Successive Conservative and Labour governments have been too frightened of the environmentalists to build any new nuclear or coal-fired power stations and demand is now approaching the limit of capacity. So last year I considered the appalling state of energy generation in the UK and thought I should see what I could do to future-proof my home from blackouts.
In 2012 my home electricity consumption was about 7000kWh and way too high. I moved my business from the loft to a pair of first floor rooms and provided master switches for computer systems for when not in use. Together with more efficient lighting the consumption was projected to drop to about 4200kWh for 2013.
Eventually after further study I had installed at the end of February 2013 a solar array system with a generation capability of 4kW and with 4.8kWh of battery storage. In the 11 months since then the solar array has generated 3975kWh of electricity of which 3531kWh has been useable (an efficiency of 89%).
Of the solar generation 1643kWh was consumed by my home and 1888kWh was sent to the grid. During times when demand has exceeded generation or when the batteries had discharged and there was no sun the house has consumed a further 1653kWh from the grid. The total consumption by the home in the 11 months so far is 3296kWh.
To summarise my electric situation, I could not have run my home without the back-up of the grid! During the summer months from May till September my home was pretty much self-sufficient for electricity, with the batteries running the home when the sun didn’t shine and overnight. I have sent more back to the grid than I have used from it.
The triple inverter system made by Nedap of the Netherlands will run the house from the batteries in the event of grid failure. Normal solar inverters without batteries shut-down in the event of grid failure so do not provide what I considered as essential back-up.
Without efficiency savings, my electric bills would have been £1200 per annum and rising.
With the efficiency savings and the solar generation my electricity bill is expected to be less than £340 for the year and the feed-in tariff by the government will be about £700.
So instead of spending £1200 I now have an additional income of £360, so I will be £1560 better off in one year. The system cost me £9200 and in effect will have paid for itself in just 6 years. Without the efficiency savings it would have paid for itself in 12 years.
The inverter might go on for many decades but the solar panels are estimated to have degraded to 80% efficiency in 20 years. By then any replacements are likely to be even more energy productive. The batteries are set to a discharge minimum level to give an expected life of 12 years. They will cost about £750 the pair to replace them.
I don’t feel the slightest guilty about receiving the feed-in tariff of about the same rate I pay per unit from my supplier, especially after what successive governments have done to my pension, and savings interest. I would be just as happy to pay for what I get from the grid and they pay me at the same rate for what I put back into it. That would be fair.
I think the Lib/Lab/Con all have it wrong on renewables and subsidies and that UKIP should encourage home solar with battery back-up and a fairer system of payment for net use from the grid. As for wind farms, UKIP is the only party that is against them.