Half Of Brits Want Solar Panels

13703677633_9127642d7e_bThanks to a number of cost-effective developments, the British public has a healthy appetite for renewable energy and solar panels in particular. With energy prices rising at the same time that the cost of solar installations are falling, it’s easy to see why renewables are gaining popularity. Add to that technological improvements that make solar panels more efficient than they were even five years ago, and you have a recipe for solar success.

Rising fuel prices make solar panels a better investment

Rising fuel prices is the reason most often cited by Brits who would like to install solar panels, with 89% of adults concerned about potential hikes. The standard tariff bill from one of the big six energy suppliers is £1,265, compared to only £472 ten years ago. If prices continue to rise at the same rate that they have done for the previous five years, that means homeowners could be paying out an eye watering £3,761 by the year 2025. With wages only increasing by 1.3% this year, many will be left feeling the cold at those price points.

Those who invest in solar panels now are secure against the prospect of price rises in the future, as they are able to generate electricity on their very own property. Protecting our planet from the effects of climate change is simply an added bonus.

49% of Brits who don’t have solar panels would purchase them if they had the money to do so

As a country, we’ve come a long way in terms of our attitude to solar panels. Many myths that have surrounded renewables are being dispelled as people start to listen to the research rather than the rumours. We now know that:

  1. Solar panels work by light, rather than heat, so they continue to work throughout the winter (even in England!)

  2. Solar panels offer a very competitive financial returns and often represent a better investment than many UK pensions.

  3. Renewable energy is subsidised five times less than the fossil fuel industry.

Solar panels keep falling in price, with a typical installation costing as little as £4,500 today, compared to £13,000 in 2010, according to statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. While not everyone can afford solar panels right now, lower prices in the future might allow for further deployment. As we become better informed about the benefits of solar panels as a society, we can make the right decisions when it comes to being energy-secure in our future. Yet unfortunately there are still a majority of people out there unaware of the financial incentives on offer for solar panels.

61% of Brits don’t know that the government pays consumers who buy solar panels

Those who are concerned about the costs of solar panels might be interested to hear that the government pays consumers for the energy that they generate through solar panels. The government purchases excess electricity produced by homeowners with panels for a fixed price, which is known as the ‘Feed-in Tariff.’ This means that with a typical installation a homeowner can expect to receive a return on their investment of between 5-8% for at least twenty years, according to government figures. If you have great conditions, such as a south-facing roof that is free of shading, then it’s likely that you will see returns in excess of 8%, and we have managed to secure returns of up to 14% on our own solar panel installations right here in Essex.

If you would like to learn more about solar panels, or would like to see an estimated return on investment for solar panels on your rooftop, give us a call on 01621 827015.

Photo Credit: City Clock Magazine

Solar On Course To Be the Largest Source of Electricity

2014 has been a great year for renewable energy, and both as a country and a planet we are making huge strides towards a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future. According to the IEA, new solar technologies “could prevent the emission of more than 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050” – that’s more than the entire yearly output of the United States today! With the solar trade association also forecasting that solar will be cheaper than natural gas by 2018, the outlook for renewables is sunny to say the least. Here’s why:

Rapid Cost Reduction of Solar Panels

solar panel installerAs with all new technologies, the price of solar panels is coming down as time goes on. Prices have fallen to as little as 60% of what they were five years ago, and this trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Naturally the cheaper solar panels become, the better the return on investment that they bring to the table. Thanks to lower prices and more efficient panels, solar is on course to become competitive with the price of wholesale electricity by 2025.

Technological Improvement of Solar Energy

Solar panels are also becoming more efficient as the technology improves. Remember that with a panel that has a lifetime of 25 years, even a percentage point increase represents a massive difference in terms of your overall investment. As with falling prices, this trend also shows no signs of slowing.

We’re also seeing some new radical approaches to solar power that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Researchers in Australia have developed a kind of ‘solar ink’ that can be printed out and attached to windows or laptops, charging your gadgets with the power of sunlight. Some bright sparks in Canada have developed a ‘solar spray,’ which allows them to coat solar panels onto flexible materials and then easily cover your rooftop. If these technologies can make it to mass market, then they could have an enormous positive impact on the soft-costs of solar panel installation. Both of these examples are still far from commercial release, yet they offer an interesting glimpse of what a solar-powered future might look like.

Stable Government Support

In order for solar panels to achieve their full potential in the quickest possible time, the industry needs stable government support. Before you start complaining about industries that can’t stand on their own two feet, remember that the vast majority of the world’s energy production is subsidised, and that the fossil fuel industry is subsidized five times more than the renewable energy sector. We aren’t asking for a leg up, but rather a level playing field that rewards innovation and bright ideas.

If you think that solar panels are expensive compared to the returns on investment, then there’s a good chance that you haven’t seen the latest prices. To find up-to-date prices and hear an estimated ROI call: 01621 827015

Photo Credit: digiyesica

The Biggest British Businesses Are Installing Solar Panels: Here’s Why

Marks & Spencers in Castle Donington recently built the UK’s largest solar panel network in an attempt to source half of the company’s energy from renewables. The staggering 24,000 PV panels will provide enough energy to power Marks & Spencer’s entire distribution centre for online sales.

7002390074_bb07a8fea9_bcommercial solar panelsThe installation of PV solar panels for businesses is very efficient because energy is used at the time it is generated. In other words, businesses that operate during the day can use electricity generated on their own rooftops to massively reduce their overall energy requirements and costs.

Businesses are Seeing a Healthy Return on Investment in Solar Panels

Let’s be honest, big businesses and large supermarket chains don’t have the best reputation for putting the environment ahead of financial concerns. That being said, you might be surprised to learn while Marks & Spencers’ Castle Donington project is the largest solar panel network in the UK, Tesco takes second place and Sainsbury’s has the largest number of rooftop solar panels in Europe. Sainsbury’s currently has solar panels installed at 170,000 stores and offices.

It would be nice to think that Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencers were investing in solar because they are concerned about the environmental impact of fossil fuels, but you don’t come to dominate your marketplace like they have unless you put profit first. Big businesses are investing in solar panels because it makes excellent financial sense to invest now in order to reduce running costs dramatically later on down the line.

They are also well aware of the fact that the price of energy is likely to continue rising. A sudden hike could be disastrous for businesses that haven’t protected themselves by investing in renewables. For businesses, the idea that renewable energy might just save the planet is simply an added bonus.

Not only that, but using otherwise unproductive rooftop space to generate electricity is a smart way to maximise the profit-making potential of every inch of your building. The only major barrier to more widespread installation of solar panels is not installation costs, as these are quickly weighed out by a good return on investment, but the fact that many commercial businesses don’t own their own buildings.

Consumers and governments alike are increasingly judging businesses on their green credentials

There’s also a growing demand among a number of consumers that the companies that they do business with are environmentally friendly. Just as the ethical concerns have had an impact on the sales of factory-farmed eggs and dolphin-friendly tuna, smart businesses know that having a good reputation for environmental practises will continue to be important for customer loyalty. As well as consumers, governments are increasingly expecting businesses to meet certain environmental requirements.

Maximising the productivity of our businesses’ rooftops is plainly the way that Britain and British businesses alike can get the most from renewable energy. It will bring long term benefits to the country and to the planet too.

Do you own the roof of your own business? Why not find out what has got Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencers going green and ask us for an estimate for your return on investment with solar panels.

Photo Credit: pieter.morlion

Farmers Lose Subsidies For Using Fields To Generate Solar Power

Farmers are set to lose financial support for solar panels positioned in fields. The change is due to come into effect in January 2015 and it will mean that farmers who use fields to generate solar power will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payment through the Common Agricultural Policy.

renewable energyEnvironment secretary Elizabeth Truss engineered the changes to regulations because she thinks that solar panels have “blighted” the countryside and claims that British food production has slowed due to farmers taking an interest in solar panels.

But there is a real danger here that Truss has completely misunderstood how British solar farms operate, at least that is what farmers are suggesting. This is because the vast majority of British solar farms continue to produce food through co-locating solar panels and livestock, including sheep, chickens and geese. They say that having diverse means of income has enabled many farmers to stay afloat in times of financial crisis, and that therefore the solar panel subsidy has been helpful for British food production.

It also makes little sense that we should prioritise British food production over British energy production, as currently we have to import both from abroad. By scrapping the subsidy, Truss has removed a fantastic opportunity for farmers to be doubly productive and supply the country with two valuable resources, meat and energy, by using just one field.

There is No Evidence that Solar Panels have Harmed British Food Production

Farmers haven’t slowed food production, some have simply changed from crops to livestock, a move that has had unexpected environmental benefits. Less crops means less pesticides, and farmers using solar panels reporting an increase in biodiversity. Not only that, but in fields set aside for solar panels the soil quality has a chance to recover from intensive farming. The solar trade association’s suggestion is a good one: the most fertile land should be used for crops, whilst the less fertile land can be used to graze sheep, chicken or geese and simultaneously produce solar power.

When challenged to give evidence to support the view that British food production was slowing as a result of solar panels, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs failed to respond.

There are a lot of difficult questions that need to be considered. Why is the government targeting farmers and renewable energy? If Truss is really concerned about the productivity of the British countryside, then why hasn’t she looked at the 660,000 acres of private golf courses, which produce neither food nor energy and take up over ten times more space than all of the nation’s solar farms put together? And why is Elizabeth Truss, a former Shell employee and longstanding opponent of renewable energy, acting as the country’s primary decision-maker on environmental issues in the first place?

Farmers Can Still Take Advantage of Subsidies and Put Solar Panels on Barns

The proposed subsidy changes will affect farmer’s fields, but not their barns. Business savvy farmers are looking to take advantage of large barn roofs and secure themselves a healthy return on investment.

Barns with large rooftops are an excellent place to install mid-sized and larger solar panel systems. On a typical large barn, it is possible to install a 35 kW system consisting of around 116 310W panels. This is enough to produce a sizable income through energy export and repay the initial cost of investment reasonably quickly. If this kind of system were installed on a factory roof, then the business would benefit both from massive energy bill savings and the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

Interested to know what your return on investment would be for solar panels mounted on your barn or farm building? We would be happy to provide an estimate for you.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley

How a Heat Pump Can Reduce Your Heating Bills

With the price of heating our homes this winter forecast to rise yet again, now is an excellent time to consider alternative heating solutions. A heat pump works in a similar way to an air conditioner, except that it can heat your home as well as cooling it. On a basic level, it works by extracting ambient heat from the ground or air and pumping it into your home. Under the right conditions, a heat pump can save somewhere between 40 and 60% when compared to a traditional electrical furnace.

Samsung ASHP Home

How heat is transferred throughout the house

Air source heat pumps take energy from the outside air and convert this into heat. By compressing a refrigerant, heat pumps are able to utilise even very low external temperatures to meet your heating needs. The heat is then pumped to radiators or underfloor heating systems around the house.

Ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground, which has an average year-round temperature of 10⁰C. Heat is collected from the ground through a series of underground pipes, then the heat is transferred to a refrigerant and pumped around the home. Although ground source heat pumps are more effective than air source heat pumps, the extensive piping requirements means that they are often a better option for new-builds.

Which brand of heat pump should you choose?

There are a number of different brands on the market, and choosing the right one for your needs can be a challenge. Fortunately, here at Complete Renewables we have a wealth of experience with the major heat pump manufacturers and can help you make an informed decision.

Mitsubishi are high-quality manufacturers who build a robust pump with a lifespan of between fifteen to twenty years. It is designed to require less maintenance than a comparable gas furnace, and withstand temperatures of -25⁰C, should you live in a particularly cold area.

  • Dimplex

Dimplex produces air source heat pumps that consistently rank very highly in terms of efficiency. These pumps operate effectively at a temperature range of -25⁰C to 35⁰C. They can provide heating and hot water as necessary, and are easy to install. Another advantage of this kind of pump is that their operating noise is kept to a minimum level.

Samsung is another brand that we are very happy to work with, and they have been a popular choice with many customers this year. It’s main selling points are hassle free maintenance and excellent pricing. Due to Samsung’s aggressive move into the marketplace, we were recently able to install a Samsung Air Source heat pump in Essex for under £4,500.

  • Vaillant

Specialists in air-to-water and ground source heat pumps, Vaillant’s models create no harmful emissions and use minimal electricity. For every 1kW used to run the system, an air-to-water heat pump can produce 4kW of heat for your home. Like most heat pumps, Vaillant models heat newer buildings more effectively than older ones, so the newer your home is, the better value for money.

Earn an average of £2,800 per year with the Renewable Heat Incentive

Another excellent advantage to renewable energy heating is the government payments, known as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), that you will receive per unit of renewable heat generated by your system. You can read about the RHI on the Energy Saving Trust website, or on the government’s website. At the current rate of 18.8p per kWh, an average home with a ground source heat pump can expect to receive £2,800 per year for the first seven years through quarterly RHI payments.

Should you like further information on a particular brand, or an estimate on the RHI values for your home, you can give us a call on 01621 827015.

5 of the Best Solar-Powered Gadgets

How much energy does it take to power those gadgets we use so often? According to the New Scientist, high-tech gadgets account for 15% of the home’s energy use, while used batteries leak toxic substances into the groundwater supply. We’ve compiled a list of the five best green gadgets, so that you can continue to enjoy the finer things in life without worrying about damaging the environment.

1. A Green Smartphone

Smartphones are great for staying connected but not so fantastic for the environment, especially if we’ve gotten into the habit of buying a new one each year. Not only does the constant recharging take it’s toll on your energy bill, but a concoction of toxic materials, including arsenic, PVC and lead, are used in the manufacturing process.

The Sony Xperia P is one of the greenest mobiles on the market right now. A handful of the most toxic chemicals have been cut down or eliminated from the manufacturing process, and the phone itself uses energy more efficiently than it’s competitors. While it isn’t solar-powered, you can further add to the phone’s green credentials by investing in a solar energy battery charger.

2. A Solar-powered Refrigerator

Considering upgrading your appliances this Christmas? NASA developed the SunDanzer Solar Refrigerator to reach the same low temperature as a regular fridge, without relying on the national grid. Simply hook it up to your existing solar panel system and enjoy a cool beer. It needs five hours of direct sunlight to charge for the whole day, but it can store excess energy for up to a week and comes equipped with a back-up battery too.

3. A ‘Next Generation’ Solar-panelled Radio

The Christmas tunes that you hear every year might not have changed in decades, but the devices playing them certainly have! You can unplug your Roberts SolarDAB Portable Radio and take it with you wherever you go. A solar panel mounted on top of the radio powers and charges the device for up to twenty hours, so you can enjoy your favourite radio show and never miss a minute due to dead batteries. Comes complete with an LED solar and battery indicator.

4. A Solar Energy Battery Charger

If you have a feeling that Father Christmas might be particularly generous with gadgets this year, then this is the product you need to keep batteries from going flat. Rechargeable batteries just got greener with the Solio Solar-powered Battery Charger. Reusing batteries prevents toxic chemicals from polluting landfills and tainting our groundwater supplies. It’s marketed as ‘made for iPhone,’ but you can use it to charge any of your devices, including mp3 player, smartphone and camera.

5. A Solar Robot for the Young and Young at Heart

This simple robotics kit for children – and those of us who never wanted to grow up – can be made into six different toys. Build a solar-powered windmill, helicopter, aeroplane, car, dog and even a steamboat. It’s made from recyclable parts, and the robot can alternatively be powered by a 60 watt light bulb on rainy days.

Want to do your part for the environment without compromising your lifestyle or your bank balance? Call us on 01621 827015 to find out more.

Image Credit: @flckr

climate change

Renewable Energy in the Home: A Solution to Climate Change

Can the actions of one person have an impact when it comes to climate change?

Climate change is an issue that we would all like someone else to deal with. Whether it’s scientists in white coats, politicians sitting around tables, or the CEOs of international companies, everyone has their own idea of who should be fixing problems like global warming or our total dependence on fossil fuels. However, here’s where an old truth comes in: if you want something done right, do it yourself!

What can I do about Climate Change?

One of the easiest ways to have a positive impact is to reduce your energy usage. The best thing about reducing energy usage is that is also reduces your energy bill, so there’s a financial incentive for your work. Switching your light bulbs to CFLs is a great start, as is looking for energy efficient replacements whenever your current household appliances develop faults. Using a cold wash for your laundry and the summer heat for your drying are also good ideas. There are countless ways to cut down, and they all add up in the end.

Invest in Solar Panels and other renewable energy technologies

Renewable energy is the only environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. There are a huge range of renewable energy technologies on offer and they can lead to massive energy savings in the long run. The costs of solar panels are plummeting, down 80% on 2008, and the technology is only getting better, lasting longer and working harder. For a typical home solar PV system, you could end up reducing carbon dioxide emissions by a staggering thirty tonnes over the lifetime of the product. With the price of electricity set to keep on rising, investing in a solar panel is both good for the planet and great for your bank balance.

Be a Conscious Consumer

Another way to help the planet is by thinking about what you buy and who you buy it from. As Anna Lappe puts it, “every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” Shop at your local farmer’s market instead of at a supermarket. Not only is the produce fresher, but it hasn’t travelled across the world at great energy cost either. Another great tip is to check Freecycle before buying a new product to see if someone has what you need already. If enough people cut demand by reusing instead of buying new, then wasteful manufacturing can be slowed, or even reversed.

Take steps towards preventing climate change. Complete Renewables are a group of renewable energy developers and installers based in Essex.

Complete Renewables Earns Merit Award for Workmanship Warranty

When it comes to something as important as work on your home, you want to be sure that you have renewable energy professionals that you can trust on hand.

The Independent Warranty Association (IWA) has given Complete Renewables a Merit Award for three consecutive years of 100% customer satisfaction. That’s an incredible achievement which shows you the kind of professionalism and quality that you can expect from the company.

Whenever Complete Renewables installs PV solar panels, thermal panels or ground/air source heat pumps, the customer is given a workmanship warranty and an insurance backup supplied by the IWA. When the customer registers the warranty with the IWA, they also complete a satisfaction questionnaire. The results have been collated, and over the last three years Complete Renewables has held onto its impressive 100% customer satisfaction record.

Clive, the owner here at Complete Renewables, is very pleased with his team’s hard work and professional attitude. “As a small family-business, I’m very proud of our reputation for high-quality service” he says. “This award from the IWA simply confirms what our customers have been saying for years: that we’re friendly, prepared to go the extra mile and extremely knowledgeable in the field of renewable energy technology.”

With so many businesses springing up to take advantage of the booming demand for solar panels and other green devices, it can be difficult for homeowners to know which companies they can trust. Awards like this one are an excellent way for customers to be sure that they are working with a reputable and experienced business. To find out more about the IWA, you can visit their website here.

Want to know what three years of customers are all so satisfied about? More often than not, you’ll be able to chat to Clive on 01621 827015, for a no-pressure discussion about renewable technology options for your home.

Home Solar Panels Essex

How to Maximise the Efficiency of PV Panels: Should they Face South or West?

Despite what the Telegraph’s headlines suggest, south-facing solar panels generate more power than those facing west. But why are sections of the media and a small group of scientists rooting for west-facing panels?

Sensationalist Headlines

Telegraph managing editor Keith Perry says that according to energy experts, “thousands of people have spent vast sums of money installing eco-friendly solar panels but most will have probably had them fitted facing the wrong way.” As is often the case, probably is the key word here. Turns out that south-facing solar panels actually generate more electricity than west-facing solar panels, and whilst Perry probably knows this, his headline suggesting that the opposite is true is much more newsworthy, though also a little misleading.

The whole west is better than south argument first made waves back in November 2013 when a report from the Pecan Street Institute found that west-facing solar panels generated more electricity than south-facing solar panels for twenty four houses in Austin, Texas, but only over a three-month period. The same report concludes that over the course of a year south-facing solar panels provide “more total energy than other orientations.” Question marks have since been raised as to the report’s validity due to small sample size.

What’s the Argument for West?

West-facing solar panels don’t produce a higher energy yield than south-facing solar panels, but there is some credit to the idea that a mix of west-facing solar panels and south-facing solar panels might be better for the country in general. In Germany, the world leader for solar energy, so much energy is generated by solar panels at midday that the grid struggles to handle it. The German government is now advising people to build east and west-facing solar panels so that solar energy can be generated more evenly throughout the day

The same situation is occurring in Cornwall. Many people have built solar panels in the sunny Southwest and the grid is unable to handle any more energy. As such, they’ve had to reconsider construction for the time being. So whilst the individual homeowner gains more power from a south-facing solar panel, in places that already have a lot of solar panels it’s better for the grid to build east-facing or west-facing solar panels. It’s also worth considering that west-facing solar panels generate most of their energy in the afternoon, which is when demand for electricity generally peaks.

The government’s current feed-in-tariffs (FIT) pay out to homeowners based on the amount of electricity that they generate for the grid, with a typical system in the South of England generating an income of £330 plus savings annually. A homeowner with a south-facing panel will earn more through FIT than a homeowner with a west-facing panel. Unless the government changes the incentive system to reward west-facing solar panels, it’s unlikely that very many homeowners will opt for a less efficient, less financially rewarding placement of their solar panel.

What else to Watch out for?

In addition to to choosing a south-facing orientation, there are a number of other ways to maximise the efficiency of your PV solar panels:

  • Make sure that there are no shadows on your panels.
  • Make sure that there isn’t a layer of dust on your panels.
  • Keep your panels at the right temperature.
  • Although FITs are a nice source of income, it makes more financial sense to try and use the electricity that you generate, rather than sell it to the grid. If you have a south-facing grid, set your appliances to go to work at midday when you have plenty of solar energy available.

Of course, the most efficient way to use you PV panel is to get a fully automated solar tracking mount. This kind of mount follows the sun as it moves through the sky, so your panel is always facing the best possible angle. However, these kind of rigs can be expensive, so until the price comes down your best bet is probably sticking with a south-facing panel!

Are you interested to know how much money you could save with renewable energy? You can either keep reading our blog, or speak to a member of the team at 01621 827015.

Immersun solar hot water heater

Solar Heating Installation Explained

Solar heating systems use the sun’s natural energy to generate hot water for your home and cut your water heating bill by up to 60%. If you already know how solar heating systems work, then it’s time to find out about the installation process too.

What are the Costs of a Solar Heating System?

The installation costs for solar heating systems have dropped dramatically over the last few years, and UK demand has never been higher. Costs vary considerably from household to household, so getting a quote from a trusted local installer is the best thing to do. When you get a solar heating system installed you may also be eligible for money back through the government’s renewable heat incentive scheme.

Location is Very Important for Solar Panels

Location is the most important factor to consider when installing solar panels. For best results, solar panels should be installed on a south-facing roof at a 30 to 50-degree angle. It’s important to consider shading too, as this can inhibit performance. Chimneys, satellite dishes and plants should not cast a shadow over your panels. Most solar panels work without problems for decades, but maintenance is another thing to bear in mind when deciding on a location. You may want to check your panels for leaks or other faults every year or so, but this can be difficult when your panels are on the roof.

Planning Permission Isn’t Necessary for Most Domestic Solar Panels

Good news! For the vast majority of domestic solar panels under a certain size, you don’t need to apply for planning permission. However, if you live in a listed building, a conservation area or a world heritage site you might be an exception. You can get in touch with the Energy Saving Trust for more information about solar panels and planning permission.

What Needs to be Installed for a Solar Heating System to Work?

In addition to the panels themselves, a solar heating system requires pipework, a thermostat and a hot water cylinder. Fortunately, it’s usually possible to add a solar heating system to an existing hot water system, although you may need either an additional cylinder or a twin coil installed. Older combination (combi) boilers do not work with solar hot water systems, though a good number of the newer models are acceptable.

Choosing the Right Solar Panel Brand

It’s important to choose the best solar panel brand when installing a solar heating system. There are plenty of cheap solar panels on the market, but as solar hot water systems are a long term investment, the cheapest option probably isn’t the best option. You want a system that has the durability to last for decades. LG is an excellent brand whose solar panels come with an outstanding reputation and a twenty five year power output guarantee. They have also just upgraded their Mono X Black solar panels from 250W to 270W, generating more energy for you for the product’s entire lifetime. Dimplex is another brand that has an exceptional reputation for affordable heating products. They are also constantly innovating, so you can be sure that they have an efficient system.

If you have any questions regarding solar heating installation or thermal fitting in Essex and the surrounding area, you can talk to a dedicated member of our team on 01621 827015.