Domestic solar and wind power

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  • I've been doing some adding up.

    I worked out that enough pv solar panels to provide 50% of power to an average 3 bedroom home would cost around £4k (for about a 1kw supply) ... and that would be dependent on a south facing roof. Any other direction and power would be lost.

    So that would mean over 10 years of use before the system comes anywhere paying for itself, and by then the panels would probably need replacing.

    A domestic wind generator on the same 3 bedroom home would cost roughly the same amount of money and probably need planning permission. In an urban area it probably wouldn't be practical to have a great big propeller in your back yard.

    It's easy to say that the cost is worth it because of the reduction in environmental impact ... But for the average person, the cost of living is so high that it's more important to save money than think about alternative power supplies.

    Now I know there are government incentives for people to install systems like this (30% grant I think) but what other alternatives are there?

    Or are we just stuffed by cost when it comes to ordinary people reducing their impact on the planet?

  • yeah well I'm renting too, but the council will pretty much let me do what I want to this place ... except it's a block with flats above and below me, plus great big 15ft windows that all the heat escapes through.

    However, I don't intend to stay here for much longer.

  • You can buy rolls of solar panelling a hell of a lot cheaper than that mate - we been pricing them up for on our van... the kind of thing you can roll down when the sun is out and then roll back in again :)

  • Quote from Ma-Crap

    You can buy rolls of solar panelling a hell of a lot cheaper than that mate - we been pricing them up for on our van... the kind of thing you can roll down when the sun is out and then roll back in again :)


    I know, but I'm thinking about powering a whole house, not just a van.

    That will mean invertors, storage batteries, fitting the panels to a roof etc. Plus panels sensitive enough to just a smidgen of daylight.

  • My brother has done a course on how to build a wind power mill & generator. We've tried to get planning permission to put a small one on the roof but the red tape is unbelievable!!
    (I heard somewhere they give grants but I can't track down which form i have to fill in!)

  • Quote from Paul

    The grants were managed by www.clear-skies.org but the scheme has been dropped pending a new scheme starting in April



    Fingers crossed - its been a while since a decent grant has been in place. The organisation running the last set was really good though - they would sort out all the council red tape etc. and make it pretty easy.

    First steps before spending thousands on solar should be to do the basics to reduce energy consumption - low energy bulbs everywhere, max efficiency appliances etc. and good insulation. It can save a fortune

    Re replacing solar panels... they pretty much all come with a 20 year warranty as standard these days. They do lose a bit of efficiency over the years but your talking 1% a year from what I've been reading.

  • Hello.

    With a lot of alternative energy, to power a single house or building would not be financially viable, as the technology and materials cost too much. If it was a community being powered, or even a single street, from an alternative source, then it would be more achievable.

    This seems to be were a lot of the problem lies - to have a solar farm, wind farm or, it seems, any other kind of renewable energy farm on a scale large enough to make it workable, there are always going to be too many people objecting, as it seems they would much rather look at an empty field today when, through their actions and objections, there will be no field tomorrow.

    There are a couple of energy companies, which people can sign up to, which get all their power from environmentally sound sources. The monthly prices tend to be a little more (when I last looked), but with the recent rise in electricity & gas, the difference may well be negligable now.

  • 1KWp isn't going to power a lot of lecky kit... Most homes use 1.5 and 2 kWp.
    The Clearskies fund has ceased (early), don't know if there's any replacement.
    Are you looking at solar for just lecky or water heating as well?
    Have you thought of looking at ground source heat pumps (http://www.est.org.uk/myhome/g…ing/types/groundsource/)?
    And instead of going the whole hog of putting a wind turbine in your back garden you might look at one of these: http://www.windsave.com/.


    To answer the other part of your post: "Is it just too damned expensive?" Answer is I don't know. I'm having my house partially re-built this year which may include some new roof. So I'm doing the maths myself to see if I can justify it on payback terms. When calculating the payback, don't forget that any system like this can add to the value of the property and that should be taken into consideration. Everything else is on savings...


    Most PV & solar heater panels will now last up to 20 years, but you'll probably want to move before then so take it as a 10 year payback, but without the likelyhood of having to replace.
    Let's say you go the whole hog: get PV, solar water, ground source & wind. And then get LED bulbs, the most efficient boiler you can, yadda. You spend, say, £10k.
    On a £180k bungalow, like mine, that'll put over £5k on the property, so you're down £5k which needs to be paid back. (Note, the more expensive the property the more the system will raise the price, so just installing it could pay for itself.)
    I don't know what your energy usage is like (mine's quite a bit, which is why I'm keen on this) but let's say that between gas and lecky you spend ~£85/month. Those devices should save about half (being a little pessimistic) the bills, that's about £500/year. That means payback in about 10 years.


    The quickest payback would probably be the little windsave device, if you wanted to do it in stages... at £1.5k it might even pay for itself in house value immediately.

  • The problem with wind turbines is that as mentioned that small ones dont work out very efficiently - power available is the diamater of the blades squared rather than directly proportional. You should also have them high in the air to avoid ground level wind turbulance.

    All is not lost though. A new type of solar panel has just started production. Its not as efficient but its not silicon based (The world silicon shortage significantly ups of the cost of the panel). When they hit our shores this autumn (early stocks are going to some African based energy project if memory serves me correct - it was an African inventor that created the design although they are currently all ebing manufactured in germany) they will be about 40% cheaper per watt. This is on a new technology as well. All the other major solar panel players are moving over to this new tech as well and once that happens economy of scale + competition should mean significant price decreases.

    Another cheap energy collection option is solar collectors - heat your water for free! - Black pipe and lengths of mirror/aluminium is all you need. You can find guides on the web (Will be some articles on websites in the links section).

    Hope the info helps :)

  • Amongst our calculations, e.g. "pay for itself within x years", are we taking into account conventional fuel prices as they stand at present? Aren't future costs within, say, 20 years likely to have rocketed and made the figures much more attractive?

  • A few years ago, my old man received a bit of junk mail for a solar hot water system. As a result of years of brainwashing from reading The Guardian, without doing any shopping around or any other research he immediately ordered a system.
    EDIT: He was a most obedient sheep.
    When the system was installed, they ended up having then panel located on the east side of the house, not the south side as it should have been. When I talked to my Dad about the whole thing it turns out he didn’t even know the difference between a solar hot water panel and a photo voltaic panel.

    I guess newspapers are about emotions rather than information. When there is a non news day they usually pick a stand by as do current affairs TV shows. When you get to read about cheaper PV solar panels, baldness cures or fat buster pills you know there is a dearth of news to report about.

    If PV solar panels are in a fixed position, then you will get five hours of charging; if mounted on a tracker there will be eight hours of charging. I have doubts to whether there is any environmental benefit by installing PV solar panels. I mean you get at best 75% return of power from lead-acid batteries and if turning the power into 240 AC, at best there is another 10% loss of power. Altogether you get 67.5% of the power that goes in to the battery.

    I have thought for a long time why on very hot days steam cannot be produced from a heat pump using reverse refrigeration principles .

  • we were looking at getting solar panels and went to this place (CAT something or other) in wales but cos you need to replace the panels after a certain amount of time i dont think it ever paid off :( we are still looking into it though

  • I think the best way to be most sustainable with electricity production is to sign up for one of those "renewable only" electricty producers. If a few companies build very hi-tech wind gennies and solar shit, its more energy efficient than everyone in the country getting their own cheap solar panels, batteries, wind gennies etc. It's to do with the energy cost of producing the technology in the first place, not to mention the resources cost of mining all that silicon.

  • I found a turbine co-op on the net a couple of days ago - wish I saved the link. Basically you buy shares in the setup (Was 3 mill£££ all in all for a 4 mega watt system). You get dividents that are enough to pay for the leccy youve sold to the grid from the turbines + bit extra (Wind turbines are inherently more efficient the bigge they are). I really like the idea, will be hard to repeat though as all the locals were involved on that one and I doubt that will be the case for most of the time;.

  • The turbines thing is interesting Crap Muppet, I feel a real NIMBY hypocrite for having opposed a wind farm near us especially as I actually have my own wind generator. The problem that I see with windfarms is that very rarely are they owned locally, the one going to go up 300 yards from my cottage was owned and controlled from germany with each turbine being 80 metres to the hub giving an overall height of 140metres thats BIG!, the farmers whose ground they go on are always in favour as the payment per turbine is usually in the region of £5000 and I know of one "poor hill farmer" by Newtown who has 44 turbines on his land! The big buzzword now is "community" windfarms but this generally equates to the building of a village hall\school or something similar by the developer as a bribe to the local authority. So whats the answer, probably offshore wave power as there are always waves but the wind is rather more fickle and the sad thing is that if the government spent the premium thats given for "renewable" energy on energy conservation we would achieve a real benefit for the country. I think ( can't remember the refs) that if we all used low energy light bulbs and turned off all appliances at the wall at night we would reduce electricity use by 10% better that than to increase the generation capacity using renewables surely?

  • i think off shore windfarms seem to be the way to go. out in the north sea there are windfarms that produce loads more electricity than the ones on land, and they're not in anybodys back yard.

    i dont know why they dont invest more in them really.

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

  • Quote from Irish Hippy

    Ma crap,
    whats the link for the van solar panels that u said are quite cheap? :)
    peace and love:hippy:

    I dunno matey - was me other 'alf that was looking into it - I spect he googled ;)

  • I've heard the best way to make your home wind generator pay for itself is to plug it directly into one of your electrical sockets so that it makes your meter run backwards. It's not exactly how your supposed to do it though.....

  • Quote from TheSoupdragon

    I've heard the best way to make your home wind generator pay for itself is to plug it directly into one of your electrical sockets so that it makes your meter run backwards. It's not exactly how your supposed to do it though.....


    Think you're thinking of the windsave gennies (www.windsave.com) which plug into your mains socket, but they don't run your meter backwards, just produce lecky so you don't need as much from the grid, so less cost. Mentioned it earlier in the thread...

  • ..yes, but if you go on holiday and leave the thing running they end up owing you!

    You're supposed to sell it back to them at a wholesale rate......but that wouldn't be any fun.