The Midnight Sun……

About 7 yrs ago,  a car pulls up in the driveway, and a very official looking bloke gets out and approaches the Shed….  Turns out he was from Trading Standards and wanted someone to give evidence on a dodgy solar job.  Some lady up on the coast had a Thermal Solar System fitted.  Then when the feed in tariffs started back in 2010 someone called and fitted her a solar PV system.  Next thing she knows is, a company called and told her about battery storage.  This was back in 2011.  The Trading Standards man, showed me a picture or two.  It was basically a car battery, in a plastic box, outside her house with two wires fed back into her house and thankfully, not connected to anything.  The other two systems were OK.  A bit ‘clunky’  but the early systems were compared to what we’re doing today. Anyway,  the battery was no more than a total con and the poor old girl didn’t realise until there was a power cut and it didn’t work.

7 yrs later and 11 yrs after deciding solar was the industry for me, we have finally had our own Home Energy System fitted.  It’s our third solar system.  I’ll talk more about the others, a 10 yr old Thermal System and 7 yr old 2kw pv system in other posts…..   This about batteries…

So, we had a look at our energy costs and consumption over a 12 month period and noticed that for the last two years,  we have used exactly the same amount of electricity in the house.  It just happens, that our roof would also generate around the same amount of energy over a year, as we use….  So… game on.

Anyway, it’s all been fitted and i now understand a little more about the battery system.  The first thing we noticed was the meter stopped.  That’s the meter where you pay energy companies.  It just stopped..  In fact, it went backwards at times, and probably will until someone tells the energy company… They read it often enough so no doubt they’ll be back soon and see it for themselves.  At that point, it will be changed to a new meter.  Just to clarify at this point. The system has been installed in full compliance with MCS guidelines and registered with the National Grid (in layman terms, it’s compliant)  I just haven’t bothered with the FiTs, that all.

If, however, you are claiming a feed in tariff for your solar then you also need to be aware of the implications of having a battery storage system fitted.

When a battery storage system has multiple charging options and allows it be charged from the grid as well as the Solar Panels, and the flow of electricity goes through the Generation Meter from the Grid, the Meter must be Bi-Directional. If not The Fit payment may be stopped!

There are hundreds of battery systems in the UK that are non compliant and when the energy companies discover this, there will be a lot of unhappy people. Can i just state at this point, since legislation was introduced regarding metres, all grid tied systems we have arranged the installation of are fitted with bi-directional metres as standard.  This also applies for inverter upgrades where batteries are introduced. The last thing you want is to lose your entitlements.  I use the word entitlements, as that is what it is.  Those on high tariffs are being thanked for providing data.  Data that has been collected, collated and examined to a point where….  We all know that solar works,  it’s how we use it that is changing the way we work now…  We still need to register grid tied systems, so as a Nation we understand what the energy mix is, how to plan and prepare for times when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine. But at a local level, and in particular in my own home,  we have now had a month of battery storage and have to say, we are very pleased with the results.

Naturally, here in mid summer, with long clear days, we are generating more energy than we can use.  Right now, the house is running free of charge,  the batteries are full, and we have a 9.6kw battery…   AND…. I’ve just plugged the car in.  The guess-o-meter on the car was on 39 miles,  so we can get at least another 70 miles in there,  going to try and do it all for free today with zero grid import.   The Solar and Battery system i have designed here allows for a max of 6.75 kwh of energy to used at any one time (in perfect conditions) without touching the grid.  This makes me happy.

I’ve also been keeping records….  If we did not have the batteries, most days, up to 75% of our energy would be exported….  So far, around 19% of it has been exported in 4 weeks.  Naturally,  when the sun starts to drop and we progress into Autumn and Winter, our energy use goes up. Then we’ll be using 100% of the energy generated and keep the house running well into the night.

We’ve estimated that the solar system will generate just a tad over 4,100kwh a year..  At .17p a kwh that’s a saving of close to £700, every year, for the next 40 yrs or more. And as prices rise,  we save more money.  What we have done is purchased 40yrs of energy at today’s prices, in advance and future proofed ourselves against energy price hikes.  In winter, we will still take some energy from the grid, impossible not too with gloomy skies and 7hrs or daylight and the temperature is minus 5!  But we’re talking about £100 or so, max…..

So,  that’s the numbers in practical terms…  now the specifics of our system.  It has multiple depth of discharge settings.  Multiple timer control charging settings and even timer controlled energy release options.  It can be set to charge up when you want, from the grid or from the solar,  it can have a daily discharge rate of let’s say 60% which would keep most houses running through the night and has an optional critical load discharge.  This is held back in day to day operation and only released when the power goes down.  In my case, we have had it wired back into the boiler and lighting circuits. So, even in mid winter, if there is not enough energy from the solar and the batteries are flat,  when a power cut happens,  we count to four and the lights come back on, as does the boiler if set to run. I can soon adapt the system to have the panels working as well, but that would be zombie apocalypse conditions… We are resilient enough to get by without grid connection for long periods via other technologies and practices.

We’re using our solar and battery system for many reasons.  To Save thousands of pounds on bills that we would otherwise be giving to foreign owned energy companies. To reduce the impact of our lives on the planet.  To add resilience to our lives in what are uncertain times with more energy shocks on the horizon….  And, to be honest, it makes us feel good.  Knowing that we now generate as much as we use AND we have the ability to store what would otherwise go back to the grid for use at night.

Battery storage is one option and not the only option for solar owners looking to self utilise more of their solar.  Automated car charging points and automatic hot water switching are popular and less costly, but whatever your preference,  all can be discussed, here at The Solar Shed either in person or over the phone.  We have hundreds of online monitored systems and can show you how other people use their energy and see the results for yourself.  With a National network of installers, including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, we can install in almost every post code, UK wide.

Call us to discuss your dreams for a clean, green future.