Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Solar, So Good

One of the things about travelling around the borough on the top deck of a bus is that you get to see things you wouldn’t normally notice while driving or walking, like this, pictured below. There are lots of them all around, you just have to look up.

Here’s some recent news clips on the subject:

Surge in solar panel installations on UK household roofs
• Government subsidies driving demand for panels
• Expert says fall in price removes need for feed-in tariff review
- The Guardian 28th April 2011

But then…..

To get a solar industry with critical mass, restricting meaningful incentives to families who put a solar panel on their roof just isn't going to cut it – The Independent 3rd May 2011

But wait….

Solar panels and other forms of small-scale energy generation may be eligible for a government-backed loan scheme to householders, according to the UK's minister of state for climate change. The potential inclusion of renewable energy in the coalition's flagship "green deal" comes as a surprise, as the development of the scheme has so far focused on energy efficiency measures such as lagging lofts. - The Guardian 2nd June 2011

And on Energy efficiency:

Up to 14 million families will be able to apply for up to £10,000 each to pay for energy-efficiency improvements on their properties, ministers will announce today. The money - which will be paid back in energy savings over 20 years - is almost double the previous figure of £6,500 outlined when the scheme was launched. – The Independent 10th May 2011.

Meanwhile across the channel: Huge solar PV farm opens in France; By the end of 2011, solar panels will cover 200 hectares and produce around 100MW. – The Guardian 26th May 2011

But there’s a snag!

Solar energy schemes could fry wildlife - action required to save bugs from light pollution - new report

Another developing problem is polarised light pollution. For the whole history of the Earth all flat shiny surfaces that reflected polarised light were ponds or rivers. Suddenly there are thousands of similar artificial surfaces such as plastic sheeting on agricultural fields, shiny tarmac, cars, and now proliferating solar panels. Expectant aquatic insects are attracted to these surfaces and, believing them to be watery habitats, deposit their precious eggs; sadly the eggs all dry and perish in the sun.
Fortunately Bug Life have some advice for planners on cheap mitigation measures.


  1. "Up to 14 million families will be able to apply for up to £10,000 ..." That's £140,000,000,000!

    So where are we going to find £140bn from? I thought the country was skint! Oh yes, a 20 year pay back period too. How much is that going to cost!

    Of course, it's you and I - the consumers - who are going to pay for it but how much will we actually be paying?

    At least this scheme seems to be aimed at making homes much more energy efficient - or, perhaps, less inefficient would be a better term - rather than funding solar energy.

    The solar schemes are being widely regarded as guaranteed money spinners by the participants - note how the maximum size for the higher rates was restricted recently as local authorities, schools and so on realised just how much they could make out of large schemes. I don't know if Redbridge were tempted but just tot up the total area of every south facing roof on every council owned building in the borough and compare it with the average house and you start to get the idea. And, of course, with economies of scale, the the potential return on lower solar-unit investment costs would be much higher than for a domestic system.

    Am I not the only one who finds the size of these Feed In Tariffs frightening?

    The Guardian article referenced above quotes a figure of 43.3p/kWh (1 kWh = 1 unit). A recent gas bill tells me that wholesale fuel costs represent only 53% of retail prices. Applying the same figure to the FIT results in a retail price of 81.7 pence per unit! Compare that to the figure on you last bill!

    There is one consolation - the Guardian contrasted the 78MW current - if you'll pardon the pun - installed solar capacity with one 4,000MW coal fired power station, so the expensive FIT power will be much diluted by the vast amount of conventional generation, but it also means that no power stations will be shut down any time soon or, in fact, ever!

    Put simply, we have the least amount of solar energy for the shortest period at the time we need electricity most - in the winter.

    Personally, I think it is only the cowboys and con artists who will really benefit from this. They will be falling over themselves to carry out surveys of your property for government funded schemes which will throw lots of money at you!

    They already exist, of course, as do some genuine schemes - we've had approaches from both.

    We've actually been on the receiving end of one of the latter - funded by British Gas - but I have rarely witnessed such an inefficient money wasting shower in my life!

    Before them, though, we had the other mob, claiming to be 'from the council'. Some councils do offer the scheme they were suggesting - but Redbridge aren't one of them! They wore ID badges but stood far enough back from the door to make them illegible. Mrs Knowsie gave them short shrift and they moved on ...

    We called the local Safer Neighbourhood Team as we thought they should investigate. Indeed, the sergeant was very interested but, unfortunately, his team were all involved on another matter at the time ...

    Ah yes! There was a strong police presence at a demonstration in central London that day ...

    Now, where's that thread about the new way of policing our parks ...

  2. I don't know if the Daily Mail reads this blog but, by what appears to be sheer coincidence, yesterdays issue reported on a £200 stealth tax included in gas and electricity bills to fund these 'green' initiatives.

    For solar energy to contribute significantly to electricity demand, two basic requirements are guaranteed sunshine and very large uninhabited areas on which to site the solar energy farms - neither of which are found in Britain.

    Solutions to these problems are being investigated but, as Der Spiegelel reports today, it means giving the arabs control over yet another important energy source. Furthermore, current shenanigans in North Africa and the Middle East are not conducive to encouraging investment ...