Category Archives: solar

Various things going through my head today…

Firstly, the UK government gets to build a nuclear power station near me. That doesn’t scare me *as such*, although I’d definitely prefer it was a few hundred miles further away thanks. What pisses me off is that people are not prepared to discuss the facts, and risks. Even just RIGHT NOW on the BBC web site, there is news of new cracks in an existing reactor, and a ship carrying radioactive waste is drifting out of control. I mean…FFS, can we not even sensibly discuss the risks without being daubed as ‘anti-science’ and ignorant. I get that all the time because I’m very sceptically of nuclear power and it pisses me off. It’s possible to be informed, educated, sensible and still very wary of risks of these things thanks to the precautionary principle.

Anyway, I’m SURE that now we have guaranteed the french-owned nuclear station 30 years of a £92.50 strike price for nuclear energy we will get the same for solar generated by UK citizens right? The Feed-in-tariff is currently 6.38p/kwh for standalone solar PV. thats £63.80 guaranteed for 25 years, with no government implied insurance backing (nuclear plants are never insured), waste disposal or safety/security concerns. So….. err no.   I’m aware that solar has downsides due to indeterminacy and land-use, but rooftop solar has no land-use downside and the distributed nature of the energy source makes it more efficient due to lower power-line losses. Nukes have to be by the sea. Solar can be anywhere. Solar can be community owned, closer to the people and more democratized.

This is all in my mind as I’m looking for very-long-term investments for Positech Games. I’d ideally like to diversify a bit from games, and my dream project is a solar-farm or wind-farm. Ideally wind, but this is VERY expensive (there are huge economies of scale with turbine size, you really want 6MW turbines, which cost millions each), so more likely solar, which means buying land, which is hard to find. In both cases, planning is a nightmare because people somehow think solar panels in a field they can’t even see are somehow a problem. The thought of arguing with such people drives me nuts.

What I *could* do, what *everyone* in the UK does, is buy some cheap flats and rent them out to people who can’t afford to buy them. This is the default pension plan for middle and high income brits. I kinda hate it. I don’t want to leverage my financial position to squeeze ‘dead-money’ in rent from people on a lower income. That kinda sucks. I’d like to set up a business that generated renewable energy instead, but our politics in the uk is moving against the environment, and can I really trust a government feed-in-tariff promise anyway?

In unrelated news, getting new games to feature on is like pulling teeth. A lot of indies sell only through steam. Not just only through 3rd party portals, but exclusively through one. This amazes me. I LOVE steam, but my attitude to any business is like Han Solo and Lando.

“Can you trust him?”

“No…but he is my friend…”

I don’t know who might buy valve next year, or in ten years time. Nobody does, not even Valve. Hedging your bets is good. You don’t stick your entire stock portfolio in one share, it’s too risky, however safe a bet it looks. BigFishGames started off paying devs 70% royalty as I recall. They ended up with  around 20%. Businesses can change. It seems I’m the only one who realizes this.

So these ‘indie’ devs (I can’t really call them independent), can’t be listed on SMTG because it only lists devs with a direct purchase option, and increasingly this isn’t the case. Add to that people who take the hilariously catch-22 attitude of not wanting to be on SMTG because it has relatively low-traffic.

Again..I’m trying to do the right thing…use my own money to run a site that promotes other indie devs FOR FREE. But nobody is that interested.

So maybe it’s time to close SMTG, spend the money (and any solar-investment money) on buying up a bunch of buy-to-let properties so I can squeeze young people off the property ladder in the UK even more. Apparently that is what sensible people do.


The Humble Positech Sale

July 25, 2013 | Filed under: business | solar

So today is exciting because it’s the start of the HUMBLE POSITECH SALE. You can go grab the games and donate to charity (and the developer!) over at the site here (or click the image below)


It’s especially cool to have been involved with picking the charities for the bundle, which are the red cross and barefoot college. Who? well I first heard about barefoot college after watching as really cool documentary on them in the UK, where they followed the path of a woman who was taken to the college to learn how to manufacture and maintain solar lights. The idea is that they take those skills, and that independence and spread it to other villages and other people. This is quite a tough struggle against poverty, indifference, and quite a bit of sexism too. The documentary is great and it’s a worthy cause. And of course it supports renewable energy, which I’m really into.

But hey, also, there are some cool games of mine there. And they are at a good price. Go grab em. or tell your friends!  or both! And there are videos of me talking about stuff too…

Gratuitous Solar Charts

April 20, 2013 | Filed under: solar

Sooo..after roughly a year, here is a chart showing the solar output from my 2.1kwp ground mounted solar array outside my office window: (The left axis is kilowatt hours, so 1,000w for an hour, or one ‘unit’ of power in the UK).


No surprises really, the usual solar chart, but without all the randomness removed, and showing just how variable things are. I think the reporting screwed up for a few days in February where it suspiciously reports exactly 0 data. If I take a rough approximation from my energy bill, it looks like we use 5.7 units of power per day on average. That’s pretty low. It means we use 2,107kwh of power a year, which compares amazingly well with the data on this map:

But it’s not all good news… if you adjust that graph to show 5.7 units as the base line you can see where we are exporting, and where we are importing power…



Yikes, that’s kinda scary, there are times even in summer where we couldn’t cover our power usage, and winter is just a disaster. Of course, this assumes a constant power consumption per day, because  we don’t have a ‘smart’ meter, and have no real idea, but it’s an interesting stat. Our power generation over those 365 days is 1,276 units, so it’s 60% of our power usage. The cost was about £9,000, which means buying enough home-grown capacity to make you zero-bill would cost about £14,800. That isn’t *that* bad when you consider it’s about 10 years electricity bills, and the panels last 25. but….. The cost of these panels has dropped like a brick, to about a third of what we paid. So in fact, the cost should be about £5k now, to be zero-bill over the year if you have low energy use like me. Also be aware we have an electric cooker. oh yes.

And actually…that’s WITHOUT the feed-in-tariff or any export payments. That’s purely looking at energy prices and installation costs. That’s also with an inefficient ground mounted array in a very shady garden in cloudy south UK.

Have I done my sums all wrong, or is this excellent value for money?

Positech Solar Energy

November 08, 2012 | Filed under: solar

Sooo… One of my non-game ambitions is to run a renewable energy company. It’s my alternate plan if the game industry implodes or I fall out of love with it (unlikely for the foreseeable future). Anyway… I made one tiny step in that direction today by buying this:

Eat your heart out Brad Wardell!

Ok. Not all of it. I admit that. But I now officially own a tiny chunk of it. It’s the largest solar co-operative in the UK, near swindon. 30 acres of solar panels. Insert joke about it never being sunny in the UK here. If you have read my blog for ages, you will know I have some solar panels in my garden. I can see them from my desk! yay! The trouble is, that small scale solar isn’t as efficient as large scale due to the problems of occasional local shading, the economies of scale for inverters, and of course bulk buying discounts. I bet you get a decent discount on 30 acres of PV panels :D  (TBH, wind energy makes a lot more economic sense in the UK, but people like Donald Trump have some emotional hatred of wind energy that they funnel into campaigning against it, making the planning process for it more trouble than it’s worth. *sigh*)

Anyway, I feel very happy about it. I am going to GDC for the first time next year. I try to avoid flying when I can, because I’m a right eco-obsessive. I’ve never gone to a non-uk games event before, and I’m very skeptical that paying the odd twenty pounds to an ‘offset’ scheme really negates the environmental damage of long haul plane travel. My own tiny 10 panel array in the garden doesn’t even cover my own electricity needs, so I’m definitely in net deficit in terms of energy consumption. Until today! wootage.

Even forgetting the green-ness, I’m betting it’s a pretty good long term investment. Maintenance costs for the park are virtually zero, the fuel is free, and relatively predictable, and even the most anti-green government is unlikely to change feed-in-tariffs retrospectively. I’d rather do this than hand the money to some pension fund manager so he can invest half of it in landmines and pocket the other half as commission.