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Archive for August, 2011

– experiences of fitting household solar energy – Getting FITS III is part of a series of blog posts by Limu on the attempt to install solar power at home with the help of the UK Feed in Tariff.

Despite the UK’s historically low interest rates it doesn’t seem that my mortgage lender is keen to lend out money to existing customers – quoting me exorbitant rates (over 6%). This is the problem that has been highlighted in the media about the availability of bank lending holding back investment. I want to employ local tradesman for a week’s work, and have a good credit rating, but without the lending the economic activity will remain a hope. George Osborne take note.

Given the financial payback from Government for FITS, an interest-only mortgage would seem like a good option. This requires confidence that we’ll have more money in the future, a big assumption requiring good reasons. The main ones for us are that the state is starting to pay for educating and therefore caring for our children. That means we won’t have to, and that having moved house, my wife isn’t in work, but has excellent skills so will be sooner or later.

There are other financial models that would work in this situation. A company could lend me the money in return for receiving the FITS subsidy payments until they had recouped their capital and some interest on it. Another option would be for me to rent the roof space to a third party. Either case would require a contract where I was responsible for keeping the energy generation going, and therefore the FITS payments flowing. But that could just involve allowing access to a maintenance company, so should be possible.

The UK’s ‘strength in financial services’ is much lauded in the press. I often wonder if it isn’t part self-justification for bankers earning super-normal profits. In this case it isn’t providing the solutions to broker a deal that should be profitable on all sides – an example of opportunities in the green economy not being taken.

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– experiences of fitting household solar energy – Getting FITS III is part of a series of blog posts by Limu on the attempt to install solar power at home with the help of the UK Feed in Tariff.

I need to choose between solar PV (Photovoltaic that generate electricity) and solar thermal (that heat water pumped through tubes) or both. I’d like to do both, it would seem to spread the payback and risk. Thermal because our hot water comes straight from a gas boiler, and I think the risk of future gas price rises is greater than for electricity prices (because in the long term electricity has more substitutes). However, thermal won’t fill the roof space, so PV will increase the financial payback.

The payback on thermal may improve significantly. Apparently government is considering a similar subsidy scheme for thermal as the current FITS for PV. And they’ve said it will be back-dated to cover systems installed now (otherwise investment might stall while people await the policy change).

I’ve had 3 visits from assessors. I’m getting very good at helping them measure the house, and have taken a closer look at the loft. Quite a difference in prices between the first two quotes (one is 25% more, partly because they don’t view certain bits of kit as reliable). They each try to emphasise the quality of the panels they would install – makes me suspect that there is some variation in the quality of panels available –  a reflection of global manufacturing variations I guess.

One quote is from an ‘ethical’ firm – interesting to see such product differentiation in this market. These claimed credentials are based on their use of solar PV panels either manufactured using hydro-electricity in Scandinavia, or re-furbished (using rejects from the initial manufacturing process). They also run their vans on bio-ethanol apparently. In part IV, I’ll have to decide how to borrow the money and choose between quotes.

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– experiences of fitting household solar energy – Getting FITS II is part of a series of blog posts by Limu on the attempt to install solar power at home with the help of the UK Feed in Tariff.

We have a good sized area of south-facing roof, largely shade free (which is important obviously) except for a chimney from one of the old fire-places. This chimney is symbolic, it represents the old technologies – burning solid fuels – that we can now replace, so I’m inclined to get the top meter of chimney pot taken down for that reason alone. Shouldn’t be too difficult for the roofers once they are up there.

Roofers are the key people. While there are plenty of new companies offering to organise solar energy installations for homeowners (and the ones I’ve contacted seem professional and genuine) its apparently the roofers that do the important work. Getting up on the scaffolding and fixing the things to your roof. The scaffolding represents a big part of the cost, plus the panels and labour. The services of the energy companies seem more of a sales front-end, plus installing some clever bits of electrical kit downstairs.

I’ve been in touch with a few solar energy companies to get quotes. They recommend some different approaches – some suggest I can get 2.5kw of PV panels on the roof, others 4kw. I’m going to look into both solar thermal and solar PV. Part III will update with my experiences of getting quotes for this work.

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