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Thornbury Fire Station’s Solar Panels Performing Well

It is great to hear good news about the success of solar panels as it is likely to encourage others to take the plunge and invest in this environmentally friendly source of energy. The more individuals and businesses in the UK and beyond that have them installed the more likely we are going to hit our carbon emission targets by 2020.

Thornbury Fire Station had 50 solar photvoltaic panels installed in April 2014

Thornbury Fire Station is using solar panels

We have heard that, back in April 2014, Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) took the plunge and had 50 solar panels placed upon Thornbury Fire Station’s roof. Well, you will be pleased to hear, these solar panels are already producing sufficient power that would have been capable of providing electricity for a home for 12 months – 4,000 kW hours of electricity. Another pleasing factor is that this performance is in excess of what was being predicted.

The solar panels were fitted at a time when the fire station was undertaking roofing improvements so it no doubt made sense to have them installed around the same time. As a result of the above fire service’s Carbon Management Plan there has been a reduction in the amount of energy consumed by almost a third in a period of 5 years that is a commendable achievement.

We have also heard that Yorkshire Ambulance Service is to have solar panels installed on 175 of their ambulances. The benefit to the ambulance service is that they will be able to keep the batteries in the ambulances charged up without the need to keep the engine ticking over. This will no doubt be of benefit to the environment as it will reduce carbon emissions emanating from the exhausts of the ambulances.

The above news items are certainly positive moves on the part of those involved in making such decisions.

As always, we would welcome the thoughts of our readers so feel free to leave your comments below.

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Could More Windows Be Used As Solar Photovoltaic Panels?

If the phrase “solar panels” crops up in a conversation perhaps with your next door neighbor who is considering having them installed you immediately think of such panels being placed on top of his or her roof. Alternatively, you may imagine a part of your neighbour’s garden being taken up by ground mounted solar panels.

glass windows may have transparent solar panels placed on them

Could solar panels like these be replaced by transparent panels placed on glass windows?

There are some people who think that such panels look rather unsightly which is one reason why some decide not to have them installed even though they could save on energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.

However, if a team of research staff at Michigan State University in the United States of America have their way we may be seeing people making use of solar energy without the need to install such solar panel units. This is because transparent panels have been developed at the university.

We have previously written about new built properties in the likes of Australia having solar panel windows incorporated into the construction process but these colourless panels could be put onto glass windows. Organic molecules are utilized to absorb sunlight that is then made into electricity.

Can you imagine the potential usage of such panels? Not only could they be used on residential properties but just think of all those skyscraper office buildings that were made using the likes of thousands of glass panels. At the moment, the transparent panels are still in the development stage as they need to be made more efficient but we are sure that you will agree the above does sound very promising.

It will be interesting to monitor this research over the coming months and years. We wonder what impact it may have on the traditionally manufactured solar photovoltaic panels.

As always, we welcome your comments so do feel free to have your say.

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Solar Panels – Do They Appeal To You?

When it comes to making your home more energy efficient there are a number of ways of doing this. You may decide to have double-glazing fitted, loft or cavity wall insulation put in or solar panels fitted to your roof.

solar panels would be a popular home improvement choice for homeowners

Solar panels are a popular home improvement installation choice in the UK

Interestingly, a survey carried out on behalf of Ocean Finance has revealed that as many as 20% of owners of properties would like to have solar panels fitted at their homes. This is pleasing to read. In addition, the survey found that 4% of homeowners were intending to have solar photovoltaic panels installed. Furthermore, over 5% have already had solar panels fitted.

Another interesting statistic revealed that London was the most popular place to have solar panels fitted with 15% of homeowners in the capital doing so. On a percentage basis, this is almost twice as many as the second placed region of East Anglia on 8%.

Disappointingly, around 50% of those taking part in the survey indicated that they were not interested in fitting solar panels with the main reason being the cost of doing so. Therefore, it would appear that the solar panel industry needs to do more to encourage the take-up of this energy saving scheme especially if the UK is to achieve its renewable energy and carbon emission targets by 2020. In this respect, it is interesting to hear that the Green Deal scheme has recently been closed to new applications as it has very quickly been fully funded.

There seems to be a large focus on the installation of solar panels on commercial properties in recent months which is understandable but we should not loose sight of the importance homeowners can have on this energy source.

If having solar panels fitted appeals to you then you should contact two or three companies to obtain competitive quotes and have an assessment carried out of their financial viability.

As always, we welcome our readers’ comments.

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Which Way Should Solar Panels Face?

It has been felt by the majority of people involved in the solar panel industry that solar panels should be installed facing south as they catch more of the sunlight. It is interesting therefore that, apparently, a solar panel technology expert who is a professor from Loughborough University has expressed an opinion that greater benefit could emanate from solar panels if they were able to be positioned facing east and west alternately.

questions are being asked about which direction solar panels should face

Are east – west facing solar panels more beneficial than south facing ones? – Image credit: Elliott Brown.

Apparently, positioning the solar panels in such a way would even out the daily distribution of power that presently peaks around mid-day when a lot of people are at work and many are not able to use the power generated which ends up in the National Grid. He is not for one minute suggesting that those homeowners with solar panels already fitted should make any changes to the direction in which they are facing.

Apparently, the Solar Trade Association has said that there is little difference between the amount of electricity generated between south facing and east-west facing solar panels. It is interesting that, in Germany, they are said to be now installing solar panels in the way the professor at Loughborough University has suggested.

The positioning of solar panels on a roof has no doubt tended to be, in part, based upon the direction either roof surface is facing and placing them on the side of the roof felt to gain maximum exposure to sunlight.

However, presumably the fitting process could be adapted if it was felt the above suggestion was a good one?

As always, we would very much welcome the thoughts of our readers about the above. The solar panel industry will no doubt continue to evolve in the coming years and this may be just one way that it can change but only if it is felt to be in the best interest of the consumer.

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Council To Provide 1,500 Homes With Solar Panels

We have been saying for quite some time that the UK needs an increasing number of large solar panel projects to come to fruition to help the country achieve its renewable energy targets by 2020. We cannot just rely on individual homeowners “taking the plunge” and investing in solar photovoltaic panels.

solar panels are a great way of possibly lowering your energy bills

Installing solar panels could reduce your energy bills

We are pleased to have read that the executive board of Warrington Borough Council has committed £5.25 million to provide three sheltered housing schemes as well as solar panels for 1,500 properties. Golden Gates Housing Trust is in partnership with the council in this respect. It is being forecast that tenants could each see a reduction in their energy bills of as much as £233 per annum.

This saving is a significant figure at a time when energy prices have been on the increase and is no doubt going to be welcomed by the occupants of those homes in the current economic climate. An income is to be received by Warrington Borough Council to fund the project.

There are no doubt many projects that have and are taking place around the UK that will help us improve the environment by reducing CO2 emissions. We have mentioned many schemes in recent months and let us hope that we continue to report on new ones that come to our attention.

There has been much debate about the building of solar farms in the countryside. As is usually the case, there are some people that are in favour and some firmly against such schemes. It is important that the concerns of local residents are listened to and taken into account over such projects which is something that the government wishes to see happening.

The installation of solar panels are undoubtedly having an impact on helping the country improve its carbon footprint and reduce energy bills for both residential and commercial properties.

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Government Keen On Raising Take Up Of Commercial Rooftops For Solar Panels

On more than one occasion we have made our views clear with regard to some of the things that need to happen in order for the UK to achieve its renewable energy target by 2020. It is important that as many large solar arrays are installed but of course taking into account the views of the local community.

Greg Barker wants to see an increase in the uptake of solar power

Greg Barker is a keen advocate of solar power- Image credit: University of Salford Press Office.

There would appear to be an awful lot of scope to utilize the rooftops of numerous commercial buildings on our trading estates and retail parks around the UK for solar panels. It would be interesting if you were in a position to have a birds-eye view of a typical trading estate as there is no doubt that you would find a larger percentage of buildings without solar panels fitted to their rooftops.

It is interesting that Greg Barker who is the minister for climate change has said that the Department of Communities and Local Government are to discuss over the summer period the possibility of making it easier to install solar panels on commercial properties with large roofs with a capacity of up to 1MW.

He has also confirmed that on 9th September 2014 he is to host a meeting of solar stakeholders including developers of solar panels, estate agents, large retailers, solicitors and landlords with a view to getting rid of the barriers that exist between some landlords and their tenants when it comes to installing solar panels.

Apparently, according to DECC, there are about 250,000 hectares of roof space on commercial properties that are facing south that would be suitable for the installation of solar panels.

It will be interesting to see what transpires from these initiatives in the coming months. It is forecast that if only a part of the available commercial rooftop space were used for solar panels then it would make a big dent in the 20GW target the UK is striving to achieve by 2020.

We will keep you updated.

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MINI Plant Installs Solar Panels

Car manufacturers are extremely supportive of introducing eco-friendly vehicles that are low in carbon emissions as well as being more fuel-efficient. It is great to hear when they are also helping the environment in other ways.

MINI are supportive of solar panels having installed them at their Oxford plant

MINI has installed solar panels at its Oxford plant – Image credit: stuad70.

For instance, last November we made reference to the fact that Toyota had installed a 4.1 MW solar farm at its Burnaston operation.

We now hear that MINI has had installed 11,500 solar photovoltaic panels at their plant in Oxford. The company’s body shop only commenced operations towards the later part of 2013.

The solar panels cover an area of in excess of 20,000 square metres and have a capacity of in excess of 3 MW. The solar panels have been roof mounted. This level of capacity would be enough to have provided electricity for about 850 homes.

It is large solar arrays like this that are necessary to help the UK meet its carbon emission and renewable energy targets going forward towards 2020. So, the more car manufacturers as well as other industries that are able to support the green initiative the better.

It cannot be left to members of the public to be the main focus to have solar panels installed on their homes as the above figures confirm just what a significant difference large commercial solar plants can make to assisting the UK meet its green targets.

In the past, we have also commented on the importance of solar farms being installed in the countryside but, of course, that is on the basis that it would be preferable that such installations have the support of the majority of the local community. It is vital that, as a nation, we all work together towards the previously mentioned targets being achieved.

We would like to hear of any other significant solar panel developments that either have been built or are going to be so that we can make our readers aware.

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Revised Solar Tariffs Likely To Be Imposed On China By The USA

As many of you are no doubt aware China is the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world but in the past, has been heavily criticised for some of its trading tactics by many countries including European Union countries and the USA. As a result tariffs were imposed by the USA.

The USA may be on the verge of raising the tariffs they currently impose on Chinese manufacturers of solar photovoltaic panels

Chinese manufacturers of solar panels may be faced with increases in tariffs by the USA

The USA are obviously still uneasy with the Chinese solar panel manufacturing industry because we hear that they are considering revising upwards tariffs that are currently in force. They are also hoping to have these tariffs cover solar panels as well as solar cells.

The Department of Commerce are keen to increase tariffs to anything between 18.56% and 35.21% and hope to put in place these tariffs in the next few months. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) is expected to review these tariffs before they can be finalised.

It is still the view of many solar panel manufacturers in the USA that their opposite numbers in China are being heavily subsidised by the Chinese Government giving them a significant advantage over companies in the USA. They are believed to be able to provide solar panels in the USA at a much cheaper price than those native manufacturers which is hurting American companies.

However, if tariffs were increased, this could see jobs within the solar panel industry being lost in the USA and bring into question the demand for the product. For those who are supporters of the drive towards removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere this would be concerning as fewer people may purchase solar panel installations in the USA that they have been able to buy from Chinese manufacturers at a lower price than those made by USA manufacturers.

We will keep you advised of any further developments in respect of the above but would very much welcome the views of our readers here in the UK.

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Are Solar Powered Roads On The Horizon?

Well, we have previously reported on solar panels being used in a variety of ways in addition to the more conventional way of generating electricity for domestic and commercial buildings. For instance, we have heard of solar panels being used to provide additional power for some ambulances here in the UK, solar photovoltaic panels being fitted to backpacks and on the top of public carports to provide a source for electric cars to be re-charged.

Are roads ever going to include solar cells in their construction?

Will we ever see road surfaces incorporating solar cells? – Image credit: jo.sau.

The latest potential use that we have heard of is solar roads in the USA. A company has developed a prototype called Solar Roadways. The road surface would be made up of hexagonal shapes that incorporate solar cells within them. These cells could be used to help generate power in the locality plus power also for the likes of electric vehicles.

Can you imagine the potential with this as there are thousands upon thousands of miles of roads not only in the USA but also throughout the world? In addition to using the system on roads, they could also be utilised on drives, playgrounds, paths and car parks. They include LED lights that could be used to help with signs. They also incorporate a heating system so could be used throughout the year including the wintertime to deal with the wintry conditions that so many countries encounter. This could, of course, lead to fewer accidents due to such inclement weather.

The company are raising further funds through Indiegogo. Depending upon the amount someone is prepared to donate will dictate how the person benefits. For instance, if $500 were given then your name would be engraved on a mounting hole cover that would be seen by many. If someone were to donate $10,000, they would receive a 7-inch hexagon that would include the identical textured top and bottom surfaces of the full size version. It would also include LEDs, solar cells as well as a microprocessor.

It will be interesting to monitor progress of the above to see if there is a possibility of it ever getting to the stage of being rolled out nationally within the USA and beyond in the next few years.

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Government Expected To Review Solar Subsidies

On many an occasion, over an extended period of time, we have reported on numerous solar photovoltaic farm developments that are either seeking planning permission or have been built in the countryside. Such solar arrays play an important part in helping the UK achieve its renewable energy targets by 2020.

is their going to be less solar farms in the countryside

Are we going to see fewer solar panel farms?

We have commented on some huge developments but, of course, they do need to be installed in places where they are not seen as an eyesore. The government made it quite clear many months ago that they would expect part of the planning approval stage to include obtaining the opinions of local residents and that seems reasonable.

However, there is a rumour that the government is going to review the subsidies that are currently available to those that own land in the countryside upon which they would like to install solar panels which, it would appear, would have a detrimental financial impact on landowners. Presently, it is estimated that subsidies in respect of solar panels cost the government around £600 million per annum. If these subsidies were to be reduced or removed there would obviously be less of a reason from a financial aspect for landowners to install solar farms.

We have previously commented about the move towards encouraging more solar panel arrays to be built on the roofs of commercial buildings such as supermarkets, factories, schools and council buildings that is a positive factor.

Another factor worth bearing in mind is that the solar industry would go through another period of uncertainty as far as the future of the industry is concerned which it could well do without. Therefore, there will be many people within the solar sector that are waiting to hear with trepidation what is going to happen in respect of the above.

For our part, we will continue to keep you up to date.

Your comments, as always, are most welcome.

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