The economic way forward for solar energy
Andrew Tanner is one of the country's foremost experts on renewable energy, and Managing Director of the award-winning solar panelling company, Plug Into The Sun. “We aim to be the best solar PV installation company in the UK, offering a high quality professional service to enable our clients to reduce their carbon emissions,” Andy explains.
Plug Into The Sun works with householders, community groups, schools, businesses and Housing Associations throughout the South West. “We get a lot of satisfaction from helping customers power their own homes,” Andy says, “and we're helping larger users like farmers and landowners so we can really make an impact.”
Andy's interest in sustainability started when he was at university. “I had a degree in engineering, but the first earth summit, in June 1992, made me realise that it wasn't just about the environment and the economy. We needed to piece it all together. That understanding of holistic thinking totally changed my life.”
Realising that change must come from within the system, Andy started working for Penwith Council. “But the existing structure was very restricting, so I spent 5 years providing education in schools telling them all about sustainability.” At the time no one in the South West could install solar panelling, so Andy decided to retrain as a builder, electrician and roofer. “I knew it all intellectually but by becoming a builder and general dogsbody, I learned how it worked practically.” Andy set up the company in 2004, and expansion has been rapid. “By Christmas there will be 20 trained professionals ready to assist with installations of any size.”
Information is readily available on the company website. “Free of charge, we assess your property, energy requirements, budget and the technology most appropriate for your site,” Andy explains. “We provide options on quotes and variations, then on accepting the quote we organise the connection with Western Power, do the planning, installation and paper work and you get the Feed In Tariff – we make it as easy and painless as possible.”
Given that we aren't blessed with huge amounts of sunshine, how does it work? “Solar panelling still works in daylight hours, though blue clear skies are definitely better than drizzle,” Andy replies. “We can work out how much solar energy will be produced over the course of a year.”
Andy gives the following example of the cost of solar panelling. “Based on a typical 2kw domestic system, that would cost £9,000 to install and produce 2,000 kilowatt hours per hour (kW h).
The Feed In Tariff scheme introduced by the government in April means you get paid for every unit of electricity that you generate. They pay 41.3 pence per kW h, so each year you would get £826,” he explains. “If you can use that electric you will also save on your bill because you don't have to buy it in. A timer could help so the sun is powering your electrical appliances – that could save you up to £300 per year.”
In summary, Andy continues: “Your £9,000 investment gives you £826 per year and you save up to £300 on your electric bill. So you save £1100 per year which is a 12% rate of return – that's much higher than any other investment will offer you.” But that's not all the good news. “The Feed In Tariff is also tax free, index linked and government guaranteed.” He laughs. “It sounds too good to be true but there isn't a catch!”
Andy believes that solar panelling will soon become mainstream because “the system and technology is all there. But we need the awareness, which is why working with schools and young people is so important. The general public also need to know what an incredible deal this is.” He pauses. “As individuals we can all help save the planet and get our own energy from a sustainable source. We can make a massive difference.”
Plug Into The Sun, Unit 5E, Long Rock Industrial Estate, Penzance TR20 8HX, Tel: 0844 800 9512
For details on the Feed in Tariff and other information visit www.plugintothesun.co.uk
Community Energy Plus for independent energy advice and financial aid on 0800 954 1956 or www.cep.org.uk
Cornwall Today October 2010