Sea ice…

I looked out the window onto the flat roof of the dining room and found some amazing patterns. Almost like a beach and waves which have been frozen.

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Concrete colour textures…

Sometimes looking up and backwards is a good idea!

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FIT record broken…!

Ok, yesterday was the best day so far for electricity produced by the solar panels. There was a total of 4.8 units, which is 4.8 KWh, which is 4800 Wh. Each KWh is basically 1000W per hour, or put another way, it is enough to power a 1KW appliance for 1 hour.

So, if your kettle uses 3KW of electric (which is standard), yesterday the panels would have produced enough electric to keep the kettle boiling continuously for more than 1.5 hours! Awesome technology.

I’m just getting very excited because we had the panels installed at the end of December, so have only seen the output during the two worst months for sunlight! March is the start of the upturn, where the output doubles, compared to the previous 2 months!

Today is also looking like a clear and bright day, so maybe another record. The other new technology we have just had ‘installed’ is the insulated exterior render, to the side and rear of the house. Before the render was applied, the internal temperature was roughly 10 degrees C. more than outside. For the last few days, the difference has been 15 degrees C! The last couple of days, the outside temperature at 8 in the morning has been Zero degrees C. and inside it’s been roughly 15 degrees C. It’s a big improvement but we’ll still need the fire on in cold weather, but not as much and for shorter periods.

So, the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) will be giving us 41.1p per KWh, which will rise to 43.3p per KWh as of 1st April. This means we get 41.3 pence for every unit we produce.

‘In 2008, a detailed analysis by the European Commission concluded that “well-adapted feed-in tariff regimes are generally the most efficient and effective support schemes for promoting renewable electricity”.[9] This conclusion has been supported by a number of recent analyses, including by the International Energy Agency,[10][11] the European Federation for Renewable Energy,[12] as well as by Deutsche Bank.[13]

‘Some have argued that feed-in tariffs can be used to accelerate the pace at which renewable energy technologies become cost-competitive with electricity provided from the grid. The rapid deployment of renewable energy under feed-in tariffs seen in countries like Germany, Denmark and Spain has undoubtedly contributed to reducing technology costs, and hence, in accelerating this trend. For instance, wind and solar technology costs have decreased dramatically since the 1960s and 1970s , as the technologies have become more widespread, manufacturing processes have improved, innovations have been incorporated, and gains have been harnessed from economies of scale.’ (Wikipedia)

Government have brought forward their review of the FIT scheme to 2011! Not a big surprise considering how many large companies were setting up massive 50KW arrays and getting the FIT rates! But, this may hit the residential market if the FIT rate goes down too much. It was always likely to come down but the window of opportunity is closing with a very restricted time frame.

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Roof-top power station online…!

Well, we now have a power station on our roof!

In the words of Hannibal Smith (off the A-Team) – ‘I love it when a plan comes together!’

So, the PV solar panels have been successfully installed and most of the wiring has been completed. The one snag is that they’ll have to come back on Friday to finish off, but it’s nearly there. We’re one of the first homes in Gloucester City to get solar panels and it’s another major step in the life of the house! The panels take up almost the full width of the roof and maybe 2/3 of the slope from the eaves to the ridge.

The main issue was that the inverter (which converts the DC current produced by the panels to AC current which can be fed back into the grid and which most appliances use), wasn’t delivered to the Malmesbury (near Swindon) head office last Friday. This wasn’t necessarily a problem as they said it could be delivered to our house today. Problem was that the courier delivered it to Malmesbury! Not very useful there when the panels are being installed in Gloucester!

So, one of the installers got on the phone and gave them a bit of an ear full (this was all happening while I was checking out progress at the top of the scaffolding!). The supplier then said they would just taxi it over from Malmesbury to my place! Well, this was done but when the package arrived, it was damaged. So, they’ll be back on Friday with a new inverter which will (fingers crossed) finish off the installation.

Had a bit of shock when I got home and Claire started talking about planning permission being required for the panels if they were more than 30mm away from the roof! Well, we just checked and permission is needed if the panels are more than 200mm away from the roof! They’re actually about 190mm away and are on a metal frame, which is itself fixed through the tile roof and into the rafters underneath. All the holes have been sealed inside and around each fixing screw and there is also a rubber seal on top, so it should be water tight.

There’s also a very tempting looking red button by the fuse box! I’ve got visions of the panels ejecting off the roof if we press it though! : ) We’re going to have a full run through on Friday (I hope), so we should find out what it does then!

Overall, it was a very efficient installation and if the inverter had been any good the whole process would have been just a 9 to 5 job.

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