Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Solar update, and motivations

Regular readers of this blog might know that one of my long term goals is to get solar power hooked up at my house, a task massively complicated by it being a listed building, and the planning authority being bureaucratic gits. Anyway… we finally have the planning notice nailed to our fence awaiting neighbours comments (there won’t be any, nobody even walks past our house), so the wheels are in motion. I know some people are trendily anti-green-energy, so I thought I’d lay out my motivation:

1) Energy prices.

Clicky here: to get unbiased figures, and you will discover that from 2005, UK domestic electricity prices have risen by 55% since 2005. Yup, that’s 55%. In 6 years. Assuming my panels last at least 12 years, they will preside over another (v roughly) doubling of electricity costs. We aren’t building new coal or new nuclear in the UK, and the severn barrage has been turned down, so I don’t see supply rising in those 12 years. Meanwhile the population rises and people keep buying domestic gadgets that drain power, plus people buying plug in hybrids soon will only add to the demand. Plus a greener future government could levy a tax on energy that raises prices even more. I expect the price to have tripled by 2020, personally.

2) Feed-In-Tariff.

It’s VERY generous, and some people resent this, but it’s there for a reason. It’s to make solar panels a no-brainer for the home-owner and kick-start our market. There is literally no good reason other than aesthetic to not stick them on your roof if you have a south-facing one. You are literally burning money with it sat in a savings account, on the roof, the returns are higher :D It says a lot about how behind Germany we are that even with such a high incentive, people are not doing this.

3) Geekiness / Green-ness

I’m a fully fledged Geek AND I’m a committed tree-hugger, so it’s no surprise that I want some cool geeky tech. I reckon if nothing else, the panels will 100% power everything in my home office, meaning positech can claim to be a carbon neutral game developer. bwahahaha! Plus, I like the idea that occasionally the energy company has to pay ME money.

We should know in roughly a months time if we get the go-ahead. The company to install them has been chosen, the site selected, the money (£10k) set aside at last. It’s only some jobsworth in the local council who could stop me, and if they turn it down, we will appeal. I’m a stubborn bastard, if I have to drive to London and personally harass the energy secretary to overturn it (they have that power) I will do so. Expect a ton of geeky photos and details and stats and analysis of the things if I ever get them installed. Once I’ve recovered from my celebration hangover obviously…

9 thoughts on Solar update, and motivations

  1. Energy prices rise, and will rise because of STUPID POLICY, that forces poor people to subsidize uneconomical energy investments of wealthy eco-geeks with their energy bills. There is nothing to be happy about – West is digging its own grave with such energy policy… Its a shame, that so many people believe, that US and Europe can overcome recession by investing in sectors, that offer negative ROI without some sort of subsidy. Spain already decided, that it is unsustainable policy, and pulled the plug, leaving thousands of eco-investors with mountains of debt. UK might be next.

  2. That’s awesome, and I’m happy for you and happy that you’re happy, but please, for the sake of the rest of us people who also don’t have our heads stuck in the dirt, stop attaching the “green” label to it. There’s nothing green about it.

    We have pretty draconian laws (state and federal) on self-producing energy here in the USA, and because they’re managed by the energy companies this means nothing really changes. For example, any extra unused electrical power I create with my solar panel array must be sold back to the power company – I’m not legally allowed to direct it to a storage array of any kind, for future use. Sure, I get money (in the form of a discount to my power bill, or when my energy creation exceeds my grid usage, a credit towards future bills), but the power company themselves still generate the same amount of power and use the same amount of resources to do so, regardless of how many of the people such as myself throw up solar arrays. They also still increase their rates, and still tax me on my self-purchased equipment and energy usage. And this is just one example.

    “Green” is a political term used to persuade you that you’re “doing the right thing, for yourself and your country”, hypnotizing you into aligning yourself with their objectives and ideals, even if those objectives are in complete opposition to reality or common sense. I’m sure you’ll find this out, as I did years ago. Hopefully, you’ll also invest in non-photo-voltaic solar systems as well, that haven’t been burdened by invasive government policy yet: water heating, air conditioning, and water distillation.

  3. I would definitely have gone with solar thermal first, but the design of our home heating system means we have no hot water tank, which is essential for solar thermal.
    I’m not sure why you say solar PV isn’t green. My garden will produce energy which otherwise would have come from a coal fired power plant. How can that not be green? I reduce the money I pay the power company, there is less incentive for new fossil fuel power plants to be built. Surely that’s green???

  4. The things of interest to me, with regard to buying something like this for myself in the future are:

    1. What’s the % return every year in relation to the initial 10K investment? I’d need at least 7% (£700).

    2. How much energy is used to create the solar panels and how much energy will they create over their operational lifespan? If negative, then solar panels only harm the environment.

    3. What is the total surface area required to power a four person household, in Spring/Autumn, on a cloudy day?

  5. The return on a £10k investment here is quoted as £1,009 per year, assuming you use all the power and do not export. You need to add depreciation into that, but the panels last for a long time.

    The £10k gets you a 2.15KWp system. Whether or not that is enoguh depends vastly on your personal energy usage. We have energy efficient everything here.

    The surface area is 15.2 square meters.

    as for energy used in construction, thats paid back within 2-3 years:

  6. It’s not green because while the incentive is there, the power companies don’t actually reduce the amount of power they generate, or slow down the rate of construction of new power generating plants. Why? because they still make more money doing what they’ve always been doing: charging their customers for energy at the same perpetually increasing rates. Where I live, myself and my father are among the small number of people who have invested in PV arrays. I think the number is somewhere around 8% of our regional population. In the 4 years since we installed the arrays on our houses (we did it at the same time), the power company has stated that energy consumption for our region has increased by 6.4%, and the rates have increased by 35% (which, coincidentally, means that the power I do end up needing to buy from them costs almost as much as my entire power bill before I had built my array). In this time, they’ve also increased the output of power generation at one hydroelectric plant by half, and built a new wing to an existing power plant.

    If it were ‘green’, why are they expanding their power plants? If it were ‘green’, why are they increasing rates almost exponentially compared to energy usage increase? Like I said, ‘green’ is nothing more than a political term. If we (those of us interested in PV arrays and self-powering) were somehow able to hold the energy industry accountable for reducing their environmental footprint as we bring our own grids online, then ‘green’ would be more than just some new buzzword.

    Don’t get me wrong, I fully support your plan to install your own array; in fact, I wish more people would climb onboard the PV train. But having already gone down this path and currently being fully invested in mine, and active in the local “solar enthusiasts” community, I can say without hesitation calling it “green” is an outright lie you’ve been duped into repeating, as I was years ago.

  7. I think you are missing the point Justin.

    Installing PV panels means you use solar energy instead of coal/nuclear/ whatever energy source is your local power plant. that cannot be false. Ergo, it is ok to call it green if the total environmental cost of making/installing/using PV panels is lower that using your local power plant for the lifespan of the panels at your specific location for the same amount of energy consumption. We should also take into consideration of how the panels are processed after their useful life.

    If your power plant needed to expand even if people had PV panels installed is because they always expand to fit the ever increasing demand. Increasing at a must higher rate than the people conversion rate to solar panels.

    Of course if installing solar panels is a justification to use/waste more energy… it might not be green if this is false:
    Ec * Sy * Pk > Sy * ( (Ec’ – Sp) * Pk + Sp * Sk) + U

    Ec = Energy consumption before installing solar panel in kW/year
    Ec’ = Energy consumption after installing solar panel in kW/year
    Sy = Lifespan of solar panels in year
    Sp = average power produced by a solar panel in kW/year
    Pk = environmental cost of your local power plant in Pb/kW ( Polar bear death per kW)
    Sk = environmental cost of solar panel in Pb/kW
    U = Solar panel making/installing/using/waste processed environmental cost in Pb

    I left out several other variables for the sake of simplicity ;)

    I would call it green by making these assumptions: Pk > Sk , Sy > 10 years, U isn’t so big and Ec = Ec’


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