Solar panels for global unrest

Learning that current levels of oil production and use are not going to bring down civilisation with the ongoing crisis in the Middle East does not fill me with relief and satisfaction, which everyone seems to think it should do.

Welcome to feminist reality.I would have thought that irrespective of present Middle Eastern problems, ideas for renewable energy sources taken seriously.

Governments must invest in the right policies for manufacturing industries now because oil supplies are indeed finite. They should become experts in finding innovative and efficient alternatives to oil.

Competition for oil and gas in the Arctic regions are now going to increase, especially since last year, Scottish oil producer Cairn Energy confirmed it had found oil off Greenland, and one of NATO’s senior commanders warned the race for resources will lead to conflict.

If we continue to do business as usual, until every drop of oil is extracted and used, it will cause resource wars and planetary fever (global heating) and massive loss of biodiversity.

America is urgently building up its military readiness in the Arctic where melting summer sea ice is setting up a new global struggle for resources.

Reducing dependence on oil

The fruit that was easy to reach fruits now picked.

Deepwater drilling and the readiness to exploit sensitive regions such as the Arctic has now demonstrated the real predicament our modern civilisation is in, with our unhealthy dependence on increasingly unstable geographic supplies.

Governments around the world, including our coalition government, are seeking ways to reduce their dependence on oil. The United Kingdom needs 47% of domestic energy alone, so it needs to find alternative ways to power and heat our homes.

Recent changes in the way governments look at the renewable energy around the world have spawned new incentive schemes for domestic solar panels. Generating your heat/power using improved and government-approved solar technologies such as evacuated tubes and PV solar panels are now available using Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive schemes.

Feed In Tariffs for PV solar electric panels

The majority of European countries now have feed-in tariffs such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Netherlands to name only a few.

Feed in tariffs is a way of promoting greener PV solar panel technology. The UK government puts legislation in place to adopt the feed-in tariff in April 2010 in the UK. For example, a homeowner looking to generate electricity using PV solar under 4 kW (retrofit) will receive a 21 per kWh unit produced giving great payback and long-term reduction in energy bought in the home.

The feed-in tariff rates will pay for each unit of electricity generated, even if you use it for your own needs. Also, any excess power can be exported to the National Grid, and you will receive an extra 3p per kW.

For example, a 2.52kW solar PV panel system producing 2100kWh per year, half used in the home, the other half exported to the National Grid, would earn and save:

Earn ((Half the electricity generated 2100/2 kWh x 0.413) + (Half the electricity generated 2100/2 kWh x 0.443) + Save (Save buying half the electricity generated 2100/2 kWh x 0.13/kW h) = 1,035 per year!

This is a great return of 7.96% and better than keeping the upfront expenditure in the bank.

RHI-Renewable Heat Incentive for solar heating panels

36% of the United Kingdom overall energy used for heating, so the new RHI scheme (Renewable Heat Incentive) is designed to come in 2 phases.

Phase 1 being more than a quarter of the first year’s budget, around 15 million, is to be guaranteed up to 25,000 household installations focusing on people living off the gas grid, who typically spend more on their heating with coal, oil and higher carbon content.

The highest RHI tariffs for this scheme will pay to solar heating panel installations with 8.5p per kWh generated. Solar heating was by far the most popular microgeneration technology under previous subsidy schemes.

It works very well in the UK climate and can supply between 40 and 50% of a home’s hot water needs, so it is good that it receives the most financial support.

A technology called a heat meter will be installed at the point of generation and where appropriate, at the end of use to claim solar RHI payments. The RHI tariffs will be paid and guaranteed for 20 years, for solar panel technologies installed since July 15, 2009, with gains for each kW of heat produced.

The levels of RHI support available to new entrants as time passes could decrease, so it is best to be an early participant than a later one.

The RHI phase 1 homeowners will then provide feedback on how the scheme is working to help design the phase 2 of the scheme.

Both the RHI and Feed-in tariff incentive schemes are designed to bring about a larger increase in the amount of locally produced green energy, as a contribution to the energy mix from low carbon technologies.

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2011-03-15
Founder of Power My Home.