that if even more DNOs were more 'positive' about small scale renewables, many more solar PV installation companies would have more trust and belief in their local DNOs and therefore enquire about +4kWp systems for residential customers like yourself.

I hope the system is working well with the electric car and that one day, we will see more people like yourself utilising the sun to power their homes and cars.

Good luck with the car over the next 12 months!

Best,

Natural Energy Sources


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