Developments to Renewables Map

Apart from the data being the most complete and accurate of any of the equivalent resources, Renewables Map is being further developed towards being a one stop shop for all data that is generally available online.

Showing More data

Many of the over 3,000 projects listed within renewables map now have the DECC and for active projects, the OFGEM data shown. This data is of course only available where the corresponding data has been listed by these organisations.  OFGEM is invariably up to date as subsidy payments are dependent on OFGEM being informed. DECC is not so consistent in maintaining its data, don’t blame me if that data is missing.

Address data is being added along with a separate postcode and county entry.

(ongoing) Associated company data is now being applied to all projects showing developer, owner and operator.  This is intelligently linked so by clicking on the associated business you get to see their contact details, then a list of their projects, again all hyperlinked.

(coming soon) The ability to select data sets and download to a csv file. An example might be:

All solar projects in Kent with number of panels, acreage, address, developer, capacity.

or

The latitude and longitude and elevation of all Vestas V90 turbines in the UK along with the associated project.

Offshore projects

For offshore projects, there is a direct link to the 4coffshore resource and their map embedded (with 4coffshore’s permission) .  Have a look at Kentish Flats Wind Farm  you will also be able to see corresponding data from DECC and OFGEM where this exists.

The MAP

The ability to specify in greater detail what will be seen, eg just particular turbines or all projects for a particular developer or in a particular county.

Smart Data 

In the future will be the ability to login and manage private data alongside data from the Renewables Map.  That is fairly straightforward as the user management exists within the software and I use it, however it will have to pay for itself first.

But I’m not seeing all this extra data !

Your 1st visit of the day will show most of the additional data, then you will be switched back to the restricted version.

Alternatively have a look at   http://www.renewables-map.co.uk/details.asp?pageid=1940

Renewables Map gets over 10,000 unique visitors each month looking at over 30,000 project pages. 30% are regular visitors, many using the renewable energy  map as a routine resource.

My aim was to have everything on the renewable energy database and map a completely free resource and have been writing to the biggest users who are also the biggest power companies and generators.

I’ll list the biggest power companies: EDF; E.on; npower; Scottish Power;SSE . Lets add the generators: Airtricity, Ecotricity; Infinis; Energis; REG; RES; lightsource;  – oh, and every other generator I’ve missed (sorry not too list you) . Lets add the wind companies like Siemens; Vestas; Enercon; Repower and Vattenfall and not to forget the associated companies like National Grid,  Narec, STFC.  Actually, find a list of all companies in any way associated with energy and specifically renewable energy  and they are my biggest users. Don’t forget to add the BBC and Associated Press – actually all the media.  Then there is every single council and Government Department including Parliament and even the FCO!

Why list all of these companies and organisations?   Well, I had started to write to them, they use the resource and it would be so much easier to sponsor than have a paid for resource. That at least would make it accessible to the equally large number of schools, colleges and universities that use the data.

So, what sort of response? Well, RWE and Vattenfall replied – the only ones. Both were a NO, they remain major users.

Everybody else didn’t even bother replying – but I’ve only contacted a small number so far. It gets very depressing.  Ecotricity emailed to ask for a download of all the data I have collected over the last many years.  I politely suggested that I couldn’t do this for free, I didn’t even get a response, they remain major users, I’ve tried contacting again, no response.

Same for Bloomberg – have you seen the price of their terminals !

Crown Estates – they even state they offer sponsorship – No!

You can read about my attempt to simply carry on doing this but for DECC here: DECC RESTATS .  depressing isn’t it.  The people who won the contract – Eunomia rapidly became one of the biggest visitors to Renewables Map, only stopping when I wrote to Jayne Redrup of DECC complaining about what clearly looked like data mining /  plagiarism.

Anyway a last attempt at keeping all this free is going to be an approach to Heritage Lottery fund. I really want this to remain the best and be free access. Its just that as an individual providing a service to – yes the list of companies and organisations above –  that is a bit silly.

So.  renewables map will aim go from strength to strength, remaining the best , it will unfortunately move towards a paid for model.

Sorry

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Midnight Sun – Solar Energy

I’ve just seen an advert for “Midnight Sun” in the daily mail. This is from a company called AWE – nothing to do with AWE Aldermaston which makes nuclear weapons.
Along with solar panels and the rest of the eco type stuff, they are marketing a gizmo called Midnight Sun which supposedly stores energy generated through the day for use during the night, thus saving you money ! Ostensibly a good idea but what is it.
Well, it can only be a battery, a battery charger and an inverter, hopefully a bit more electronics to synchronize with the phase of any solar panel inverter (Otherwise you are simply charging from the mains) .
Further research says about 9kWh of storage and 5kWh available (think 9 and 5 units of electricity ) So in simple terms a deep cycle battery, on ebay look for deep cycle gel battery 12volt  170ah which equates to about 8.5kWh and is about £250.  Battery chargers aren’t expensive and inverters much the same, lets say £100 each for the top of the range, maybe £600 worth of kit including something to balance the phases.  The deep cycle battery has maybe 700 cycles before it needs replacing.
This £600 worth of equipment will potentially store 5kWh of unused solar energy, assuming that over the day there is any unused solar energy and that the sun is out, so it might work at near capacity during the summer , hardly at all during the winter.
So we might save at max 5 units of electricity, lets say an average of 3 units a night -I’m being very generous!  Each unit represents maybe 6p taking into account the savings in not buying it and the loss in not exporting it. Our £600 investment  saves us at best about 20p a night or maybe £60 a year!  So, ignoring battery replacement and any “money” cost associated with having £600 invested in batteries and not invested in savings, even at 1%, we have at minimum a 10 year payback.
Now have a look at their website : http://www.aweenergy.com/midnight_sun.php.
I was drawn to this by the full page advert in the daily mail for “Midnight Sun”  / “Solar PV Payback Scheme” It sounds good, no mention of batteries, lots of “Solar Energy” , “Stored energy” etc. No mention of price nor actual savings.
Now read this: http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=c24b607093cc3df8638529bcb5fefcbb&topic=18595.15 and we get an idea of the price, not £600, not £1,000 which might allow a bit of profit.
No, to get a price, apparently (according to the Navitron subscribers) you have to have the salesman visit, salesman usually equals a lot of commission .  Well, the prices I have come across are from £5,500 upwards.
So, with a saving of £60 a year and that assumes the system really stores ONLY excess solar power! That means over 100 years to recoup your investment, but the batteries won’t last that long, maybe 5 years?
I suppose as a UPS / Battery backup it might work, but UPS’s are in the region of £100 not £1,000s

FITs. Helping us generate energy or just a money making scam?

When the FITs were introduced I thought the rate was overly generous and unsustainable. A 10% return on investment would mean that anybody with a shed load of cash would get on the bandwagon, who cares if it generated any renewable energy, lets make some money!

My credentials, well read my other blogs, but yes, I bought 2.6 kilowatts worth, I paid £11,000 and had I delayed a year would have got the same for about £9,000 . Yes, I would have been financially better off by delaying my installation.

Which is why I welcomed the sharp drop in FIT rates, When the Feed in Tariffs started the standard 2kW system would cost about £12,000 or approaching £20,000 if you got scammed.  Prices have come down to as low as just over £6,000 almost half !  So, if £12K  was a great deal when FITs were 41p and index linked, why is £6K  not the same great deal with FITs at 21p !!  Actually its a slightly better deal!

To my mind the solar companies have really shot themselves in the foot. Rather than saying that low installation prices would make the drop in FITs match the return that early installers got, they said that solar panels were now unaffordable  But they are the cheapest they have ever been!  The idiots have told the public not to buy their product!

21p means the FIT scheme can be retained for far longer, it means the cost of installation can comedown and the industry retained.  At 43.3 it means the scheme must close overnight when the set amount of money has run out!

Church and charity warn on solar :http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16304817

DECC makes a brave decision

DECC – The Department for Energy and Climate Change has confirmed that large-scale solar PV is not for the UK. They have reduced the incentive to 8.5p per kWh  which means just about all the planned multi mega watt solar farms will not go ahead.  This is great news and means that the limited funds available through DECC will go to the smaller investor and not the city institutions who are after little more than a load of money.

What this will mean is that solar schemes will invariably be limited to roofs, which are dead space with no other use than keeping the things and people below, dry and warm.

It also means the solar scheme will almost certainly be installed close to where the power generated will be used, thus reducing transmission losses and limiting the need to upgrade the local power transmission lines.

And it means that those who are paying the higher bills that pay for the Feed in Tariffs will have more of an opportunity to benefit, not the bankers in the city.

I really struggle to understand why the solar industry is so upset, the Govt have not reduced the available cash at all, there will almost certainly be just as many installations, it’s just kept it out of the hands of the larger players.

Electricity isn’t the only form of energy

The planned RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme is almost with us, but seems to be seriously watered down when it comes to solar water heating on domestic properties.

Where is most of domestic energy consumed? In heating!

How is most of that heat generated? By using gas or oil or coal, rarely electricity!

What do the government want us to cut down on?  Our consumption of gas and oil and coal.

Looking at hot water alone and lets say I have a choice of heating it using solar hot water or electricity. Throughout the summer I can have all my hot water heated by a solar water heater which comprises a contraption made up of glass, copper and insulating material, all relatively low tech but varying in efficiency depending on the way it is formed, perhaps solar flat plate or vacuum tube.

This solar water heater will cover between 4 and 6 square metres of my roof and provide all my hot water from , late spring to early autumn. The whole system will cost in the region of  £4,000, is reliable and relatively maintenance free.  Very little electricity is involved.

 Conversely, I could do the same job with £10,000 to £20,000 worth of solar PV, which while I might have to pay a great deal to  install, I will get paid Feed in Tariffs which will pay back the full costs in 10 years and give me a profit for another 15.  These solar PV panels are very costly to make, invariably imported from China, consume vast amounts of rare metals and are very costly in energy to manufacture.  

If the Government really wants to cut down on the use of energy, they should proactively support the installation of solar water heating, in my opinion to a greater extent than solar PV as there is a far greater carbon saving return per £ invested whether through grants or when considering the cost of the installation. 

More information on the  Renewable Heat Incentive and how it relates to Solar Water Heating can be seen here within a press release from the Solar Trades Association placed on the solaruk website. http://www.solaruk.net/news/solarenergy.asp?item=2170

The Government seem to have got hung up on electricity rather than energy.

Free Solar Panels

I’m paying to have a new set of solar panels, its happening while I write this, the installers are on the roof drilling holes and so far not having cups of tea, though coffeee was offered.

The installation is being paid out of my hard earned savings and in my view a more effective alternative to either keeping the money in the bank or ‘investments’. I’m expecting an 8% to 9% return on my capital outlay over the course of the next 20 years or so, that return dropping at the point my Feed in Tariff contract finishes though I would expect to keep generating electricity for some years after that.

Overall my £12,000 investment will repay a bit more than £20,000 at current rates. The FITs are inflation linked so my return will not be eroded by inflation. Keeping my money in the bank at say 0.5% will see a degradation of about 1.5% per year allowing for 2% inflation.   Solar, with the Feed in Tariff is clearly a good bet.

Prior to going ahead with a paid for system I had looked very carefully at the option of a free system, I expect that my roof is South enough to comply with any ‘free’ requirements, however going through all the pros and cons it was clear that a paid for system was a better bet.

My concerns were:

  • Its my roof, getting free electricity based on a fairly standard install of 2kW would save me about £100 a year.
  • For the next 20 years, I cannot install my own system!
  • Nor can any prospective buyer of my house
  • That bit of roof is no longer mine to do with as I wish
  • Insurance / Damage

While I am sure that much of this has been carefully looked at by the free installers and there is a lot of small print protecting each party, it wasn’t at all for me.

I also looked at a company offering leased systems, effectively a solar installtion that after 20 years you might own. Wow, all the downside of a free system and you pay for it!  I covered this is greater detail here:
Solar PV leasing along with numbers, don’t go there!

While all the free and leased systems that I have looked at seem to have a reasonable business ethic behind them, just a bit too in favour of the installer, I am waiting for the real scammers to jump on this and how they will fleece people who usually tend to be older and trusting.

The Sunday Times 10/10/10 page 27  identified a clear scam. Free solar panels, but you have to pay for a survey to see if you are eligible. I doubt that there is any chance of any free solar panels being installed, especially when the ‘survey’ costs £2,500!

I can see more of these free solar scams coming on stream, perhaps a fixed annual rental, maybe an upfront bond re-payable over the years – but not when the company goes bust and re-starts with a new name and same scam.

My standard advice when considering solar thermal and PV.

Solar thermal will only heat your hot water, it won’t heat your house. At best it will provide 70% of your hot water, it shouldn’t cost more than £4,000 and you should use an MCS accredited installer in order to get the RHI when and if it is introduced.

Solar PV will cost about £12,000 or less for a medium sized system of 2kW, less than £19,000 for a 4kW system. The return should be in the order of 8%

(2012, prices have fallen and you should be looking at less than £10K for a 4kw system, the returns remain the same or better even with lower FITs)

You will never have to pay for a survey from a legitimate supplier

Never use a supplier / installer who will not discuss prices prior to a visit.

Installers who insist on sending a salesman prior to even talking about a price will be looking more at what you can afford, less at what the system costs.

As to who is installing my system – solarUK

Solar PV leasing

With the introduction of Feed in Tariffs, the installation and promotion of Solar PV has shifted from an activity based on saving or generating energy to one of making as much money as possible. As long as this results in the generation of renewable energy perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing, however the watchword remains, “Buyer Beware”.

The latest solar related leaflet to come through my door is promoting solar leasing, outwardly it looks like a great idea, certainly it promotes a way of making money – incidentally generating energy – that seems to be easy and risk free.

The premise is: The lease is X (stated per month so it looks small) the income is Y (stated per year so it looks big) and all you need is to have a load of solar panels on your roof.

But, when reading the small print and comparing the costs and income, the free money premise becomes rather suspect.

The promo I received includes a fairly standard 12 panel system generating a nominal 2.1kW being sold at £13,000. Okay, its at the top end of the prices normally quoted but not that bad.

This has an annual saving and income stated as being £980 with a monthly lease of £62 spread over 10, 15 or 20 years (its unstated as to which applies) also a 2% increase per year or rpi whichever is higher. Also there is an up front fee of £1,500. 

On the website (associated with the brochure) it then goes on to say that at the end of the lease period a new lease could be contracted or the equipment removed – at your cost. So you never own it!

Now, £62 per month is of course £744 per year which allows for a nominal profit of £236 if all goes according to plan, ie sufficient sunny days.

To be on the safe side,  lets drop that to a more realistic  £900 savings / income and FIT over the course of the year, some people would claim even that was too high. Now we have an annual saving / income of approx £150. Sounds okay?

But what about the £1500 up front payment? That’s the first 10 years just to pay off the deposit, ie for the first 10 year lease you’ve made nothing.

For a 20 year lease, the first 10 years is spent paying off the deposit, then you might get £1,500 by the time the 20 years is up (okay there is inflation etc. but also increases in the lease cost, they might cancel each other out) lets deal with known numbers.

At the end of the lease its time to remove the solar panels – at your cost, after all this isn’t an HP agreement its a lease, you have never owned the panels. Removing them might well cost £1,500 or more, your roof must remain in good condition. Or you could enter into a new lease and start again?

Think long and hard about a lease. In particular if you might move house during the period of the lease, the new owner might not want such a deal hanging over them so it would then be up to you to finish the lease at the terms stated by the owner of the solar panels that are on your roof.

And consider insurance, even though you don’t own the panels, they are your responsibility.