Warranty Claims on Solar Panel Installations

This week we received a telephone call from a concerned owner of a Solar PV system.  His system had been installed less than a year ago by another company and he had come back from holiday to find that the solar circuit in his fuse board had tripped.  When reset, half the system was not working properly.  He phoned the company that had installed the system only to find that they had ceased trading.  Fortunately, this client had an insurance backed warranty.  This meant that he had somewhere to go to try and resolve his problem.  And this is where Morgans Solar stepped in.

The client contacted us and asked if we could find out what the fault was.  Peter visited the client within a couple of days and carried out a full inspection and test of the Solar PV system.  This involved not only testing the electrical side of the system but getting up into the loft and onto the roof to inspect the whole installation.  Unfortunately for the client, the findings were not good!  The main issue was that some of the panels had become disconnected as a connector plug had become unplugged.  Wires were hanging loose on the roof and because they could flap around in the wind, one string had obviously come under some tension and the connector had worked its way off.  All of the wires should have been securely fastened to the mounting frame in the first place.

Upon inspecting the rest of the installation, numerous examples were found where the system had not been installed to the required MCS standards and in some cases, the issues found were dangerous.  It makes you wonder how many other systems there are out there like this one but we can take some positives from being involved in this.  For us it highlights how important compliance to the MCS standard is and reinforces the quality of our own installations.  For the client, the insurance backed warranty has saved him a lot of personal expense.  We will now be going back to complete remedial works a the request of the insurance company, to correct all the issues found and leave the system in a fit for purpose condition as it should have been when it was installed originally.

We would really like to talk to any companies who offer insurance backed warranties for Solar PV installations about our inspection, test and maintenance service.  If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass them our details.  The number to call is 01525 213103 or email info@morganssolar.com.

Grand Designs Hertfordshire House

In October last year Morgans Solar was asked to provide a quotation for a Solar PV system on a new build house which would be featured on Grand Designs and of course we jumped at the opportunity. The project was already under way and filming was in progress. Then the Government announced the proposed cuts to the feed-in tariff and it became a race against time to make sure we were able to install the Solar PV Panels before the 12th December 2011 deadline.

Grand Designs Hertfordshire House

For those of you who are fans of Grand Designs, you will have seen the Hertfordshire House featured last night’s programme (episode 2, series 8).   The construction of the house was unusual including the roof structure so we spent some time liaising between the architect and our structural  engineer to make sure the roof was going to be suitable to take the weight of our proposed system.  The roof membrane could not be penetrated so the framework for the solar panels needed to be held down with ballast, adding additional weight on the roof.  The experts prevailed and our structural engineer who I’ve mentioned before, Keith Rawlings of Rawlings Structural Design Ltd, came up with the final ballast requirements and we were good to go.  We installed and commissioned the system on a very cold and miserable day, 1st December 2011.

By this time, filming for the programme was finished apart from the final sequences and unfortunately they didn’t do any aerial shots so the Solar PV panels were not featured in the programme.  I guess it’s testament to our design that the panels can not be seen from the ground in the final views of the finished house but you can see a short video of our installation by clicking here.   More information andpictures can also be found in the case study area of this website.

We will be a featured supplier in the December issue of the Grand Designs magazine though and we’re still proud to have supplied a Grand Designs house.  But Grand Designs aren’t just for the TV.  Many people embark on self build projects to build themselves a unique home and many will include some sort of renewable energy.  If you know anyone who is thinking about building their own home, please pass on our details and we’ll be happy to talk to them about a bespoke design to compliment the design and requirements of their home.  You can see a The number to call is 01525 213103 or we can be reached via email info@morganssolar.com.

Green Deal – what is it and what does it mean for home owners and businesses?

For those of you who stay close to news and updates from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) you may already know about a new scheme that will come into effect from 1st October this year called Green Deal. 

“The Green Deal will be the biggest home energy improvement programme of modern times” – Greg Barker, Minister for Energy & Climate Change

Green Deal is all about energy efficiency in homes and businesses and will enable you to make energy saving improvements to your property for no up front cost.  There are 45 energy saving measures covered by the scheme.  Areas include:

  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning e.g. condensing boilers
  • Building Fabric e.g. cavity wall and loft insulation
  • Lighting e.g. low energy fittings and controls
  • Micro-generation e.g. Solar thermal panels (hot water) and Solar photovoltaic panels (electricity)

In simple terms, a Green Deal provider can lend you part or all of the cost of installing one or more of the listed measures.  The debt will be attached to your property’s electricity meter, not you.  The measures will only be agreed if they meet a golden rule – the savings made on your energy bills must cover the repayments on the loan.  The loan is recovered over a period of 25 years or less via a charge on your electricity bill.  If you move, the debt stays with the property’s electricity bill. 

If a measure doesn’t meet the golden rule, you may still be able to benefit if you contribute to the cost of the measure(s).  So for example, a Solar PV system is unlikely to meet the Golden Rule as monthly savings would not cover the cost of the loan but if you were able to cover part of the cost, it may become viable. 

However, there are certain measures that will need to be in place before micro-generation technologies are considered.  The process will start with a Green Deal Assessment (free to you) which will look at the current energy performance of the property.  A Green Deal Advisor will make recommendations as to which energy savings measures should be the priority.  If you don’t have adequate insulation, it is likely that this will be top of the list.

It is also worth noting that if you use Green Deal finance to install micro-generation technology such as Solar panels, you cannot claim the feed-in tariff as well.  As feed-in tariffs reduce over time, this will become less of an issue.  With ever increasing energy bills, for some, the ability to generate their own free electrcicty may be more important that receiving an income from their solar system.

Once the final process has been published and we have a better understanding of how Green Deal works for Solar technology, we will post another update.  Morgans Solar has registered its interest in becoming an approved Green Deal Installer so watch this space!

 

 

Renewed Commitment to Solar PV

I’ve written a number of articles now about the changes in the Solar PV Feed-in Tariff this year and how Solar PV is still a viable investment, despite the significant reduction in feed-in tariff.  I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a challenging year for most Solar PV installation companies including Morgans Solar.  On the 1st August, the feed-in tariff was reduced yet again to 16p for systems up to 4kWp and domestic installations have certainly slowed although the commercial side of things still seems buoyant.  We’ve quoted on an interesting range of PV systems across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.

This week we received the annual renewal notice for our MCS certification for Solar PV and I wondered how many PV Installation companies will be renewing their licence this year.  I feel certain there will be those who don’t, those who joined the ‘gold rush’ but weren’t committed for the long term.  I didn’t hesitate for a moment before completing our application and writing the cheque because I know there is a future for the renewable energy and having put so much work into our Solar business so far, we’re not going to give up on it that easily!    

For small companies like ours, the requirements of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) can be somewhat cumbersome and the annual assessment will be daunting to some.  An assessor will conduct a thorough review of our quality management system which includes quotation and contract paperwork, purchasing and supplier controls, equipment calibration, complaints procedure and importantly, training and competence.  He/she will also inspect a recent Solar PV installation so it’s generally a full day of being grilled.  But, and this may sound a bit sad, I actually look forward to it!  The quality controls required are simply the way we do do things now anyway.  And if there is an element of the standard we’ve missed or got wrong (known as a non-conformance), we learn from this and have an opportunity to be even better at what we do.  However, I also have a personal best record to uphold – we had zero non-conformance points on the last assessment, one minor point the year before so my ‘Olympic Gold’ will be to achieve zero non-conformance points again this year. 

What does this all mean for you, our customers?  Well, firstly, we are re-confirming our commitment to the Solar PV industry because we believe it has a future and still offers you the opportunity to generate very valuable, free electricity.  Secondly, we are demonstrating our continued passion for delivering great service to both new and existing customers by putting ourselves through the MCS Accreditation process.    We hope you’ll join us in flying the flag for renewable energy technology going forward!

New Deal for Solar PV

This week has seen another rush on Solar PV as people try to get a system installed before the next reduction in Feed-in Tariff at the end of this month.  From the 1st August the generation tariff will reduce from 21p per unit to 16p per unit and all I keep hearing is that ‘it won’t be worth it’ any more.

I disagree!  I’ve done the numbers and in my view, the deal just got better!  How can that be if the tariff is reducing?  Well prices have come down yet again in recent weeks and even on the new tariff you can still achieve 10 year payback and 10% annual return on investment. Let me show you an example…

I’ll work on a 4kWp system (that’s 16 x 250W panels) on a south-easterly facing roof, 45 degree incline and no over-shading, so not perfect conditions.

The system will produce approx 3190 kWh electricity per year.  Kilowatt Hours (kWh) are the same unit of measure you see on your electricity bill.  The return on investment is calculated as follows:

Generation Tariff (this is what your energy company pay you for each kWh generated)

3190 x 16p = £510.40

Export Tariff (your energy company will assume you export 50% of what you generate as standard)

3190 x 50% = 1595

1595 x 4.5p = £71.77

Saving on Electricity Bill (assuming you use 50% of what you generate and a current energy cost of 12p/kWh)

1595 x 12p = £191.40

Total Income & Savings per year = £773.57

Cost to Install with Morgans Solar = £7,455

Payback = £7455 divided by £773.57 = Year 10 (and that’s not taking into account any increase in energy costs or inflation each year)

Average Annual ROI = 10%

So getting back to my question of how the deal just got better, you can achieve the same return on investment % with a 10 year payback but using less of your capital to buy the system on the first place.  And let’s not forget, electricity prices are only going one way – up!  The value of each unit of electricity you can generate will increase over the 20-year term of the feed-in tariff.

Morgans Solar like many companies are reviewing our prices all the time to make sure that we are always giving you the best deal available.  There are some example price packages on the website (http://morganssolar.com/about-solar/example-price-packages/) which have been updated this week with the latest reductions so why not check them out?  

If you would like a quick quotation for your property you can either complete the quick quotation form on the home page of our website (http://morganssolar.com/) or simply call me on 01525 213103.  We aim to get something back to you within 1 working day.

Running with Charlie!

Well, not literally!  This week saw Peter walking 26.2 miles in a day to support Charlie Wardle founder of the local Milton Keynes charity ‘Climb Your Mountain’ in his epic challenge … 30 marathons in 30 days to raise 30k.    You may have seen him on Anglia News earlier this week.  Morgans Solar sponsored the event for a day (as have numerous other local businesses) as we really wanted to do something to help.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join them due to still being on crutches … Peter needed to borrow them by the end of it!  Anyway, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about the great work Charlie does and this amazing challenge.

 I first met Charlie in 2009 at a networking meeting and was really inspired by his story and how he came to set up ‘Climb Your Mountain’.  Having suffered from stress and depression himself, Charlie learned that the best medicine was exercise and he wanted to share his experience with others.  Climb Your Mountain was formed as a health and wellbeing charity, and they focus on exercise and education to help people from all walks of life who are suffering from depression, anxiety or who have generally been through some difficult times in their life.  The charity provides free educational books, courses and support as well as running physical and social events to help people improve their mental and physical wellbeing.  They also run lots of fantastic fundraising challenges which is how we got involved.  In 2010, Peter and I climbed Kilimanjaro and raised £7k for the charity.  It was such an amazing experience and we met some truly inspirational people both in the fundraising preparations for our climb and during the trip itself and we had the best fun ever.  You don’t have to be in need of help to get involved in some of the wide range of activities organised by the charity, check out the web site for more details: www.climbyourmountain.org.  If you do have a look, that’s me and Peter at the top of Kilimanjaro on the home page! (top right, we’re the two on the right)

Climb your Mountain is no different to any other charity in that it needs funds to survive and Charlie is so committed to what he does that he puts himself on the line to help others.  Hence his latest challenge – 30 marathons in 30 days to raise 30k.  Sounds crazy I know but that’s how passionate Charlie is about the work of Climb Your Mountain.  There’s still time to take part in this challenge with 8 days to go and you can help in lots of ways … go to www.runwithcharlie.org for details and daily updates.  You don’t have to run, some days are walking or jogging days, it’s just about doing 26.2 miles every day of June.  Charlie himself unfortnuately picked up an injury after 13 days but he is still getting round by various means including a wheelchair bike. 

So can you help?  Even if you are just able to sponsor Charlie, you’ll be helping local people to beneift from the support Climb Your Mountain is uniquely placed to give them: http://www.justgiving.com/runwithcharlie.

Thanks for reading this!

Teamwork overcomes obstacles

With over 60 installations under our belts, you would think that we’ve come across most types of Solar PV installation and that the majority of installations have become fairly standard.  And you be right to an extent, most domestic installations are similar whereas larger commercial projects occasionally throw in a few challenges.  However, this week brought it home to me that there are always exceptions to this and how we are able to work as part of a wider team when necessary to find the right solution for our customers.

 

We are currently working on a project for a domestic customer who is having their home extended and fully refurbished.  They’ve actually moved out whilst work is carried out as the works are extensive.  We are going to be installing a Solar PV system as well as all the electrics (www.morganselectrical.com).  Having looked at all the options for their Solar PV system it was agreed with the home owner that the best place for it was two flat roof areas on top of two new dorma windows. 

 

When we install solar panels on a flat roof there are a number of considerations. Flat roof systems are never quite as easy as a pitched roof installation because we have to consider how the solar panels will be anchored to the roof.  It’s not as simple as bolting the frames down to the roof because we would penetrate the roof membrane which then requires some method of waterproofing.  It was agreed at a site meeting with the home owner, the builder and the roofing contractor that this was not an option for our current project. So, the alternative is to hold the panels to the roof using ballast i.e. concrete slabs.

 

The ballast must be sufficient to stop the panels being lifted by the wind and potentially blowing off the roof! We also have to consider whether the panels might slide off the roof under to force of wind, particularly where there is no parapet wall round the edge of the roo, as in this case.  But, on the other hand the roof has to be strong enough to take the weight of the additional load imposed by the concrete slabs.  So it’s something that must be carefully calculated by a professional.  Thankfully, we have Keith Rawlings,  Structural Engineer (http://www.rawlings.uk.net/) to help us with this and I can’t thank Keith enough for his fantastic support.  When it comes to building projects, decisions often have to be made quickly and Keith always helps us find the right solution quickly. 

 

In the end, the solution was simple.  The panels will be held down with concrete slabs, in the knowledge that the roof structure is suitable to take the weight and the roofing contractor is going to fix a curb under the roof membrane to stop the panels sliding.

 

So this week has been spent liaising between the home owner, Keith, the builder and the roofing contractor to get a place where we are all happy with how the Solar panels will be anchored to the roof … teamwork can always overcome any obstacles!

 

If you’re interested in Solar Panels for your home but don’t know whether your roof is suitable, why not call us for a free survey and quotation – we’ll go the extra mile to make sure we find the right solution for you but we’ll also tell you if your home is not suitable.

The importance of stability and a firm footing

Without wishing to over dramatise, I’ve had a weird experience this week that has literally stopped me in my tracks!  I had a foot operation which has left me with the prospect of hobbling around on crutches for the next 8-10 weeks.  It was planned so I knew what was coming.  I had it in mind that I would be back in the office Monday with my leg propped up on a chair and it would be back to business as usual.  Oh no, how naïve can one be!  I had no idea at all just how difficult life would be on one foot!  Nothing is simple, everything takes 3 times as long I hop around rather amateurishly on my crutches (it’s not a pretty sight!) and being off-balance makes everything hurt as muscles I didn’t know I had suddenly have to support me.  It doesn’t make for an efficient working day!  Anyway, what’s all this got to do with Solar I here you say?  You’d be forgiven for thinking the painkillers have got to me a little and I’m rambling deliriously.

Well, my predicament got me thinking about the rough ride the UK Solar market has suffered in the last 6 months with the sudden changes in Government policy and the subsequent months of uncertainty which have without a doubt damaged consumer confidence.  The industry was literally knocked off its feet and has been struggling to regain stability in the market ever since.  It’s been trying to find it’s balance, much like me, without the stabilising effect of clear government policy.

But, after months of uncertainty the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) finally announced last week the results of the consultation on Solar Feed-in tariffs. Here’s a brief overview of the changes which will come into effect from 1st August 2012:

  • Generation  Tariff for systems up to 4kWp (domestic size) will be 16p / kWh (currently 21p). 
  • Export Tariff will increase from 3.1p / kWh to 4.5p / kWh
  • Feed-in Tariffs will now be guaranteed for 20 years rather than the current 25 years.
  • Tariffs will still be index linked to RPI
  • Future Tariff reductions will be quarterly at a rate of 3.5% and will be linked to deployment i.e. if the market slows beyond certain thresholds, reductions may be delayed.

Greg Barker in his statement to Parliament said: “I want to send a very clear message today. UK solar continues to be an attractive proposition for many consumers considering microgeneration technologies and that having placed the subsidy support for this technology on a long-term, sustainable footing, industry can plan for growth with confidence.”

The new tariffs will deliver a return on investment of around 6% for domestic/small commercial installations and up to 8% for larger systems which is in line with how the scheme was initially set up in April 2010.  I think this is good news for the Solar industry in that we finally have clarity and a subsidy scheme that we can work with for the long term. I believe it will bring stability back to the industry and we can be very clear with our customers and in our marketing what the returns are going to be.  Sure for those who were only motivated by the financial returns, it’s not as good as it was, but there are plenty of people out there who see beyond the money making scheme and see how free Solar energy will play an important part in our future.

Every business needs a secure footing from which to operate and I’m excited by the prospects for Solar Energy in the UK now!  If you know anyone who has been put off Solar by all the negative media reports, tell them to give me a call.  I’ll give them an honest, up-to-date view on how Solar could work for them.

Solar PV for your business – 5 good reasons to invest

Solar systems have never been more popular with businesses.  Why?  Well despite all the recent furore in the domestic sector around the cut in feed-in tariffs, our commercial customers are generally investing in Solar with a different set of motivations to the home owner.  So I thought it would be useful to outline why it makes sense for businesses and commercial property owners to invest in Solar PV and/or Solar Thermal.                    

  1. Energy prices – energy usage in commercial premises is fairly constant and whilst energy saving measures such as energy efficient lighting, voltage optimisation, etc. can help reduce energy bills, a business will get to the point where it can do no more because of its operational requirements.  But with the cost of energy set to rise again, many business are looking for other solutions to reduce their usage.  A Solar PV system on the roof of your business premises will give up to 10% return on investment whilst a Solar Thermal system could provide 60% of your hot water requirements.
  2. Additional Income – Both Solar PV and Solar Thermal on commercial buildings attract a tariff payment.  For PV systems producing electricity this will depend on the size of system but could be up to 21p/kWh of energy produced, currently guaranteed for 25 years.  With a Solar Thermal system the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payment is 8.5p/kWh of energy produced guaranteed for 20 years. 
  3. Carbon Reduction Target – one of the primary reasons for installation of Solar PV or Solar Thermal on a new commercial property now is the fact that these systems contribute significantly towards achieving the required Carbon Emission target for the building under Building Regulations.  However, on an existing building, it usually driven by the company’s environmental policy and a desire to achieve certification demonstrating their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint e.g. the Carbon Trust Footprint scheme. 
  4. Capital Allowance – although capital allowances are not as good as they were before April 2012, every little helps in the current financial climate!  If you invest in a Solar PV system, you can still claim 8% Special Rate Expenditure allowance against the installation cost.  So let’s say you spent £10,000 on a PV system, you can claim £800 in the first year then 8% of the remaining balance each year thereafter.  This applies to both Solar PV and Solar Thermal systems where either the Feed-in Tariff or RHI are being claimed.  For a Solar Thermal system, if you don’t claim the RHI you would be eligible to claim 100% of the cost in year one under the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme.
  5. Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – a Solar system on any property will enhance the energy performance rating of the building.  If you are looking to sell or let your commercial property, the better the rating the more attractive your property is to potential buyers or tenants and could make the difference between the property being utilised or standing empty in what is a very competitive market.

 Here’s an example for a new build property I’ve just done a proposal for.  It’s a 3-storey office building with a flat roof.  It’s not a massive roof space so we’re looking at a 6kWp Solar PV system (24 panels) which is just a little bit bigger than a full size domestic system.  It’s going to generate 4766kWh of electricity per year and providing the building uses all of this it will save the owner £476 off their electricity bill.  This figure will only increase as energy prices continue to rise.  The system will also give them an income of £873 per year from the feed-in tariff, guaranteed for 25 years!  So that’s a total payback of £1349 a year and it’s also going to save 2707kg of CO² per year contributing to the building’s carbon reduction target. Hopefully this demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be a massive system to make a difference.  What are your business energy costs?

If you or anyone you know owns a commercial property with a good south-facing roof, call me on 01525 213103 for an informal chat about how a solar system could benefit your business.

Free Electricity or Free Hot Water – Which would you choose?

With all the hype around Feed-in Tariffs during this last 12 months many home owners have invested in Solar PV (photovoltaic) panels.  When you see a roof full of Solar panels it’s likely to be a PV system which generates free electricity.  As well as reducing your electricity bill, these panels attract a feed-in tariff which basically means the owner gets paid by their energy company for every unit of electricity they generate themselves, whether they use it or not.  The current rate is 21p/unit and this means a PV system can be worth up to £1000 a year in income and savings.  Prices have come down dramatically since we started installing PV systems 18 months ago.  Back then you would pay up £17k for a full size 4kWp system, now we’re selling this size from £7,995!  It’s still a lot of money though and not everyone has that amount of money to invest even though they may want to embrace renewable technologies such as this.

However, PV is not the only option for joining the Solar revolution.  There are also great benefits to be had from a Solar Thermal systems.  These are the systems where you see maybe two or three panels on a roof.  Some of the panels are what we call ‘flat plate’ and look a bit like a PV panel only larger and some are made up of a series of tubes and these are quite visible even from a distance.  A Solar Thermal system heats your hot water instead of generating electricity.  I think many people have been put off these systems in the past because of misleading reports that you end up with no hot water in the Winter.  Well I can tell you this is most definitely not the case.  It is true that a Solar Thermal system won’t generate as much free hot water in the Winter as it will in the Summer but across the year, it can provide up to 60% of your hot water requirements.  And when  the sun isn’t shining, your hot water tank is still connected to your boiler or immersion and will switch on automatically if your water isn’t hot enough.  The great news though is that you will save on your heating bill.  The amount you can save depends on what fuel your home uses but ranges from £55 to £105 a year.  Solar Thermal systems are cheaper than PV systems so you can do your bit for the environment and make some real savings with prices ranging from approx. £3500-£5000.  The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme recently announced by the Government will mean that anyone who installs a Thermal System now will be entitled to a one-off premium payment of £300 towards the installation cost.  Then in the Summer of 2013 they will be eligible for a new tariff scheme similar to the feed-in tariff for PV.  So I see Solar Thermal becoming as popular as PV in the next 12 months and we’re going to be offering this service to our Customers alongside PV within the next couple of months.

If you’ve already had a PV system fitted and used up all the good roof space, you might think that you can’t have a Solar hot water system.  But there may be a way!  Many people who have a Solar PV system can’t actually use all of the energy they generate during the day because they are out working so it ends up being exported to the national grid.  It’s worth more to you to use it though because you will buy less electricity from your energy company and your electricity bill reduces.  So, one of our suppliers has come up with a very clever new gadget called the iBoost that diverts some of the energy produced by your PV system to the immersion heater.  It’ll run your immersion during the day to heat your hot water using free electricity.  Clever software makes sure it knows when there’s not enough energy coming from the sun and switches the immersion off so your system will revert to its normal water heating program.  Best of both worlds! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how any of our solar systems could work for you, why not call me today for an informal chat.