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

Solar install complete

So the solar guys have finished and gone today. I now am the proud owner of my own little ground-mounted photovoltaic power plant. Check out the remote monitoring gadget for proof it actually works:


That gadget is the bluetooth-enabled sunny beam monitor that wireleslly connects to the inverter and lets you monitor output. Cunningly, it has built in solar panels itself, for power :D It also has a usb cable for you to power it, or to dump the historical data to a PC as a csv file.

Here is my ‘what I learned so far’:

Ground mount panels are BIG. They don’t look big on a roof, but stick 10 panels (roughly 2KW) on frames in your garden/driveway and you will be surprised how big they are. This isn’t something you want to do in a small suburban garden. We are lucky in that the drive for our house is unusually big and empty, looking more like a car park than a normal driveway, so we still have lots of room left. They need a lot of space between rows of panels too.

Planning permission for solar with a listed building is HELL. Either pay a company to do get the permission for you, to save yourself the hassle, or start the process a year in advance and prepare for stress. This varies by local council, and if your house isn’t listed, and they go on the roof, AFAIK you dodge needing this permission entirely. Lucky you :D

There will be a lot of extra hardware installed by your electricity meter/fusebox. You get a new (tiny) generation meter (middle top of picture), plus a new fusebox gadget (bottom of picture, with big phat AC cable coming into it from the inverter), and another little black box thing (under the generation meter, stuffed with big cables). Don’t assume it will all fit in a tiny space in a cupboard somewhere. We ran out of room and needed the fusebox gadget attached below. I’ll probably get it boxed in one day to look less industrial.

Prices are dropping big-time. My roughly £10k install was £11k just 9 months ago. If you got a quote for PV a year or two ago, get a new one. The panels are getting much cheaper.

Get panels with bypass-diodes. They are more expensive, but worth it. Mine are Schuco. With Bypass Diodes, shading on 1 panel means 1 panel generates zero. Without them, shading on one panel would mean all ten generate zero. This is a BIG deal. Don’t get them without bypass diodes unless you have a south facing roof in the sahara and no trees for miles. Not all panels are the same.

It’s very very cool to have lots of electrical stuff running and your electricity meter not moving. Especially on the day we hear there is another 16% rise in electricity prices. bwahahahaha. I’ll be contacting my electricity company soon to get a new meter fitted which can handle being supplied to. Sadly mine wasn’t one which spun backwards :(

You get a dedicated generation-meter which you have to manually read and report in order to be paid the feed-in-tariff (43p / unit). Entirely seperate to that is an agreement with the electric co that you get credited as exporting 50% of what you produce (extra 3p per unit). This is great,because I will use everything I produce and export bugger-all, so it’s free money :D. This happens because the electric co can’t be assed to install proper export meters.

Lots of boring generation stats to blog over the next few weeks, I’m sure :D. Already earned £1.50 yay!

Now back to programming stuff that explodes.






Solar Panel install day #3

Panels all installed, trench for cables dug, final electrical connections friday morning, with any luck. Yay!

They almost look small from this distance…

For people who care, they are schuco MPE 215 (215 watt) solar panels with bypass diodes.


They will look a lot less industrial once they have been surrounded by some whicker-ish fencing, and some plants yada yada…

Solar Panel install, day #1

Anyone new to this blog: I have long-wanted solar power for my house. I’m sick of watching energy companies do sod all about renewable energy, whilst charging me ever more money for their coal-fired power that causes so many problems*, and I am also keenly aware that the UK’s feed-in-tariff means that it’s a VERY good investment. With interest rates this low, your money is better off on the roof than in the bank (at least until they lower the tariff for new adopters next year, so hurry!)  However, because my ancient pre-napoleonic house has a stone-tile roof, and is ‘listed’ I can’t put them on the roof, so instead, they are going in the driveway, which luckily is stupidly big for a house this small.

The installers showed up yesterday to start fitting the ground mount frames:

That’s the frame before most of it gets pounded down into the ground and then concreted in. It’s quite a cool system because hardly any concrete is used, yet they are very very stable.

Make no mistake, these are BIG and THICK and mostly HEAVY metal frames. These aren’t going anywhere, any time soon. Although obviously, should the need arise everything *is* eventually removable. There are very few good pictures of ground mounted solar panels in a domestic environment, so I thought I really should snap some. I found it hard to visualise them accurately before ordering it all.

This is the complete array of solar panel frames as it stands now. Two rows of five panels. The back row looks elevated, but actually it’s the same height, we just have a sloping driveway. The gap is needed to stop the front row obscuring and shading the back one. I’m assuming that tuesday will be spent mostly digging the (quite long) trench to take the power to the house. I bet no actual panels get attached until wednesday. I expect it to look a lot nicer and a lot less like an industrial oil-refinery outside my window when that happens. Plus the plan is to get some willow-hurdles to line the back and probably the sides of them to make them look less GRRRRR. I should point out that the initial reaction to these frames now is *Eeek, they are BIG!*. I can’t dispute that.

*I know solar has it’s problems, and personally I’m backing tidal power for the UK< but the thing is, for 95% of people, the ONLY renewable energy they have direct access to owning and installing is solar thermal or PV (wind doesnt scale down well, and there is no water nearby for hydro. House not airtight enough for geothermal), and our house has no hot water tank, ruling out solar thermal, so there was basically one possible solution, and this is it.

First Solar Payment

Sooo.. at long last I’ve just made the first deposit payment for getting my much-talked-about solar panels installed. This has been at least 5 years in the making. ‘Sheesh’ etc…

This is what I’m getting:

A 2.15kWp system.

10 x MPE 215 PS05 schuco modules. Total area 14.96 square meters installed in 2 rows of 5 at ground level. (roof is unsuitable).

A sunny boy SB2500HF-30 Inverter.

The quote says that it should generate 1845.56 kWh per year. They calculate that if I use all that power (and I will) it will save me £230.70 a year based on 12.5p/unit electricity cost (bound to rise dramatically over the lifetime of the panels). (however my current provider charges 11.52p/unit).

edit: just investigated and in the last year we used 4,134 kwh, so this set of panels is slightly under half my total usage.  I bet that’s because we have an electric cooker…

In addition, the feed in tariff would pay 1,845 * 43.3p = £799.13 a year.

Total income is thus £1,029.82 per year.

Total installation cost is £10,608.

Assume the panels are worthless after 20 years, I’ll earn £21,216 over that, which would be a gain of £11,000. I can see that the performance of the panels will degrade by then, but I strongly suspect energy prices will rise enough to more than compensate. I also can’t see the feed-in tariff being reduced or abolished for existing installs by any government of any color.

Obviously the panels may not generate the described amount. There is some shading in the garden (bah!). And I’m not going to cry into my tea if the output is below maximum.

Interestingly, the cost of the panels+inverter dropped about £1,000 in the last 8 months. Also of interest is that VAT on them is charged at only 5% (although tbh, if the government really want to kickstart a domestic renewables industry that needs to be 0, not 5%).

Fun fun.

No point in me talking about my new game today. People are swooning over E3 videos :D


Odd Size Monitors

I develop on a PC with 2 monitors. 1 is a 21 inch iiyama monitor and the other is a 24 inch iiyama. They are both great, but they are different sizes, and resolutions. There is a tiny part of me that thinks this is inconvenient enough to justify buying another 24 inch one. There is also the rest of me, the rational me, that knows this is nonsense.

Maybe I’m just in an irritable mood. My local council was supposed to rule on our solar-panels planning application yesterday. They did not do so. It’s still undecided, despite us originally submitting it in OCTOBER 2010, and there being zero objections.

One day, the useless, time-wasting, lazy idiots that work in such places will be thrown into the real world to get a real job in the private sector, and it will be like a hurricane has hit them.

Work trundles along on mystery next game. It looks quite nice now, and the tools almost work, which means one day I’ll have proper maps and units in there. One day, there will be screenshots. One day :D