Wycombe Home Power is a buying club for renewable energy systems. This means it is a friendly local knowledge-resource. It is powered by the energy and expertise of those nice Transition Town folks. It is all about getting a great deal with a great choice. Wycombe Home Power is working with multiple suppliers & multiple technologies to get you the best possible options & prices. Initially we will focus on Solar Panels. Transition Town volunteers work for free and this is a not-for-profit scheme. We will work with a pool of tried & tested installers WE recommend. We refer you to them. They come round and give YOU multiple quotes. You then choose the one that suits you and your pocket best. All this and free hot water & electricity from the Sun. Download a brochure here.
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What's going on today: MONEY FOR YOUR SUNSHINE
The "Feed in Tariffs" ("FIT" or "Clean Energy Cashback") for domestic renewable energy have been in effect since 2010. You will earn money for Photovoltaics ("PV") - the solar panels that generate electricity. This is in addition to the electricity you save and in addition to the money you earn from exporting your electricity to the National Grid. What is more this rate is linked to inflation and is Tax-FREE! You will earn £hundreds every year for 25 years with payback in 15 to 20 years.
All the money you earn after that is pure profit.
Below is one of the proposed Tariff scales under consultation in April 2012. The "Tariff Pt 1" from April 2012 is now in effect and most homes will now qualify for the £0.21p/kWh tariff if the Energy Performance Certificate for your home reaches a minimum "D" rating. This is relatively easy and the installer can arrange the certificate for you.
You can use the Clean Energy Cashback calculator at the EST to calculate the benefits:
As the price of oil, gas, coal and electricity rise your payback is reduced and your gross profit increases. The rate of return is expected to be between 5 and 8%. Guideline base prices (fully installed, commissioned and operational, before any discount but including VAT) for Photovoltaic are £7000 for 1kWp and £11,000 for 2kWp. If you are prepared to shop around and haggle you can get a 3.5kWp PV system for under £12,000! These are the deals!
Such systems are normally grid-linked and by law they are isolated automatically in case of a power cut. They are maintenance free but you may want to give them a clean once a year to make them perform at their best. Lifetime of panels are greater than 25 years. The roof should be unshaded. You can install BOTH Photovoltaics and Solar Thermal if you have roof space.
NOTE: the Feed-in Tariff also includes micro-hydro, anaerobic digestion, micro-combined heat power and wind power. We have illustrated solar here as it is the most commonly applicable type of domestic renewable system but we can help you with most of these technologies.
"There are no Solar Panels in the world that have lasted 25 years.": The truth: A company that reuses old panels reports that it has tested 330 panels made in 1984. 90% of these units can still generate 80% or more of their initial output. The industry expects that products made today will be even more durable than those made in the 1980s. The backing materials used to create the solar panels should be less susceptible to discolouration. So typical lives of thirty or more years can probably be assumed. Many soldier on for 40 or 50 years. See here for the evidence.
"Photovoltaics require more energy to make than they every produce in their lifetime.": The truth: Engineers at the University of Bath estimated that the average energy payback in the UK was 16 years in the UK but only 8 years in southern Europe. (Geoff Hammond's & Craig Jones's "Inventory of Carbon and Energy" 2008. Available at www.bath.ac.uk/mech-eng/sert/embodied) The University of Bologna suggests that the Bath study is based upon outdated technlogy and suggest only 2 years in southern Europe. This suggests around 4 years in the UK. Additional research in Holland suggested 2.7 years for southern Europe (around 6 years in the UK). (See Vasilis Fthenakis's and Erik Alsema's "Photovoltaics energy payback times, greenhouse emissions and external costs" 2006 available from Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications, 14, 275-80, www.clca.columbia.edu/papers/Photovoltaic_Energy_Payback_Times.pdf) Other UK research has suggested a figure of a 4 year payback in the UK (see C. Bankier's and S. Gales "Energy payback of roof mounted photovoltaic cells" from the Energy Bulletin, 16th June 2006 - www.energybulletin.net). Given a life of up to 50 years then we can assume a 4 year payback is more than adequate.
How do I pay for this?
Social Finance: Transition Town High Wycombe has looked into bringing an arm of the Aylesbury Credit Uniion to the town but until volunteers can be found to run it then this remains in the pipeline. However, there remains other, alternative, social saving & lending schemes we can recommend. Once such is Zopa. They are not a bank. Their loans are actually funded by people who save with them. They are based in London. If you took out a 5 year loan for 2.5kWp PV system it may cost around £12,000. Assuming a rate of 8% annual repayments are approx £3000. This exceeds your income/savings from the microgeneration system in the short-term but AFTER 5 years you quickly return to a profit of around £1000 per year for another 20 years. Do your own illustration using the Zopa online calculator here.
Mortgage: Alternatively you could add the amount to your mortgage. Assuming a rate of 4% on £250,000 then, for the above mentioned 2.5kWp system, the increase in payments will be £70/month. However you are still making £1000/yr from the Feed-in Tariff leaving you a couple of hundred pounds a year in profit. Contact your mortage provider to see what they can offer.
Other loan: An interest-free loan system could be set up by the Government in the manner of the Student Loans system. The loaning agency could be named as direct benefactor of the Feed-In Tariff or RHI payments. We await to see if such an initiative happen but such a "Green Investment Bank" was promised in the Queen's speech in May 2010. We also expect/hope that some commercial lenders will join the market with niche products. Until any of these become available we await developments with interest (pun intended).
"Free" Solar Panels: Google "free solar panels" and see what you get. Companies such as A Shade Greener offer free installations but then they get all of your Feed-in Tariff for the next 25 years. You do save on electricity so that is your saving to keep. Obviously this is not as profitable. Expect other traders to wade into this market over the next few years. Please read the following advice from the Energy Saving Trust here before considering such "to-good-to-be-true" offers.
Our thanks to Good Energy, YouGen and Soak Up The Sun for the illustrations and inspiration.
In April 2010 High Wycombe saw the completion of its first post-carbon retrofit to a home in Totteridge. It has a large Photovoltaic array (3kWp) combined with a Solar Thermal evacuated tube system. This is backed up with a 15kW wood pellet boiler for heating and hot water.
Another home came on stream in 2011.
You can tour these Superhomes via a booked tour. Visit www.superhome59.info & www.superhome113.info
You can ask questions about the installation, costs, duration, hassle-factor and anything else you can think of. The householders will put your mind at ease!
Question 1: Do I get a discount?
Answer 1: That's what we hope for. Discounts are discretionary depending upon which installer you talk to via us. However some of them DO offer a discount so remember to ask for it. The discount represents the "referral fee" that TTHW does not accept for the referral. We ask our installers to pass it directly onto the customer via a discount.
Question 2: So how does TTHW make any money out of this?
Answer 2: WE DON'T!! This is a free service. Nobody in TTHW gains personally and the organisation receives no funding directly from the scheme. However we do receive limited sponsorship, help, event support and benefits-in-kind from local companies. This is the reason why we offer a panel of installers and never recommend one over the others. They cannot influence us because the customer chooses the installer not us. They win work based upon their quote, technical offering and quality.
Question 5: Sounds great, when should I register myself?
Answer 5: NOW! Why wait? There is no time limit and no limit to the number of households who can take part.
Question 6: Didn't the Government change the FiT? How do I trust that the Government will pay up?
Answer 6: The Department of Energy and Climate Change has the power to introduce incentives because of the new Energy Act passed in 2008. Basically: its the law. To maintain faith in this system the payments are guaranteed by this and all future Governments. Rest assured - you will get your money! Although a Government may choose to change how much they pay or even scrap the scheme this only applies to NEW installations and cannot be applied retrospectively.
Question 7: Who is on your panel of installers?
Answer 7: This is flexible and can change depending upon experience. As of the Winter 2011 we would forward your details to up to three suppliers: SolaSave Ltd, British Eco and Solinium.
Some small print
Please note that all illustrations of domestic renewable energy using Solar Panels are very approximate and based upon roof-mounting. How much energy you yield depends upon the size and placing of the panels upon your roof. Listed buildings and Conservation Areas require Planning Permission. Otherwise all Solar Panels are 'permitted development' and do not need Planning Permission. We would not advise you to install on north-facing roofs. Typical installations will be on South, South-West or South-East facing roofs. Panels may also be mounted at ground-level if desired. They can also be mounted flat but if not angled at the sun they will not perform at their optimum.
In terms of CO2 saved in relation to money invested the 'greener' choice is Solar Thermal. Both technologies save more CO2 in their lifetimes than was emitted by their manufacture. Solar Thermal installations normally require a different type of domestic hot water cylinder to be used. The quotes are always inclusive of all such fixtures, fittings, labour, VAT and so on. There will be no hidden extras. It may not be possible for you to benefit from Solar Thermal if the new cylinder cannot be fitted or if you have certain kinds of 'combi-boiler'. No such restrictions apply to Photovoltaics but these systems are normally 'grid-tied' via your main household fuse box. Occasionally older style fuse boxes have to be replaced to allow this. The installer will advise you as to what is required. Your utility supplier may also wish to fit a new meter for a Photovoltaics installation. They normally do this themselves. 'Standalone' (not grid-tied) PV does qualify for FIT if you wish for this.
TTHW is the promoter of the project and accepts no liability for problems with the supplier. We will endeavour to get all households the best possible deal and will monitor the prices for this purpose. Householders are recommended to obtain multiple quotes and we would like to know if you can get a better deal like-for-like. The contractual relationship for the product and their installation is between your installer and you. The installers and the manufacturer supply the Product Warranties. In case of problem please contact the installer who will be happy to rectify any defect. TTHW cannot be held liable for the performance of products in use nor are we liable for changes in the weather or Government Policy. We can take no responsibility for the subsequent FIT and RHI payment process with your utilities supplier. Our published illustrations are for guidance only and we cannot guarantee such financial rewards. Savings assume householder responsibility for their own energy use. If you start using more energy then you will gain less financially. Your savings increase if you take other sensible measures to reduce consumption, ie, showers versus bath, energy saving light bulbs versus incandescents, and so on. We are happy to advise you about further energy saving measure if you wish.
Participation in the Wycombe Home Power scheme is free. There is no membership or sign-up criteria. You do not need to join Transition Town High Wycombe and you need not hear from the Transition Town again if you do not wish to. However we hope that you will find your microgeneration system to be of great value and we respectfully ask that your Transition Town be allowed to use photo's of your installation for publicity purposes. We are always seeking positive stories about renewable energy so if you are pleased with the work tell us. We may contact you after installation to ensure that you are happy. Please feel free to tell us of anything you were unhappy with so that we can feed this back to the supplier and improve other householder's experience of the scheme. We also would like more volunteers to make time for other householders to come and visit a domestic renewable energy installation and ask questions. If you would be happy to help others in this way please let us know.