Surprisingly, there is a vast amount of solar energy available to us in the UK. Solar thermal systems heat water using the energy from the sun and solar photovoltaic, or PV, turn the sun’s energy into electricity. Just so there is no doubt in your minds – it does not have to be sunny to capture the solar energy, obviously the brighter the day the more energy that gets through to your panels.
At Newhouse Farm we have the following:
Solar thermal. We have an array of 40 evacuated tubes on our potting shed (the house is listed) that transfer heat to a manifold that has water pumped through it. The warmed water is then passed through a coil in our hot water tank and the heat transferred to our hot water. If it is colder outside at the tubes than the water in the tank, obviously it doesn’t pump – that would be silly! It works a treat and after you have done all you can to reduce your energy usage I would put it down as a great eco-project.
Solar PV. We use solar PV in several locations:
Our most expensive project to date has been the installation of photovoltaic panels on our outbuildings in September 2008. This is a grid linked system that allows us to sell surplus electricity back to the grid. It cost £15000 but we were eligible for a £2500 grant. It has a peak capacity of just over 3kilowatts which means when the sun shines we can turn on the kettle and the meter doesn’t register. We bought our system through the chaps at 'Plug into the Sun'. If you want to contact Andy Tanner follow that link.
Our greenhouse heating system that pumps warm air to a heat sink under the floor uses a small amount of energy to charge a batter to power a computer fan. For this we use a small 11W solar panel.
As our spring water has to be pumped a considerable distance from the spring to the tank in the loft we use a 12V demand pump and charge the batteries with a wind turbine and a couple of solar panels. Initially we tried it with the wind turbine alone but we do have long periods of little wind, hence our solar panels.