NZ Eco Electric provides electrical services and MCS approved solar panel (solar photovoltaic - PV) installation in County Durham and the North-East of England. We are based in Frosterley in Weardale, County Durham and serve the Dales and surrounging areas.
How do solar panels work?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels harness energy from sunlight to produce power in the form of direct current (DC). Installed with the panels is an inverter, which converts this DC power into alternating current (AC) - this is the form in which electricity is used in your home. Between the inverter and youre existing fuseboard a new electrical meter is installed which measures the electricity that your panels produce. It does not measure the electrcity that you use; that is the purpose of your existing electrical meter.
Is solar PV a viable financial option?
On 1st April 2010 the government introduced a Feed-in Tariff scheme (FITs), an environmental programme aimed at promoting small-scale renewable and low-carbon electricity generation technologies whereby electricity companies are obliged to pay a generation tariff to small-scale low-carbon generators (eg. owners of solar panel installations) for electricity generated as well as an export tariff when electricity is exported to the national grid. In effect, you are paid for every unit of electricity your solar panels generate (even if you use that electricity in your own house, thereby making additional savings on your electricity bill) and you are also paid for units you do not use (eg. when you are out or away on holiday) which is fed into the national grid.The FIT has been significantly reduced over the previous 12 months; however, the cost of installaion has also greatly reduced due to the rapid drop in price of the materials. When the FIT was first introduced, an average 4kW solar PV system cost over £20,000. The tariff was set at 41p per unit to enable payback in around 10 years. Currently, the starting point for the tariff is 15.44p per unit until the next scheduled reduction in May (index linked for 20 years) but an average 4kW system of good quality costs around £6000-£7000. The return on the investment with the tariff and savings on electricity can still be in the range of 8-10%.
If you think of the FIT as a method of repaying the installation costs, then you can regard the real "profit" as the savings you make on your electricity bills. One of the reasons that power bills have increased so much recently is to fund energy producing initiatives (including tariffs and the construction of new power stations), so every householder is already paying towards renewable energy. It makes sense to get some of it back! There is also a growing market in devices which utilise any excess electricity generated, which would otherwise be fed back into the Grid. For example, one gadget will automatically turn on and off your immersion tank when there is "spare" electricity, especially useful if you are not at home during the day to use up the power generated in daylight hours.
How much will I save?
It depends ... on the number of panels you have, where you live and the position of your roof. The generation tariff is currently set at 15.44p for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced. This tariff is guaranteed by the government for 20 years as well as being tax free for domestic installations and index linked. The current export tariff (for power fed back into the grid) has been set by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) at 4.5p per kWh.
Although it is not possible to predict with certainty the performance of solar PV systems due to the variability in the amount of sunlight from location to location and from year to year, your installer can give you an idea of how much energy your proposed system is likely to produce in a year using a standardised approach based on the Government’s Standard Assessment Procedure [SAP] for energy rating of buildings. This predicted annual performance is a calculation based on the angle of your roof, your location and other relevant factors. As a guide, locally, a 4kW system on a south facing roof with no shading issues should earn around £600 from the FIT alone, before savings on electric bills are taken into account.
How reliable are panels and do they involve much maintenance?
Solar photovoltaic panels have a manufacturer’s performance warranty of 25 years and a working lifetime of over 40 years. Maintenance is low - solar panels need to be kept relatively clean (although if mounted at an angle of 20 degrees or more, the self-cleaning mechanism kicks in) and you will have to make sure trees don't begin to overshadow them.
We live in the North-East. Don’t you need sun for solar power?
Contrary to common belief, solar panels don’t need sunshine to work – just daylight. True, solar panels in Torquay tend to generate more power per panel than solar panels in County Durham, but your predicted system performance takes your location into account and this is what your estimated production is based on. Efficiency also depends on the position of your roof; ideally it should be unshaded and south-facing.
I’ve heard of companies who install solar PV free. Why should I pay to install one?
Some companies offer to install solar PV for free - in return they will pocket the feed-in tariff. In effect, they are renting your roof space to provide guaranteed income for 20 years. The agreement will be binding on any new owners. This may be the solution for you if you are not intending to stay in the property long. You will benefit from reduced electricity bills without having to make a large initial investment. However, if you are planning to stay in the property for more than 8-10 years then the return from the feed-in tariff may outweigh the initial costs. Visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk (Consumer Guidance on Free Solar PV Offers) or www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/free-solar-panels for impartial information and advice on solar panels and other renewable energy sources.
Why use NZ Eco Electrical?
NZ Eco Electic is certified and registered as an approved installer of Solar Photovoltaic Systems with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). To qualify for the feed-in tariff, it is a condition that the installation must be carried out by a MCS approved installer. NZ Eco Electric is also a member of the Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) Scheme and complies with its Consumer Code, which is backed by the Office of Fair Trading, and is designed to ensure high standards of service before, during and after a contract is signed.
See www.realassurance.org.uk/scheme/consumer-code for a downloadable copy of the code.
Based in Frosterley, Weardale, we have built up a solid customer base in Co. Durham and the surrounding areas through domestic and commercial electrical services. This remains the mainstay of our business; solar photovoltaic installation is just one of the services we offer. Many installers who relied solely on solar PV have ceased trading in the past year as demand has stabilised. Our contiued success does not rely on the vagaries of the market so the liklihood of the business trading for the lifetime of your warranty is far greater. Only established tradesmen who live and work in Weardale and who are well known in the area are subcontracted to work on installations. Larger companies employ sales staff, many of whom do not properly understand photovoltaic technology and are commission-driven; in contrast, the director of NZ Eco Electric (a qualified and experienced electrician) will visit your property for the initial assessment, deliver the written quotation and explain it in detail, and will also carry out the installation with two local subcontractors who have worked with him on every installation. This gives you the benefit of one point of contact and means there is no danger of miscommunication.
You can be confident in an installation which carries a 25 year guarantee on the efficiency of solar panels, a 5 year manufacturer’s guarantee on the inverter and a 5 year warranty on workmanship under the Deposit and Workmanship Warranty insurance (DAWWI) Scheme. See www.realassurance.org.uk/consumers/insurance for details.
Can you summarise the advantages and disadvantages?
Environmentally-friendly and sustainable source of energy
Good return on investment
Save money on electricity bills
Solar power and other renewable energy: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk (0800 512012); www.decc.gov.uk
Feed-in tariff scheme: www.ofgem.gov.uk/Media/FactSheets/Documents1/fitfs_energy prices update FS.pdf