Thursday, 22 December 2011

FiTS cuts deemed illegal by High Court

The High Court has ruled that the DECC's FiTS (feed in tariff) cuts were "legally flawed" after a legal challenge by Solar Century, Homesun Holdings and Friends of the Earth.

The challenge centred around the fact that the DECC cut the FiTS rate across the board before the end of the second phase of their own consultation, which the High Court decided was not in keeping with existing statutes. The Government plans, however, to challenge the ruling and it the Court is expected to hear the appeal on 4th January; whether or not this means the DECC will back-track is still to be seen.

In the meantime, the 'Solar Power FITs' report was today published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) and Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC). In short, the report highlights that "there is room for debate, therefore, about the role that solar PV should play in the future, to meet our carbon and renewables commitments in the most cost-effective way, particularly at a time of economic difficulty."

The report strongly suggests that the Government needs to more effectively engage with the renewable energy industry and that they should introduce any changes to the feed-in tariff scheme in "an orderly and timely manner". Hopefully, should legislators at the DECC pay attention to the report, we will see the solar industry back on track in the first part of 2012.

Whilst we at Cleversolar support any moves to support the proliferation of renewable energy technologies, and solar PV in particular, we do hope that things can be done better this time and that this latest episode is the FiTS debacle does not lead to a second mad rush, which can only ever be bad for the industry as a whole.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Letter to DECC re. FiTS cuts (25/11/11)

We sent this to the DECC today; whether or not anyone else will agree with us, or it will serve any purpose, fails to be seen at the moment.


"We are a wholesaler of solar PV equipment and have therefore been working hard to get through this difficult time. We are very closely associated with a German importer who has, obviously, gone through the period of recalibration following the German cut to their FiTS equivalent some time ago. We actually support the FiTS cut and believe that the industry will emerge stronger, more flexible and significantly more knowledgeable, and that the industry will remain profitable, albeit a little smaller. This is exactly what happened in Germany and those who remained after the FiTS were companies offering a far better level of client-side service.


However, we would like to suggest that the problem in the UK with overly high ROI figures in the 8-12% range has been greatly exacerbated by the EIS funds out of the City and, in particular, by those investing in the “rent a roof” programmes. Unfortunately, the DECC proposed reduction in FiTS is carte blanche and therefore does not discriminate between householders and ‘non-householders’. We strongly believe that the programme should have been set up originally to discriminate between the two, giving a higher tariff to those installing on their own property and those installing on a 3rd party property. This would have been, and still would be, a very simple legislative definition to include in the revised FiTS, rightly rewarding those who should have been rewarded in the first place. The “rent a roof” contingent would still be able to enjoy 4-6% ROI (a fairly ‘safe bet’ in investment terms).


We believe that a discriminatory approach would significantly reduce the negative impact that the current FiTS revision will have, whilst at the same time significantly reducing the national cost of the programme and realigning it with the intentions from which it was born."


Yours faithfully,


Martyn Judd
www.cleversolar.co.uk 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mono- or poly-crystalline PV: Which is best?

By Robin Whitlock, Freelance Environmental Journalist

The three most recognised forms of solar PV are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film (amorphous). Of these three the first two form 93% of solar PV sales worldwide. Undoubtedly the most efficient is the first form, monocrystalline. It is called such because the crystals in the solar module are cut from a single continuous piece of silica crystal derived from molten sand. This is delivered in the form of a long cylinder shape which is then cut into circular wafers which can either be maintained as circular cells or cut into other shapes. Usually the cells are cut into a hexagonal shape in order to make them fit into the module in a tight formation thus allowing for maximum coverage and eliminating unnecessary space. The cells have a uniform colour, dark blue, because they are cut from the same piece of crystal.

Polycrystalline PV differs from monocrystalline in that instead of being cut from a single piece of crystal the silicon is melted and poured into a mould. Very often the silicon used is the remnants from manufacture of monocrystalline. The silicon from the mould takes the form of a square block which is again cut into wafers. Polycrystalline is cheap to produce and therefore cost-effective, but it is less efficient than monocrystalline PV. Poly panels therefore tend to be larger than mono for the same power output. An important consideration therefore is space. You can use poly effectively if you have lots of space on your roof or if you wish to use them as part of a ground-based array. It should be mentioned, however, that poly is generally more resistant to the long-term effects of heat than mono, so polycrystalline panels are often used in hotter countries.

Monocrystalline PV tends to be the most expensive of the two forms, but it is also the most efficient at between 13 to 17%, although some panels now can exceed 21%. The reason why PV is so expensive is precisely because it has to be refined from sand in order to achieve PV-grade silica. It is also a material that is high in demand because it is used for other electronic applications as well, notably the base material for computer chips and so on. Monocrystalline panels usually come with a 25 year power output guarantee. Monocrystalline PV panels are fast becoming the most used type of panel in the world.




Sources:

Dako

RB Grant

Air and Water



Sunday, 6 November 2011

FiTS cuts lead to panic buying of solar panels and systems

The government's surprise announcement of the 50% cut to the Feed in Tariffs as of 12th December this year has led to huge demand and panic buying of wholesale solar panels, inverters and mounting systems. Wholesalers and dealers saw unprecedented demand last week and stocks of all products, especially inverters and mounting hardware, are running worryingly low.


With such high demand, some sales teams have been forced to ignore ringing telephones to keep up with processing so many orders, warehouses began to empty and many installers have been left with installation contracts, but with nothing to install. Unfortunately, the unscrupulous elements of the solar industry have also surfaced, with some wholesalers increasing prices by up to 100%!


In response to this significant demand, we at Cleversolar have made stocks of trade solar equipment from our facilities in Europe available to the UK solar industry. Unlike some we have not increased our prices!

Friday, 4 November 2011

New trade services from Cleversolar

In response to the recent FiTS announcement from the DECC, we have launched our new trade customer support programme, allowing installers to benefit from our EU stock-holding and distribution of MCS listed solar PV panels and inverters. For more, visit www.cleversolar.co.uk/shop/trade.html

UK solar industry fuming about DECC FiTS cut!

By Robin Whitlock, Freelance Environmental Journalist

As is widely known by now, the DECC are intending to cut the FiTS rate from 43p per kWh for systems up to 4 kW to 21p per kWh. A similar cut is intended for systems over 4 kW.

The announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Monday of a cut in the rate of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTS) of over 50% to take effect from 12th December this year has incurred the wrath of a UK solar industry concerned about the effect on smaller solar businesses and on jobs. In fact, several reports suggest that solar firms and environmental groups are actively considering taking legal action on this issue. One of the main issues that has infuriated solar businesses and environmentalists alike is the speed with which the government has introduced the cut. They argue that the December 12th deadline pre-empts the consultation and the outcome of the review, not due until next year. At least one legal firm in the UK, Eversheds, argues that the cuts should be administered in a manner that does not affect contracts and orders already in place, as is the case at present. Consequently many across the industry are predicting that the rate cut will effectively ‘kill’ solar PV in the UK as small firms go out of business and jobs are lost.

Some figures in the industry are predicting that as many as 25,000 jobs could go. One firm is facing a 100% cancellation rate among 90% of those clients whose contracts fall on the wrong side of the deadline. Others believe that solar PV could go back to being a status symbol or merely the visible sign of environmental attitudes within particular households, with many deserving schemes such as those aimed at reducing fuel poverty or assisting community projects losing out. This has already started to happen. Dorset County Council have just announced that they are to cancel a £1 million project aimed at installing solar PV on the roofs of local schools. The decision was made on the basis that the project would make a loss of around £60,000 which works out at £2,000 per school.

Emma Hughes from Solar Power Portal approached a number of figures in the industry to gauge opinion on this issue. Predictably they were all woefully similar essentially encompassing the view that the rate cut would kill the industry and that this means that the whole solar PV sector has basically wasted its time. According to Business Green one firm has reputedly been preparing itself for redundancies this week while another solar executive said that he had effectively lost 12 months of his time and £20,000. Another issue though is that of trust. The government has been seen to say one thing and do another, and this is the second occasion on which the ability of solar PV businesses to trust the government has been called into question.

Despite the grim situation, Emma Hughes is optimistic nevertheless. She believes that rent-a-roof schemes will fall flat, but she refuses to believe that the industry will be killed off completely. If anything positive emerges from this it will be that those with strong business models will carry the flag forward to strengthen the industry in the future.

Let’s just hope that this is indeed the case.
             

Sources:

Solar Energy Experts

Energy News Efficiency

Click Green

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Solar Industry Mis-Sells Solar Panels

Unfortunately, the solar industry has been more than happy for solar panels to be misconstrued as a 'panacea' (a solution to all). The truth, however, is that solar panels have a rightful place in our energy network and should be part of our lives, but they have their limitations; as does every product or technology.


One of the biggest problems is that we (human beings) are very blasé about electricity and it is only when we have to start thinking about taking it with us do we start to see the reality.


The average UK couple uses over 4000kWh a year, or 11kWh a day! OK, so that costs us only about £1.75 a day, which doesn't sound like much, but when we want to use electricity away from the national grid, we start to realise how much that really is. We supply off-grid panels which are the most efficient in the world, but even our ultra-efficient 100W units will only produce 0.6kWh a day in summer; cheap imports will struggle to do even that!! What this means, is that to produce just one-tenth of the power we would use on a normal day at home, we need two 100W panels (about £800, plus £100 for electronics and an angled mounting frame).


Thanks to the solar industry's 'optimistic' approach to selling, we often get enquiries from people asking if a single 100W panel is enough for their fridge, TV, microwave, lights, kettle and phone charger... In some cases, people also want to heat their bath water too! These enquiries are generally from well-educated, sensible people who have done nothing more than listen to the hype.


The cold hard fact is that solar is a great technology when used correctly, but that when we want to power our creature comforts away from the national grid, there are a few simple rules:


1. Be realistic
2. Use energy responsibly
3. Seek honest advice
4. see rule #1


For more help and advice, please don't hesitate to get in touch or try our solar system calculators.

Monday, 24 October 2011

'The Log Pod' and Cleversolar team up for the "glamping" market.

'Glamping' was a completely new term for us when we first with the guys at The Log Pod Ltd. It seems, however, that we were in the minority; glamping (Glamorous Camping) is one of the fastest growing sectors in the camping market.

If you are in the same boat we were a few months ago, glamping usually involves forgetting about sleeping under canvass and staying in a 'teepee' or basic wood cabin - a pod. The Log Pod Ltd  is one of the newest and innovative producers of wooden pods and as part of their new product range, they wanted to offer a 'power pack' option, which allows Log Pod users to carry on using some creature comforts, wherever they are.

Fitted during the manufacturing process, or retrofitted later, the new solar option from Cleversolar provides enough electricity for campers to charge mobiles phones, use laptops and camera equipment, boil travel kettles and even keep things cool in a travel refrigerator. Obviously, space and visual impact was a major concern, and the CS-100 monocrystalline panel, with its sleek black frame, met all of the requirements and was within budget.

To find out more about Cleversolar and The Log Pod, or even book a stay in a pod, check out www.thelogpod.co.uk

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Solar Electric Fencing

We have been supplying solar powered fence energisers for some years now, but in the last 12-18 months, they have accounted for a much higher proportion of units sold than ever before. The two main benefits of a solar fence system are that 1) the fence is 'always' on because the battery never runs out, and 2) you don't need to carry heavy batteries to and fro, or install expensive mains cabling. Read more...

Off-grid / On-grid; what’s the difference?

By Robin Whitlock, Freelance Environmental Journalist

People install renewable energy systems for many different reasons. For some it’s a chance to save money in the face of higher conventional fuel bills, for others it is a chance to earn money from the government’s Feed-in Tariff’s scheme while for those concerned about environmental issues it is a means of reducing their carbon footprint and doing something about climate change.

One of the main advantages of using a grid-tie system, that is a renewable energy system (in most cases solar PV or solar thermal panels) that is tied in to the national grid, is that there is a back-up source of energy for those times when the sun doesn’t shine, such as at night or during bad weather during the winter. However, this leaves the householder vulnerable not only to rising energy prices but also to situations in which the national grid fails. That might seem the stuff of memory, reminders of the 70’s oil crisis, but there have been numerous power failures in more modern times too and there are some who believe such power losses will again become a regular occurrence.

The solution is to go off grid. However, this entails storing energy in a bank of batteries, ready for when the solar panels are not generating energy or the wind dies down, and this tends to be a rather expensive option, whereas a grid-tie system is relatively cheap.

Despite this, for those living in remote areas, going off-grid may be the better option, and in fact off-grid systems are becoming increasingly important to the populations of developing countries where a national grid, if it exists, cannot always be relied upon.

An off-grid system also means that you are totally energy independent. It gives you a freedom that is lacking when you are tied to the grid. It is also totally green – no power cables, no coal or fossil-fuelled energy and a lower carbon footprint. Going off-grid also means that the strain on the national grid is reduced, so in some ways it also benefits those around you who may not be in a position to go the same way. For those interested in self-sufficiency, going off-grid is the logical way to go.

For off-grid systems you will need a charge controller which manages the power generated by the panels and the  battery (usually 12, 24 or 48 volts DC). An off-grid inverter is also used to convert DC into AC for household use. You may also need a stand-by diesel generator to back-up the system for periods when the sun isn’t shining or the wind has dropped and it may also be an idea to use a propane or wood hot water heater to reduce the drain on the battery bank, which incidentally should be capable of providing energy for at least three days without a solar or wind-powered charge. Another good idea is to plan your energy use beforehand by undertaking a load analysis.

Sources:

Calfinder

Hardy Solar

Suncatcherink.com

Cleversolar goes mobile

As more and more people are browsing our website from handheld devices, we have just launched our new mobile site m.cleversolar.mobi This is a work in progress, but allows users of iPhones and Smartphones the opportunity to learn more about us without having to squeeze the full site onto a small screen. We plan to improve the functionality of the site over the coming months, including search and e-commerce facilities. If you have any suggestions or comments, please don't hesitate to let us know.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Welcome to Cleversolar's Blogger Page

As part of our continuing effort to provide clients with as much useful information about solar power and solar products, we plan to post regularly online. In addition to our Facebook and Twitter accounts (and our corporate website of course), we hope you will find this blog useful and informative. If you have any ideas or comments about this or any of our services, please do not hesitate to tell us.