With the economy still far from completely recovering, the idea of installing solar panels on your roof might not be a very appealing one. If money is tight, to many people they will seem like a luxury. However, while that may be true in the short term, in the long run solar energy could be of huge benefit, not only to the planet but financially as well.
Here, then, are the top 5 reasons why you should have solar panels installed on your property:
Save the Planet: The planet has a finite amount of resources, and when it comes to energy producing materials, we are burning them fast. Unfortunately, although they aren’t doing any harm when they are underground, as oil for example, once they are burned to create energy, they release harmful pollutants into the air. The carbon emissions add to the greenhouse effect, and as we all know, if the scientist’s models are to be believed, this could lead to catastrophic consequences for the planet. So will your installing solar panels stop this? On your own, of course not, but you could be a part of a growing movement towards renewable energy which very well might save the planet.
Save Money: Solar panels are like mini power plants that you can install on your roof. Although there is some cost involved in having them set up, just as there is energy expended building a power plant, in the long run the benefits will outdo the costs. Using solar energy means you have to get less electricity from the national grid, meaning that your electricity bills will be reduced. Therefore solar energy will start saving you money immediately.
Make Money: At the moment, it’s even better than that though. Not only will you save on your energy bills, but if you use solar energy, you can actually make money through the government’s feed-in tariff. For all the solar energy which you produce, and then feed back into the national grid, you will be paid by the governement. This means that the initial costs of having the solar panels installed will be paid back quicker, and that eventually you will actually be making a profit from the investment.
Energy Independence: Non-renewable energy sources will eventually run out. That is inevitable, it is inherent from their name. This might not happen for some time, but eventually it will. This will mean an increasing number of brown outs and black outs, and finally conventional energy sources will be gone altogether. This may not happen in our lifetimes, but having a personal source of solar energy will mean that you can be confident in your energy independence. Therefore when you do experience a black out, you will still have electricity available.
Make Neighbours Jealous! Take all of these factors together and you will no doubt get one extra result: making your neighbours jealous. This could actually serve a good purpose however, beyond personal pride, as it may lead them to have solar panels installed as well. In this way you will be helping to promote the renewable energy movement at the same time as taking full advantage of it.
These are the top 5 reasons to get involved with solar energy, but whatever the reason for you to have solar cells installed, the results will speak for themselves.
Greg Barker, Climate Change Minister, delivered a speech recently on government plans for renewable energy, and in particular solar energy. The news is good for home owners, but not so good for investors looking to build large-scale solar farms on green fields.
This seems to have been the central consideration in recent weeks, whether it is a good idea to build large scale solar parks on farmland. On the one hand, we still need to drastically increase the amount of solar energy that we create so that we can cut back on other, non-renewable forms of energy. On the other hand however, farmland might be better used for… well, farming.
Greg Barker seemed to agree with this point. He also had another consideration, the financial side. As with everything of course, there is almost always a financial side as well. This is not a bad thing, as it lets us how to best distribute our scarce resources. And it seems that it is the government’s decision that the feed-in tariff’s scarce resources should go to home owners rather than business which wish to build solar parks.
The argument goes like this. The government cannot afford to pay the rate that it is doing for the feed-in tariff if too many people take advantage of it. Although it escaped being cut in the most recent spending review, hints were made that it would not survive the next one in 2012. Therefore, as only a limited amount of people can make use of it, the government feels that it should be private individuals mostly. The feed-in tariff has already encouraged a lot of people to have solar panels installed on their roofs, and the higher the rate is, the more people will be willing to give it a go.
However this was never meant to be a subsidiary for the renewable energy industry itself. It was always bound to encourage them as well, but if they take to it too much then, as already mentioned, farmland may be used for solar energy production instead of growing food, when really it would be better for the country if it was being used in a more traditional way. When solar panels are put on roofs of course, there are no downsides (except for, arguably, aesthetic ones) so this is the preferred course of action.
The consequence of this may be that planning permission is denied by local councils for large solar arrays. Although it is yet to be seen how much sway the central government would have in these decisions. It would be relatively easy however, for the government to put in a clause for the feed-in tariff, so that only those people installing them on roofs will be able to make use of it. Barker did say that any measures taken would not be retroactive however, so whatever rates people or companies have now will not change.
On the whole then, this is good news for home owners, as the fund for the feed-in tariff will not be run dry by companies building large solar farms. This means that more will be available for people who want them on their roofs. However, the government could reduce the feed-in tariff rates for new users at any time, so the best time to do it is as soon as possible.
A village in Bedfordshire is hoping to get the go ahead from the council to create a solar farm which will produce enough energy to power over 300 homes. This comes at a time when demand for renewable energy of all kinds in increasing, but especially solar energy, due to the feed-in tariff scheme.
The feed-in tariff has been discussed many times on this site, but for anyone new to the issue, it is quite simple. It works like this. Anyone who produces renewable energy, whether that be a private individual with solar panels on their roof, a university, a public institution like a hospital, or a company producing a solar farm as we have here, the government gives money for the energy produced. The government has a target to reduce carbon emissions substantially by 2020, and a large part of this plan is to encourage more production of renewable energy. One of the best ways to encourage anyone to do anything is with a financial incentive, especially when there is an initial cost involved as there is with renewable energy sources. Therefore, for every unit of energy which you produce and feed back into the national grid, you get a certain amount of money back. Now is the best time to get involved with this, as that amount of money is likely to be reduced in 2012 (or before) when there is another spending review by the government.
It is no surprise therefore, that solar energy has become increasingly popular. However there are other factors to consider, besides financial benefits and the reduction in carbon emissions. One of these, a concern which has been raised in some quarters, is that with solar farms there is a possibility that they will take up farmland space that would be better used to grow food. After all, it wouldn’t do us a lot of good to become more energy independent, and at the same time become even more dependent on foreign supplies of food. In the case of the solar farm which is to be built in Caddington, this will be one of the issues considered as it is being built in a field which could be farmed.
One of the good things however, in the situation, is with the way the solar farm will be built, with the panels elevated slightly off the ground. This means sheep will still be able to graze there. Not every piece of land is used to grow crops, and sheep grazing is just as important, so if the field can still be used for that then it is not really losing farmland. Although if ever they wanted to change its use from grazing to growing something, they could not.
Other factors to consider include local heritage and the impact it will have on the landscape. Although in preparation for the build, locals were asked what they thought of it, and one commented that as the field is basically out of sight there shouldn’t be a problem. It seems that the council is behind it as well, so this will likely be another solar farm which is going to be built in the UK.
Last week we reported on growing concerns that the drive towards solar energy might take over agricultural land, which would possibly be a misallocation of resources. We gave the opinion that this was unfounded, since there was plenty of space on farms without having to use the fields where crops are grown. As luck would have it, the next day a story came out about the largest private installation of solar panels having been completed on the roofs of a farm near Glastonbury. With everything nicely tied up like that, it would be tempting to ignore the story coming out of Bristol today that there are plans to use agricultural land as a solar farm. But then, that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?
So yes, perhaps solar energy is becoming a bit of a cash crop. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now, if we stopped growing food altogether in favour of producing solar energy instead, in the future we may have trouble if food imports were ever disrupted for any reason. Actually, if it came anywhere close to all of it, there would be a problem. Even if it was half, that would be bad. But we are nowhere near that number yet, and probably won’t get there. Is it always wrong to use any agricultural land for a solar farm? That doesn’t seem to be so, after all creating renewable energy is also a priority. Maybe not as much as being able to eat, but it is still important not only for this country, but for the planet.
So whether this is good news or bad news is up to you to decide, and in fact a decision is yet to be made. So far the project is only in the planning stage, with Sunlec, the renewable energy company proposing the build, having just submitted the proposal to North Somerset Council. They may choose to do an environmental impact assessment. One of the issues that will likely be considered is that, if the solar energy farm were to be built, it would be taking that portion (45 acres) of potential farmland out of circulation for decades at least. The decision can be made as to which is more important, in this specific case. Something else to be considered is that building the energy park will create jobs in the area, which in these economic times is also very welcome.
On the whole, the important thing is that the decisions made (there will undoubtedly be more in the future) as to whether to use agricultural land for crops or photovoltaic cells should be made considering short term benefits and problems, as well as long term advantages and disadvantages. It is difficult to see all eventualities of course, but as long as a long term benefit is not sacrificed entirely for short term gain, or a short term problem avoided by making an even bigger problem in the future, then the right decision will probably be made. We’ll keep you up to date on any developments.
So you want a yacht, it’s a perfectly natural desire. Lots of people dream of owning a yacht. At the same time, however, you care about the environment and you know that a yacht is a luxury, and maybe it’s not very good for the planet. Not that yachts are massive energy guzzlers of course, but still, it’s a consideration. Well, you need fear no more, because a solar yacht has now been developed.
This yacht, an Horizon SC46, is powered 100% by solar energy. It has 6kW worth of solar panels and highly efficient battery packs. It’s a 46 ft luxury yacht, with an electric stove, a fridge, entertainment system, shower and en-suite head. With solar energy providing for all of these things, you can cruise around safe in the knowledge that you are not harming the environment at all.
Of course if you have not already got solar panels installed on your roof, you might want to consider doing that before you get the yacht. Then again, if you’re in the market for a yacht this would be a good one to go for. Now is definitely the time to get involved in solar energy for your domestic energy needs though. Not only will you get the savings from a reduced electricity bill, but you will also get the full benefit of the government’s feed-in tariff scheme.
The feed-in tariff managed to avoid being cut during the recent spending review. However, it was stated that the incentive would likely be cut in the next spending review, in 2012. It may even be cut before that if certain conditions are met, although it was not revealed what those conditions are. Probably a large uptake of renewable energy sources however, which would make it too expensive a proposition to keep the feed-in tariff going at its current level. It really is important to make use of this at your residence as soon as possible therefore, as the tariff may be cut for new users at any time.
With the prices of traditional energy going up all the time, whatever form of solar energy you take up it will be of benefit. Sometimes there is an additional initial cost, as of course there is in the case of have PV cells installed on your roof. Over the longer term, however, solar energy inevitably ends up saving you money. The only question is whether you can afford the initial outlay, which may be difficult in these tough economic times, however in the future it will be worth it if you can.
The solar yacht is only the latest in a long line of technology designed with solar energy in mind, and there are new products coming out all the time. Soon it will probably be possible to get just about anything that is electrically powered from a purely solar energy source. So far we have solar toothbrushes coming out relatively soon (for which don’t even need toothpaste) and now we have the yacht, so it’s pretty much just a matter of getting everything else in between.
Despite the government encouraging the uptake of solar energy, a resident in Kent wishing to do his bit for the environment and have solar panels installed on his roof has been denied planning permission because his house lies within a conservation area. Of course this is not an uncommon occurrence, and there is even an organisation in Yorkshire which helps people in such areas to get planning permission through a number of means. What makes this case odd, and the decision arguably quite mad, is that this roof already has a solar panel on it. Planning permission was granted for that solar panel, on that part of the roof, but now the owner wants to put solar panels on another part of the roof, the request has been denied.
Because that part of the roof is in the conservation area. Two metres inside the conservation area. The owner is understandably annoyed.
When it comes to bureaucracy of course, all there are is rules. And after all, a boundary is a boundary, and if it kept moving just a little bit, soon there would be no boundary at all. On the other hand however, any common sense approach would seem to suggest that the installation should have been allowed.
The rest of the street on which the owner lives is not bound by any conservation rules. In addition to this, the conservation area in question is shielded from his roof by trees. Of course trees can lose their leaves or be chopped down, so that would not necessarily be permanent. Even so, with all of these factors in the owner’s favour, as well as the importance of people taking up solar energy, this decision seems to be sending out a bad message.
After all there is of course also the issue of how important the potential damaging of an area’s look is when it comes to solar energy. Fossil fuels are not going to last forever, and on top of that their use creates pollution. There is an argument that could be made that combating these things are more important than areas looking “pretty”. On the other hand, if part of the value of a place is that it is in an area which appears to be untouched by modern technology, then the value of that place would probably go down if solar panels were installed. And the owner presumably knew that part of his property was in a conservation area before he moved in, so should have known that applications of this sort might be refused.
The question boils down to whether or not the decision was based on the consideration that the installation of solar panels on the roof would actually damage the conservation area, as the council claim, or whether it was just to follow the rules. If the former, then the decision is defensible, if the latter then it’s just another example of the world gone mad.
Fortunately most people do not live in conservation areas, and are free to take advantage of solar energy in any of its forms.
Earlier in the week, we asked the question of whether solar energy was actually good for farms. While not supporting the use of solar panels as replacing farmland, it was noted that farms have plenty of roof space that could be utilized producing solar energy, taking care of much of the farm’s electrical requirements. And, as if on cue, now we have the announcement that the farmer who hosts the Glastonbury festival is has installed the largest array of solar panels in the UK on his farm.
With over 1,100 solar panels installed on roofs at the farm, they are expected to meet 80% of the farm’s electrical demands. This will of course mean savings on electrical bills. On top of that however, there is the feed-in tariff which will also generate money. This should generate more than £60,000 every year, meaning that the initial investment will be paid back within nine years. Beyond that, the money made from the solar panels will be profits. With the feed-in tariff guaranteed for 25 years, this means profits will be close to one million pounds, assuming conditions stay the same. Clearly then, solar energy is an excellent long term investment. The only question is whether or not you can afford the initial outlay to have the solar panels installed in the first place.
For many people of course, the financial aspects of solar energy only matter in the sense of whether the logistics can be made to work. The main reason why renewable energy is so important is that more traditional forms of energy are running out, as well as the fact that they also cause pollution. Solar energy, on the other hand, will never run out. (At least, while we have a sun, and when the sun runs out then everything going off in our fridges is going to be the least of our worries.) The solar cells that have been installed on the farm are going to save potentially 100 tonnes of carbon every year. They will also be able to replace some of the diesel engines which are needed at the Glastonbury festival. However, the numbers there are not so impressive: only six out of two hundred.
If anything, this goes to show that while solar energy is an excellent source of renewable energy, it still has a way to go before it will be able to take over from more traditional energy sources. There is always more research being done into solar energy though, making it more powerful, more efficient, and all around more effective. We should remember that solar energy can be made use of on a large scale as well as a small scale, and with a new spray-on application which is in development, the uses for it are going to become practically endless. The best time to get involved with solar energy is always as soon as possible though, especially with the feed-in tariff going under review at some point in the coming years.
Few would deny that solar energy is good. Good for the environment, good for the planet, and good for people’s finances. The question has been raised recently, however, as to whether it is actually good for the country. There is a fear from some quarters that solar energy will ruin good farmland, that the technology is not good financially and that the UK is not the appropriate place for it anyway, given our climate.
The case against the UK getting fully behind solar energy is not a hard one to make. After all everyone knows that England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are not the sunniest of places. Very few people come here as tourists for the warmth and sun, unless they’re coming from somewhere like Alaska. Indeed, not all environments are suitable for all sorts of renewable energy. Tidal power cannot be employed in the Sahara desert, wind turbines would be pretty useless in a cave. However, if you say that solar energy is no good for the UK, then the only way that works is as a joke.
As with all jokes, there is an element of truth in it, otherwise it wouldn’t even be any good as a joke. The UK’s weather is certainly… interesting, but it is not dire. We don’t live in darkness. Solar power works. Not as well as a coal power station, that’s for sure, not yet, but it’s in its early days and it works. If it did not then extra financial incentives would be of no use, since it wouldn’t generate any money. Having said that, there is the argument that without the financial incentives, namely the feed-in tariff from the government, solar energy would not be nearly as popular.
Actually, it is true that without the feed-in tariff, solar energy would not be as popular in this country. The evidence for that is clear: the large increase in its uptake since the government scheme was implemented. Ideally, market forces would be allowed to operate without any help or opposition, and when the technology became efficient enough and powerful enough, people would naturally want to get solar panels without any other financial incentive except the technology itself. The fear of anthropological climate change however, leading to the targets for reducing carbon emissions by 2020, has made the government step in to try to speed up the process, and it seems to be working quite nicely.
So the concern is not really that solar energy does not work, but that it works both too well and not well enough at the same time. Not well enough in that economically it is a burden on the taxpayer. Too well, in that farms may start to use their land for solar panels rather than growing food. Most people would of course see a problem with that, not least because the more food we grow locally, the less we have to import from abroad which also adds to environmental issues. Farms can easily get involved by having solar panels installed on barn roofs though, as some are, without putting any of their land out of use. As can regular people, and local government. Also, there is plenty of land which is not being used to grow crops which could be better use with PV cells instead.
So is solar energy good for farms? Certainly. Is it going to take over all farmland, and should it? Certainly not.
The National Trust has had solar panels installed in the carriage museum, in Devon, in a bid to benefit from solar energy. In fact the National Trust has decided to try to cut its energy consumption by twenty percent by 2020. This is similar to government’s own targets for cutting back in energy. One way of doing this of course is to actually use less energy, but a more realistic one is to use renewable energy. Solar energy is of course an important part of this.
At the moment, what makes renewable energy even more attractive is its monetary benefits. All electricity that is produced from a renewable source, such as solar panels, and then fed back into the national grid, will be paid for by the government by way of a feed-in tariff. The National Trust therefore hopes to make money out of this scheme, as well as save energy. Indeed, even without the feed-in tariff, solar panels are a money saver in that they mean less money has to be spent on energy bills. Of course you have to factor that against the initial installation fees, but they would still eventually make you money.
In the case of the installation at the museum in Devon, there is a third advantage as well. The solar panels are going to replace glass panels. The glass panels allowed sunlight in, on to the horse-drawn carriages, which over time produces damage. The solar panels will therefore save the carriages from the harmful UV rays, and turn them into energy. Turn the UV rays into energy that is, not the carriages.
There are 86 glass panels at the museum which have been replaced by PV cells. The solar energy created by them is expected to reach 6.3 megawatt hours every year. This would decrease their annual energy bill by about £600. On top of that of course, they will be getting money from the feed-in tariff, meaning that the installation fee will be paid off much sooner than it would have otherwise.
The use of solar energy, or any other form of renewable energy, is not all about saving money of course. It is about saving our environment, our planet. The National Trust was set up to preserve certain places and items of historical importance, so that we do not lose touch with our past. The use of solar energy has a similar function, in that it will ensure that we do not lose touch with our future and the people who will be living in it. The fact that it can also save us money, and even make us money now, is important in that we also have to look after ourselves in the present as well.
So don’t be afraid to join the bandwagon, or to follow the example of the carriage museum, and get involved with solar energy yourself. In the long run it will not only save you money, but it will save your children’s future as well.
Redhill Council is set to consider two large solar energy projects next week, installing solar panels on the roofs of council-owned property. The two buildings will be a council depot and a leisure centre. As always with solar energy, this will satisfy the two requirements of being good for the environment and good for the pocketbook. Especially when times are difficult economically, it is imperative that solar energy is financially viable as well as being good for the environment.
The projects which are to be decided on by Redhill council will cost nearly a quarter of a million pounds, however the money generated by it over the years is set to exceed that amount by a great deal. This will be in the form of savings made on electricity bills, as well as the money made from the feed-in tariff which pays out when you put electricity back into the national grid. It is only relatively recently that councils were allowed in on this government scheme, and already quite a few are taking advantage. If the proposed cut in carbon emissions is going to be met in the future however, then a lot more councils are going to have to get involved.
Fortunately though, you don’t have to wait for the council do something, you don’t have to lobby or protest or write a letter. You can do something yourself and get PV cells installed on your own roof. Although there is of course an initial installation fee, over time you will save money, but you will start helping the environment immediately. At the moment the feed-in tariffs are at the highest rates that they are going to get to for some time, they may be reduced at the government’s spending review in 2013, or even before that if the uptake of solar energy is high enough.
Solar energy has proved to be the most popular form of renewable energy taken advantage of under the feed-in tariff. Other forms of renewable energy are also applicable to it as well however, and there are a number of ways that a household can reduce their bills and do their bit for the environment in addition to taking advantage of solar energy. This includes getting energy efficient boilers, underground thermal heating systems and more. In fact the leisure centre in Redhill also has a wood-fuel boiler for its heating needs. As we go forward into the future it is going to be necessary for more and more properties to have multiple renewable energy sources.
This goes for private residences and public buildings, on a local and national level. In fact, you could also say on a global level as it is the global environment which has to be protected and preserved. It’s never too late to get involved with solar energy, and it’s never too early either so now is the best time to look to the future.