Andy’s Solar Panels – performance to date

A few months ago, I was asked what I knew about the Free Solar Panels scheme from a company called a A Shade Greener.

As a result of my enquiries, I decided to pursue it myself and I am very pleased with the outcomes to date.

The scheme is explained well on their website

and this video:

I am pleased to report that they have been as good as their word at every stage and it has all been remarkably hassle free. The only inconvenience has been having to have someone at home on the installation date.

The only small gripe I have is that they do not provide a metering system that allows you to readily check what is being generated and what the house is using. You can log-in to their website and get access to their data on what the panels have generated, but if you want to be able to optimise your own use of the free electricity you really do need a suitable meter. There are quite a few of these available on the market and I ended up buying this one:

It is pretty easy to instal and set up (get it in advance of installation date and the electrician will fit it in about 2 mins if you ask them nicely!).
It has a very easy to understand ‘traffic light’ system that tells you when you are generating a surplus (green), when you are using more than you generating (red) and when the two are in rough parity (amber). Amber can be regarded as the optimum in terms of getting best value out of the system.

The meter also logs data on a memory card that can be downloaded to a computer, and with the supplied software it is a doddle to produce useful analysis figures and graphs. These are from my first download:

Date Used Kw Gen Kw gen/used %
27/11/2013 15.445 0.704 4.6
28/11/2013 17.784 1.191 6.7
29/11/2013 9.605 1.253 13.0
30/11/2013 13.348 10.579 79.3
01/12/2013 19.072 0.829 4.3
02/12/2013 16.216 1.755 10.8
03/12/2013 13.571 0.901 6.6
04/12/2013 14.889 3.544 23.8
05/12/2013 13.913 1.598 11.5
06/12/2013 12.316 3.8 30.9
07/12/2013 12.056 4.329 35.9
Total 158.215 30.483 19.3


It is, of course, the worst possible time of year for solar generation, given the short daylight hours and often heavy cloud cover. But even so, as you can see from the table, over this 11 day period, we have averaged generation of 19.3% of the energy we used. The range is quite dramatic. We didn’t quite mange 5% on a couple of days (although one of these was the heaviest use day), but we also managed approximately 80% on 30th November – when my wife and I were away and our sons had the house to themselves!

Given these figures, it is easy to see how we can achieve consistently high savings much of the year and can clearly look forward to annual savings of at least the average of 37% A Shade Greener quote. Given the cost of electricity at the moment, that is a lot of money saved, alongside a big reduction in our carbon footprint.

We are learning as go along, and the smart meter functionality of out PV meter is teaching all of us a lot about where we are using (and wasting) the most electricity. The electric shower is horrendous! I also get a buzz every time the meter lights are flashing orange and I realise that, at that moment at least, we are not paying anything for our electricity. I am also enjoying the challenge of whittling down the base consumption of our house , by tracking down devices left on standby etc. I had it down to just 62 watts/hr at one point.

Potential savings are clearly a function of how savvy you get in optimising your patterns of use. I have things on timers, phased throughout the middle of the day, to take advantage. But potential savings also depend on certain fixed factors, such as the size and pitch of your roof, and of course, its aspect. The closer to due south facing you are, and the closer you are to having room for a full 4Kw/h system (the maximum allowed for domestic systems), the better the generation figures you will see.

I have a 4Kw/h system, but face 16 degrees off due south – still pretty good though as they will fit systems up to 55 degrees off due south.

All-in-all, given that I was unlikely to spend the £6k to £8k on a system myself, and that if I did, the payback time would be many years, this seems a no-brainer to me. Ok, some private company is taking the FIT (Feed In Tariff), which I would get if I paid for the installation, but 30-40% off my electric bills for the next 20 or so years, for absolutely no investment from my pocket – alongside the immediate reductions in our family carbon footprint – mean that I can see no significant reason why the vast majority of peolpe with suitable roofs should not do it.

Just remember to say to were referred by a friend and give them my details (contact me if you don’t already know them) and we will also BOTH be £50 richer too – if it is result of this blog article, mine will be going into Bridgend Green Party funds.

Thank you in advance!!

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