Just a brief comment about solar panels in the UK and in particular, Ikea. Comments invited.
Recently announced, Ikea in partnership with a company called Solarcentury are to sell solar panel kit.
I feel I should say my piece and then let others come back to me….
Firstly – solar panels in the Northeast of England – someone is having a laugh. Can someone please come back to me and tell me – other than tax-payer-funded subsidised solar which is one of the biggest cons of all time (YOU are paying for your neighbour’s solar installation and getting nothing in return)… I’m just not seeing this.
So the headlines look good – 25 year guarantee on the solar panels – 10 year guarantee on the invertor – 6 year output guarantee – 6 year workmanship guarantee. So firstly, it is will known that solar panels last for decades, so no big deal there. A well made invertor should also last a very, very long time – as with most (well made) solid state electronics. But try as I might, studying the advert, I could find nothing on batteries, without which the solar installation isn’t a lot of use.
I’ve been in Spain for all of this summer so far and we’ve had GREAT weather – and one of the reasons we do this is because summer weather in the North of England is CRAP.
Long-term average, in Morpeth as it happens, not 40 miles from where I live, has a handy statistic… 180 hours of sunshine in May – and that is the BEST. There are 740+ hours or thereabouts in a typical month and so my simple back-of-a-cigarette package math says that in the BEST month of the year, the Northeast spends over 75% of it’s time WITHOUT sunshine.
Let’s take a look at the year in total. 1400 hours of sunshine out of a total of 8760 hours – 84% of the time, there’s no sun. And recall also that unlike Spain, the sun is not overhead in the UK – it is at an angle which limit’s it’s power and accounts for why it is currently cool in the UK and 40c here in Spain as lunchtime approaches.
So while I don’t in any way claim to be an expert on the UK, overall I have many long years of wondering in the Northeast when the hell we’re going to get some sunshine – erm, maybe 60 years experience on and off? Regardless of that, many new buildings are fitted with solar panels (we’re talking photovoltaic here, not hot water) – funded in large part by the public who help contribute to many of these installations even when they DON’T have these panels.
I went to the IKEA site and asked for a quick quote – it asked me for my postcode… I told them about my roof – confirmed I did not need to charge my electric car!!! And suggested I would be home all day. I did my best to provide honest input.
The computer said I would be using 270w panels (15 panels) – that I would save £612 in the first year and with battery storage would save £17,870 over 25 years. The cost of the system would be just over £8k
So 270w each, 15 panels comes to 4KW which would SEEM to just about run our electric heating – if the sun was out – but as we’ve seen and as you’ll see from the Met office figures, when I need the heat, there is NO WAY ON EARTH the sun will put out anywhere near enough energy for anywhere near long enough. Indeed here in Spain I have a 250w panel which puts out about 270w – but back in the UK on test I could never get more than 200w out even with brilliant sunshine pointing DEAD at the sun, not near enough dictated by the root - so I would have guessed that this system on a typical North-eastern sunny day would in reality out out nearer 3KW – not a lot of use for a house that is all electric including ovens.
We simply have to do the maths here – in the very BEST month of MAY, with 180 hours of sun out of 744 hours of sun, we’re looking at an overall output over the 24 hour period… OPTIMISTICALLY 3.5Kw x50/744 = 840w – that’s assuming the batteries they supply will suffice to get that kind of power overnight. Doesn’t sound that impressive but that is the BEST month.
Now let’s look at a typical North-eastern December – and remember the output of the panel will be WAY lower in December – let’s be generous and say 3KW when the sun is out. According to the MET Office that comes to 3x40/744 = 161 WATTS average per hour over the 24 hour period. My FRIDGE FREEZER takes that amount and runs 24 hours a day.
Of course we’re not looking to run everything on solar – but just to subsidise and cut costs.
With standing charges that apply whether you use electricity or not, with such atrociously low levels of sun, certainly in the North of England and with these high costs – I’m sorry – I’m just not buying the claimed savings or anything like it….
Also – it is probably worth asking – this 25 year guarantee on the panels – does that include storm damage- and what if the roof needs work during that time? I’ll bet that isn’t factored in. We get some pretty bad weather in the winter.
Am I missing something? Could these concerns apply to where you live? Stats derived from Met office info.