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Derwenthorpe Action on Climate Change: Solar Panels Update

Sadly, there’s an energy crisis on top of the climate crisis. Though we’re not, here in Derwenthorpe, individually on gas, buying electricity isn’t immune from generally spiralling energy costs. If we can generate our own electricity, using solar panels, then we’re off that escalator. It costs to install them, but you save money in time. And it all helps in the struggle to reduce carbon emissions and global heating.

In 2020 we did a major exercise on the costs, benefits and practicalities of installing solar panels on our roofs. The result was that we short-listed five firms that we felt were competent and able to deliver installations on roofs on our estate. After a comparison exercise we recommended two firms, ASK Renewables and Carbon Legacy, and encouraged all our neighbours who were interested to get detailed estimates from them. About twenty houses got photo-voltaic (PV) solar panels installed, and there have been more since.

Details of that project are in a previous article on the DRA website:

Last month (April 2022) we wrote to people on our mailing list to get feedback on their experience. Quite a few hadn’t gone ahead last time for money reasons (costs ranging from about £3500 to £7500 for the panels, £1400 to £7650 for the battery). Several of those people are reconsidering, wanting an updated quote. 

All the feedback we’ve had from those who did get them installed has been positive. “It’s been brilliant!”, says one. Another: “ASK were excellent with installation and service”. As a rough guide, solar provided 55% of their electricity. Our own experience is that, before, we “imported” (bought) 2200 to 2450 kWh of electricity in a year. In the last 12 months after installation of panels and a big battery that shrank to 670 kWh.

If you’re thinking now’s the time to get panels installed, do make sure that whoever does the installation is making a safe and satisfactory offer. It doesn’t seem to be a buyer’s market, so you’ll have to find a supplier/installer and work to their schedule. But of course, shop around. Below we’ve listed some firms we’ve been in touch with, and there may be others. Here are some things to bear in mind when dealing with any such firm:

  • Are they registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)? If so, you can be confident that they are technically competent and your installation will be good enough to allow any surplus to be exported to the grid. See MCS website.
  • Are they registered with Renewable Energy Consumer Code? That means the firm has been vetted for fairness in its dealings with you, the customer. See RECC website.
  • Will they visit your home and relate their installation and quote to your actual house, its orientation, size of roof, and your household’s energy needs?
  • How do they work out the performance of their installation? (there’s a Government-recommended method).
  • Will they advise about a complete installation? – including inverter (to change the DC generated on your roof to AC for use in your home) and battery (so you’re able to store what you generate in the day and use it at night) – and discuss options where in your house this kit might go and how the wiring will run.
  • What warranties are they offering for the various items? 
  • What after-care do they offer, in case of any snags? And will you get full documentation about the system and its components?
  • Will they see to any approval necessary to allow you to export surplus power to the grid (and get paid for it!)?
  • Does their quote include any sub-contracting such as scaffolding? And VAT?
  • What payment schedule are they asking for (25% on signing a contract is normal, but check that your deposit is protected).
  • Before signing up, make sure you get JRHT approval – normally not a problem but the installer should give you a drawing/diagram to take to JRHT.

Here are some contact details:

  • Ecocute Limited, Wakefield, 01924 675000 or 0800 246 1221
    www.eco-cute.co.uk (there’s a contact form on their website)

For general advice:

One final tip from us, from our experience:

For not very much extra, get netting against pigeons! It’s not that, with our steep roofs, their “deposits” interfere with the efficiency of the panels – the rain washes it all off. But they love to nest under the panels, and that billing and cooing can keep you awake those short summer nights. And they make a mess!

Nick Hall and Jean Lavers

38 Derwent Mews, Stephenson Quarter (come and chat if you’re passing and we’re out front!)