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View blog posts for category: Solar electricity

Which is best: solar thermal or solar PV with a immersion switch?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 December 2014 at 9:07 am

Which is best: solar thermal or solar PV with a immersion switch?

Q: My question is whether solar thermal or solar panels would be the best investment. We have a large unshaded roof, facing less than 5 degrees from due south. Its a 3 bed semi with solid walls and a new gas boiler with insulated pipes and a dual coil cylinder in the loft. We have cold fill appli…

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Why aren't there more solar panels on industrial roofs?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 4 December 2014 at 2:40 pm

Why aren't there more solar panels on industrial roofs?

We have had a number of questions from readers recently asking why there aren't more solar panels on industrial roofs, and suggesting that they would be more suitable places for solar farms than green fields. It's a good question, especially as I've lost count of how many times I'…

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How is solar generation spread across the year?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 2 December 2014 at 11:35 am

How is solar generation spread across the year?

Q: Approximately what is the increase in available light for generation of electricity in April to September compared to the winter months of October to March? A: While I haven't been able to lay my hands on details of the available light I can illustrate the variations in generation that…

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FITS to degress in January for all solar PV of 50kW or less

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 November 2014 at 2:42 pm

The feed-in tariff for solar PV panels will reduce by 3.5% from 1 January 2015 for all new installations of up to, but not exceeding, 50kW.  This is as part of the government's planned degression for the feed-in tariff.  Changes to FIT rates from 1 January 2015 …

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Can I power infrared heating from my solar panels?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 November 2014 at 10:11 am

Can I power infrared heating from my solar panels?

Q: Having had solar panels installed a few years ago, the same company is trying to sell me infrared heating for inside the house which will use electricity generated by the panels. Do you have any advice about infra red heating? I currently have gas central heating using a combi boiler. …

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How do I distinguish between two solar PV quotes?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 19 November 2014 at 10:01 am

How do I distinguish between two solar PV quotes?

Q: I am considering two quotes both similar in price. I live in merseyside and have a south east facing and south west facing roof. There is a chimney on the southwest facing roof and so there are some shading issues. The first quote is for LG monocrystalline panels, 250watts, with 15.6% effi…

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MCS strengthens procedures - but will it kill the cowboys?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 November 2014 at 12:10 pm

MCS strengthens procedures - but will it kill the cowboys?

Knowing that your installer (and the product they are installing) is going to do a good job is always important. In a new industry, with unfamiliar products and taxpayers money available to support it, it's even more important.  This is exactly what the Microgeneration Certification …

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Are there solar PV tiles to match clay roofs?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 November 2014 at 11:13 am

Are there solar PV tiles to match clay roofs?

Q: We are going to build a house. We want to use solar/photovoltaic tiles but may have to use clay tiles for the roof. There seem only to be slate photovoltaic tiles. Are there any that look like clay? Any advice very welcome. A: At the moment the vast majority of solar tiles are blue. Howeve…

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Readers' tips of the month

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 29 October 2014 at 5:34 pm

Readers' tips of the month

With the clocks going back, I'm kicking off this month's tips with one from House-Saver. "We hang a thick curtain over our draughty french doors during winter months," he writes. "We keep the curtain opened during the day to allow sun light to heat the living room and then …

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TV researchers help couple to design eco renovation

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 29 October 2014 at 9:12 am

TV researchers help couple to design eco renovation

Does bringing in the TV cameras benefit a new build or renovation project? As a fan of Grand Designs, it's something I've often wondered. While I see that the architects and builders involved gain publicity, for your average home owner it seems more likely to add to the stress. So, it…

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Scan the Sun: new app predicts solar returns

Posted by Aldous Everard on 20 October 2014 at 12:12 pm

Scan the Sun: new app predicts solar returns

Anyone considering installing a PV or solar thermal system will want to know their likely returns. In the UK getting any kind of accurate idea of your returns is difficult to say the least. Predictions of generation are influenced by our famously changeable weather along with the physical constra…

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How will feed-in tariffs be affected by the smart meter revolution?

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 25 September 2014 at 7:05 am

How will feed-in tariffs be affected by the smart meter revolution?

Q. Can users who have smart meters use their export values from the meter for FIT payments, rather than the standard deemed 50 per cent? A. Your question refers to the way in which the export payments element of the feed-in tariff is calculated. You are right that for most domestic solar …

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How to make a 1920s terrace property warm and energy efficient

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 26 August 2014 at 10:17 am

How to make a 1920s terrace property warm and energy efficient

Making a leaky 1920s house energy efficient is a daunting prospect. But it was experience renovating their previous home – a barge – that gave Jurgen Huber and Zoe Allen the confidence to take on the task.  "The practical experience I gained of altering, fitting out, and…

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Reader tips of the month: solar PV

Posted by Gilly Jones on 22 August 2014 at 4:01 pm

Reader tips of the month: solar PV

Here's our favourite tips from the past month. It's not just the price you need to think about when considering installing solar PV. Bassmantrev is a building supervisor for social landlord based in the west midlands, and has installed a 3kw with 12 x 250 watt array. He says: “I…

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Review of the SOLiC 200 Immersion Controller

Posted by Chris Rudge on 11 August 2014 at 9:06 am

Review of the SOLiC 200 Immersion Controller

In the quest to test as many of the current immersion heater controllers that let you use all your excess solar PV generated power, I got hold of a SOLiC 200 immersion controller to try out. My first impression was that unlike most of the other immersion controllers that are on the market, th…

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Is there a limit to how much feed-in tariffs I can get for my solar panels?

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 9 July 2014 at 10:50 am

Is there a limit to how much feed-in tariffs I can get for my solar panels?

Q: My question is in relation to feed-in tariffs for solar pv panels. We have a massive, south-facing roof which could accommodate an 8kw system. We are away from the UK for several months of the year and therefore our entire electricity production could go back to the grid. As we have a smart me…

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Love your solar panels? Your chance to contribute to vital solar research

Posted by Lisa Clark on 18 June 2014 at 9:18 am

Love your solar panels? Your chance to contribute to vital solar research

Sat on the roof of the Physics department in Sheffield on a sunny day, surrounded by solar panels (and an astronomy tower adding to the view), I think I might have the best job in the world.  The breeze is gently cooling the panels, so I think they are happy too.  I manage the  …

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Can I get preliminary accreditation for the feed-in tariff for our solar system?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 June 2014 at 12:53 pm

Can I get preliminary accreditation for the feed-in tariff for our solar system?

Q: My enquiry is about the preliminary accreditation of a 150kW solar pv system. We have been granted planning permission and have accepted and paid the DNO's firm quotation. I am aware that if we can get preliminary accreditation this will buy us 6 months of time to get the in…

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Solar panels and subsidies mean payday on Northern Ireland farm

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 29 May 2014 at 9:08 am

Solar panels and subsidies mean payday on Northern Ireland farm

It’s five am and 75 cows are jostling their way into the milking shed at Stewart Watson’s dairy farm in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The mooing and stomping of the cattle as they funnel into their stalls is a familiar sound in this part of Ireland where multiple dairy farms ch…

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Will my solar panels power an air source heat pump?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 27 May 2014 at 8:54 am

Will my solar panels power an air source heat pump?

Q: I have a 4kW solar PV system on my roof and am thinking of installing an air source heat pump. How much electricity would the solar panels contribute to the cost of running the heat pump? A: At first glance this seems like the ideal combination. You are probably generating more solar elecr…

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Why are my feed-in tariff payments taking so long?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 May 2014 at 10:45 am

Why are my feed-in tariff payments taking so long?

Q: I'm with SSE and my feed-in tariff (FIT) payments were always supposed to be within 28 days of the meter reading. This has never happened, but after complaining each time I get my payment about a week later. Last time I gave my meter reading the SSE FITs office told me that the 28 day…

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All you need to know about the economics of solar PV in Northern Ireland

Posted by Andy Baird on 15 May 2014 at 2:24 pm

All you need to know about the economics of solar PV in Northern Ireland

For many customers, going solar has to make financial sense. A well-designed system using good quality components should provide a payback of 6-8 years depending on site conditions. This post is intended to help you fully understand how the economics of solar in Northern Ireland works. Firstl…

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Reader's tip of the month - April 2014

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 April 2014 at 9:09 am

Reader's tip of the month - April 2014

This month's tip comes from Lehigh51 who has installed solar PV, solar thermal, a ground source heat pump and rainwater harvesting. "Truly everything has worked as well as I could hope and I am very pleased. My expenditure is within acceptable parameters. My electricity bill is …

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What are the rules about extending my solar panels?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 April 2014 at 11:28 am

What are the rules about extending my solar panels?

Q: I have a 3kw solar PV system installed for 3 years now. Originally the roof suffered from shading but I have now removed a tree so could fit another one or two panels. I purchased an extra two panels originally as spares. Could I fit these (using an accredited fitter) and claim the feed-i…

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Small solar must be maintained to meet Solar Strategy goals

Posted by James Page on 24 April 2014 at 11:32 am

Small solar must be maintained to meet Solar Strategy goals

20GW of solar generated electricity was always going to be an ambitious target, but at least the new Solar Strategy (published earlier this month) keeps it alive. Like any long term investment solar will continue to need government support (the writing of the document was outsourced to a…

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Solar panels and feed-in tariffs: making solar pay while the sun shines

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 22 April 2014 at 9:22 am

Solar panels and feed-in tariffs: making solar pay while the sun shines

It’s one of those crisp blue early spring days that are made for being outside. But Mike Meyerstein is inside doing the hoovering. To misuse a well-known phrase, Mike is making solar pay while the sun shines (sorry). Such is the life of a solar electricity generator. As drawbacks to…

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How to get your ideal solar PV system

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 21 March 2014 at 10:50 am

How to get your ideal solar PV system

The decision to install solar PV panels can be motivated by a number of factors. Whether you’ve had enough of the Big Six et al constantly upping their prices and want a bit of stability or decided that the interest rates on offer from your banks aren't as good as those from solar, ever…

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Can I compare my solar panel output with that of other local installations?

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 17 March 2014 at 8:48 am

Can I compare my solar panel output with that of other local installations?

Q. I had a 4kWp solar panel system installed on my roof last October and on the face of it, it seems to be working really well. I have the owl intuition system installed and can monitor my system’s output online. What I would like to do now is to compare this output with what I should be ge…

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Feed-in tariff rates from 1 April announced

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 February 2014 at 9:50 am

Feed-in tariff rates from 1 April announced

The new feed-in tariffs from 1 April 2014 are now available. For new applicants after that date the rate will degress (reduce) for the first time since July last year. New installations of 4kW or less will get 14.38p per kWh. Existing recipients of the feed-in tariff will get their annual cost of…

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Data collection demonstrates the value of solar PV

Posted by greentomatoenergy . on 19 February 2014 at 9:02 am

Data collection demonstrates the value of solar PV

A recent solar PV blog on YouGen highlighted the importance of making sure that your solar PV system is well managed, well designed and well maintained. We thought we’d illustrate this message with a case study of a solar PV system we installed in a 3 bedroom semi in Hertfordshire at the he…

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Future for solar installers is bright, says government's solar advisor

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 11 February 2014 at 3:24 pm

Future for solar installers is bright, says government's solar advisor

Solar panel installers have a two-year window in which to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the government incentives for installations. At least that’s the message from one of the country’s leading solar experts and government advisor on solar energy. Speaking at the Sol…

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Community groups 'disappointed' with government's energy strategy

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 7 February 2014 at 9:19 am

Community groups 'disappointed' with government's energy strategy

The government’s new community energy strategy has been given a lukewarm welcome by groups who have already developed their own community energy schemes. Kevin Frea, part of the Halton Lune community hydro project and a director of LESS CIC, an energy saving community interest…

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Speakers and sponsor confirmed for Solar Energy UK installer roadshow

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 31 January 2014 at 9:01 am

Speakers and sponsor confirmed for Solar Energy UK installer roadshow

Natural Sparx powered by Rexel Energy Solutions have confirmed as headline sponsors for this year’s Solar Energy UK (SEUK) Roadshow (previously branded as Solar Power UK Roadshow) taking place in six locations across the UK in February. The roadshow, now in its third year, is a series o…

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35% of domestic solar systems may be underperforming

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 January 2014 at 11:23 am

35% of domestic solar systems may be underperforming

Some homeowners are getting a significantly lower return on investment from their solar panels than expected according to PassivSystems. The company found that a third of residential solar panels monitored by its home energy management systems are not generating as much electricity as promised. I…

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Solar, wood, insulation: a case study of a home energy-saving retrofit

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 20 January 2014 at 9:28 am

Solar, wood, insulation: a case study of a home energy-saving retrofit

Heather Hullah and Jenny Barnes are not your average pensioners. Where other 60-somethings might be thinking about winding down, these two are more likely to be found wielding chainsaws and humping logs in their 2.5 hectare woodland. But then Heather and Jenny’s ex-council house is no l…

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Two tickets up for grabs to this years Solar Energy UK Roadshows (worth £105 each)

Posted by Gilly Jones on 14 January 2014 at 12:35 pm

Two tickets up for grabs to this years Solar Energy UK Roadshows (worth £105 each)

YouGen is pleased to support this year's Solar Energy UK Roadshow taking place at six locations across the UK in February. With domestic installations seeing better returns this quarter and the UK continuing as one of the strongest markets in Europe, how will you cope with the deman…

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Solar allowances to change in Northern Ireland

Posted by Andy Baird on 18 December 2013 at 12:01 pm

Solar allowances to change in Northern Ireland

The size of solar installations allowed without applying for permission will reduce from 1 March next year. Under the G83 rules Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) currently allows people to insall arrays of up to 6.5 kWp and 20 kWp on single- and three-phase supplies respectively. This generous a…

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Ground source heat pump warms guests at country house hotel

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 16 December 2013 at 10:10 am

Ground source heat pump warms guests at country house hotel

A newly-installed ground source heat pump is set to save an Elizabethan country house hotel £10,000 a year.  Historic Soulton Hall in Wem, Shropshire, has replaced traditional fossil fuels with two Stiebel Eltron ground source heat pumps, generating green hot water and heating for …

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DIY solar PV installation - is it a good idea?

Posted by Paul Hutchens on 4 December 2013 at 9:13 am

DIY solar PV installation - is it a good idea?

Q. I am thinking of building a solar PV system as a project and doing the install myself. I have been told that I would not be able to claim the FIT (feed-in tariff) unless the system was installed by an approved installer, but that as long as the inverter had G83/1 approval I would be able to bu…

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Readers' tips of the month - solar PV

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 29 November 2013 at 9:33 am

Readers' tips of the month - solar PV

We always advocate a bit of rigour in choosing a renewable energy installer and we're not surprised to find that also being recommended by a a retired environmental scientist and chartered town planner.  Steven Shuttleworth installed 16 x 250KWh solar panels last month. They are in t…

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Watch a solar PV installation in double quick time

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 November 2013 at 10:47 am

If you've ever wondered what's involved in a solar PV installation, these timelapse videos made by GenFit will give you a good idea of the process and some of the situations that they can be installed in: Solar PV on a timber shelter at Upton Heath Primary School   4…

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How closely should the input of an inverter match the output of a solar array?

Posted by Chris Rudge on 18 November 2013 at 10:31 am

How closely should the input of an inverter match the output of a solar array?

Q: How important is it to match the Max DC input of the inverter, to the maximum possible output of the solar array? Some companies have given me quotes where the output/input are miles different. A: It is standard procedure to install an inverter that is up to 20% lower in power rating than …

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How to check that you are getting the most out of your solar panels

Posted by EvoEnergy . on 11 November 2013 at 9:48 am

How to check that you are getting the most out of your solar panels

Q: I am not sure if we are getting the benefit of the solar panels we had fitted in 2011. In short, we appear to be using the same amount of units as we did before the panels were installed. I understand it may be different appliances in the house which are responsible for the increase in ex…

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Building integrated solar panels help power new office block

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 8 November 2013 at 8:53 am

Building integrated solar panels help power new office block

A new office block built to exacting environmental standards aims to improve the productivity of its tenants by up to 18 per cent.  The Future Business Centre in Cambridge is a 35,000sq.ft. facility intended to provide a mix of office and workshop units and hot desk facilities for up to …

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Can I get the feed-in tariff for more than one renewable technology

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 November 2013 at 11:41 am

Can I get the feed-in tariff for more than one renewable technology

Q: I have already have installed a solar PV system for which I get a feed-in tariff payment. If I install a micro CHP (combined heat and power) unit, I can get the feed-in tariff for that too? A: Yes, you are eligible to apply for the feed-in tariff for as many renewable energy technologies a…

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Will I get the same feed-in tariff rate if my solar panels are storm damaged?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 4 November 2013 at 10:01 am

Will I get the same feed-in tariff rate if my solar panels are storm damaged?

Q: Following on from the 'storm', I was wondering what would happen if any existing registered solar panels were damaged and needed to be replaced. Would they slot into the existing feed-in tariff (we got on to the higher rate before it was changed), or would they be under the new lower r…

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SMA goes zero carbon - how green are your suppliers?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 October 2013 at 9:21 am

SMA goes zero carbon - how green are your suppliers?

While the empasis on selling solar panels over the past few years has been on the financial benefits, I also find it very satisfactory to think about the environmental benefits. It's great that I'm generating free electricity, but I also like knowing that I've reduced the carbon emiss…

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Tansor village hall: a case study of a solar-powered heat pump in a community building

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 24 October 2013 at 9:27 am

Tansor village hall: a case study of a solar-powered heat pump in a community building

A village hall which is using a lottery grant to install an air source heat pump partially powered by solar panels has come up with a way of still qualifying for the government's feed-in tarrif (FiTs). Under FiT rules, installations that are funded by public money, includin…

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Is all my solar electricity being exported?

Posted by Chris Rudge on 10 October 2013 at 9:22 am

Is all my solar electricity being exported?

Q: I suspect that all the generation from my 3.12 kW Solar photovoltaic panels is being exported as since installation almost 2 years ago my electricity bills have increased rather than reduced despite over 5,000 kWh being generated. How can I check this is the case? A: Any power be…

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Will solar panels affect the warranty on my new build home?

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 8 October 2013 at 9:10 am

Will solar panels affect the warranty on my new build home?

Q: I have a question relating to solar panels and the NHBC warranty on our new build property. We have recently moved in to a new, two bedroom bungalow in Scarborough and thought that we would get a few quotes for solar panels on the roof. On contacting NHBC regarding the 10-year warranty pr…

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