Category: Industry News

Are the UK’s birds being confused by a changing climate?

We are seeing the effects of climate change all around us and we all know we need to do our bit. New evidence shows that climate change is affecting the behaviour of our migratory birds. Birds are arriving more than 20 days earlier than they did in the 1960’s, according to the state of the UK’s birds 2017 report. One example is the swallow. Swallows are now arriving 15 days earlier than they did 50 years ago. If climate change continues we needs to predict the future effects on birds and other wildlife.

This may not seem like a massive issue to many, but the report warns that there will be winners and losers, with some opportunities for some birds but higher extinction risks for others. For example. the night heron are now breeding in the UK, whereas the snow bunting are declining. In addition, these changes in behaviour mean that there could be a discrepancy between the time that chicks need to be fed and the food that’s available, meaning they may be less successful in their breeding.

Dr Stuart Newson of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) said thousands of volunteers have submitted observations over many decades to show how birds have responded to climate change. He urges that “ongoing monitoring is essential if we are to track the future effects of a changing climate on our birds.”

Collatte Hall, from Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), has said “We also need to look beyond the UK and make sure that the protected site network continues to cover the right places throughout Europe and that they’re monitored elsewhere as thoroughly as they are in the UK.”

If you would like to know how your business or home can help reduce the effects of climate change by installing renewable energy solutions then talk to us at RenEnergy. After all, we only have one planet and we all need to do what we can to save it.

 

With thanks to the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42225917

How the 2017 Budget will affect the solar industry?

On Wednesday we tuned in to listen to the budget announcements made by Philip Hammond.

We all got excited by the promises of stamp duty relief and funding for electric vehicles. However, there was no mention of energy policies for low carbon electricity. What Hammond neglected to mention was that the government will not provide any further levies for low carbon electricity until 2025. The government has said this to protect consumers from any further burden caused by levies and their impact on energy bills.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have revised down its forecast for environmental levies. It now expects spending under the Levy Control Framework (LCF) to fall a further £0.2 billion to £0.3 billion a year in 2020/21 and by £0.5 billion a year in 2021/22. This is made possible by the reduced spending under the Renewables Obligation and Contract for Difference schemes.

The OBR’s reduction in CfD costs stems from a higher projection for wholesale energy prices,  reduction in the total subsidy costs paid to contracted generators and cheaper than expected contracts.

Within the budget the government outlined multiple assumptions. Within these assumptions were the forecasted deployments of different technologies under the various subsidy programmes, such as RO, CfDs and FiTs. The government has forecast that 200 MW of small scale, FiT-accredited solar to be installed in this financial year, with a further 240 MW in the forthcoming year. These forecasts are up to the closing of the FiT scheme, which is set to close to new applicant on 1st April 2019.

This would leave a significant amount of unused capacity within the feed-in tariff deployment caps, currently totalling more than 200 MW. A review of the FiT scheme is yet to be scheduled, but the department is committed to conducting the review before the end of this year. The parliament rises for recess on 21st December, which means the review should enact soon.

The wording of the government’s set of levy controls means that it is opposed to enacting new levies for low carbon power generation but it has opened the door for support frameworks which do not add to subsidy costs on the consumer bills.

 

How a Solar PPA Can Benefit Your Business?

banner of commercial solar PV webpage displaying solar farm

You may have seen that many businesses have invested in solar energy.

Why? Solar energy is a great way for your business to reduce its electricity bills, obtain energy security in the future and reach its Corporate Social Responsibility.

You may have looked into a solar power system for your own business for those very reasons but do not have the capital available. At RenEnergy we believe that this should not be a barrier and have a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to help your business.

What is a PPA?

A Power Purchase Agreement relieves your business from needing to find the capital for an upfront cost. Instead RenEnergy funds and owns the system. We simply lease the roof off you and maintain the system for 25 years.

You purchase the electricity from us, but only what you use, at a rate that is cheaper than you are currently paying.

For example, if you currently pay 14 p/kWh you may have a PPA of 11.2 p/kWh. Saving you 20 % off your current electricity price, without having to pay any extra!

What happens in the future?

We own the system for 25 years, selling you electricity at a low price that has been agreed between both parties.

After 25 years you own the system and generate electricity that is directly used by you, with no more costs to pay.

If you move premises or are no longer operating with in the next 25 years you do not need to worry! The lease is fully transferable to the new tenant of the building.

I’m interested! What shall I do now?

If you would like to benefit from a solar PPA then get in touch with us for more information and a quote:

info@renenergy.co.uk

 

How Changes To Network Costs Could Affect You?

On Monday Ofgem provided an update on its targeted charging review. But, what does this actually mean?

Ofgem have published two separate documents alongside a blog outlining potential charges to the way the regulator recovers both forward-looking and residual (historic) network charges.

Currently, Ofgem bases residual network charge recovery on a household’s net consumption. This means that customers with rooftop solar PV or battery storage reduce their reliance on the grid and therefore pay less. The cost is therefore passed on to those who solely use the grid, in order for the grid to be maintained.

Andrew Wright, the author of the blog, wrote “We want to make sure that all users pay a fair share of the costs even if they are only using the networks when their onsite generation is not producing electricity.”

The regulator has put forward four separate approaches for how these charges should be recovered from final demand:

  1. Volumetric Basis – Based on the units of electricity used in kWh. This is Ofgem’s current method of recovery of residual network charges of the distribution system.
  2. Capacity Basis – Separated into ex ante capacity and ex post capacity demand charges. This is based on either the user’s agreed or connected capacity or peak system use.
  3. Fixed Charges – Customers are separated into user profile classes, with each class allocated a fixed charge determined by Ofgem to share residual network costs.
  4. Hybrid Approach

The regulator has elected to bring forward fixed, ex ante capacity demand and ex post capacity demand charges for further assessment.

So what is ex ante and ex post capacity demand?

Ex Ante – Based on the user’s agreed or connected capacity, with consumers possibly incentivised to declare their capacity needs. Ofgem have said that any forecasts issued could be used to support planned of network demand.

Ex Post –  Peak use would be measured, and a charge based on the average of a set of number of each user’s highest usage half-hours over a defined period.

Ofgem’s stated aim is to progress rapidly through the process, hold two rounds of stakeholder events throughout the rest of the year and release a consultation on its announced minded-to-decision by next summer.

Over the next year we will find out exactly how these changes will affect you and your electricity bills.

Two stakeholder sessions have been scheduled, one in Glasgow on 15th November and another in London on 30th November. Ofgem can be contacted by those interested in attending at: TCR@ofgem.gov.uk

 

With thanks to Solar Power Portal: https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/solar_households_could_be_hit_by_radical_changes_to_network_costs

First Subsidy Free Solar Farm

This week saw the opening of the UK’s first solar farm that was built in the absence of any government support.

Clayhill Solar Farm in Bedfordshire has paved the way for subsidy free installations on a large scale. It  has a capacity of 10 MW, which is enough energy to power 2,500 homes. Clayhill received no Renewables Obligation contract nor was it offered a Contracts for Difference. Therefore, Anesco, the company behind the installation, had to make savings elsewhere.

Anesco has a four year relationship with Chinese manufacturer BYD, alowing them to reduce their prices for the 30,000  315 W poly solar cells and 6 MW of battery storage.

Huawei supplied 1,500 V inverters, with Anesco the first company to use Huawei in Europe. Each inverter has a maximum power point tracker and 12 directly connected string inputs. This improves the flexibility of the PV strings and maximising yields.

Another significant reduction in cost is down to a neighbouring 5 MW solar farm with already established grid connections.

The site is estimated to export 9,000 MWh of energy each year. This will be backed up by revenue streams linked to the batteries. Clayhill will bid for revenue streams from various tenders when it is ready. Including, the Capacity Market and the Enhanced and Fast Frequency Response. Once the site has pre-qualified for Capacity Market tenders in mid-November the batteries will be turned on.

Excellent planning and shrewd business acumen has made this Clayhill a viable endeavour, that is sure to be inspiration for any future solar farm.

 

 

RenEnergy MD Damian Baker shares international experience with Solar Business Focus

The latest issue of Solar Business Focus is out now, including insight from RenEnergy’s founder and Managing Director, Damian Baker.

This months lead feature focuses on ‘Brits Abroad’, the UK based solar companies that have looked overseas to develop and expand their business. Of course, RenEnergy is no stranger to international expansion, having developed PV projects from the Arctic to Australia, and opening an office in South Africa back in 2012.

As the PV market takes its ever changing course in the UK, many solar firms are looking abroad for new investment opportunities, and some semblance of stability. Whilst there are obviously inherent risks and challenges to international expansion, but Damian believes ‘well-structured, well-managed, well-financed UK-based businesses who want to do it for the right reasons. There are opportunities for them’.

We certainly feel that the move has been a positive one, as the company’s international footprint goes from strength to strength. However ‘take it from me, it’s not a route to fast bucks’ says Baker.

It’s sometimes not as straightforward as it might appear at first glance. “It’s not all rosy, we invested some money into a project in Brazil that hasn’t gone so well,” Baker explains, adding: ‘If you take the pure economic factors – how much sunshine does it get, how much does energy cost, what’s the supply situation – they’re a pretty good guide but there’s lots of countries out there that have major energy issues… how comfortable would you be putting your money there? Look at the Middle East. Massive solar resource, big energy issues but you wouldn’t be too happy sticking a load of solar in Syria at the moment’.

The feature was originally posted in Solar Business Focus in March 2016. To read the full feature or subscribe to the publication click on the cover image or HERE

 

Solar Business Focus Featuring RenEnergy

 

 

 

Biomimicry inspires new solar panel innovation

A decision is set to be made this evening over a 5MW solar farm planned for development on the site of a former quarry.

Engineers from the University of Exeter have discovered that mimicking the stance of a butterfly getting ready to take off can boost the efficiency of solar panels by almost 50 percent.

The common Cabbage White butterfly warms its muscles before taking flight using a technique known as reflectance basking, where it uses its wings to reflect the sun’s energy onto its body.

Reflectance basking is made possible by specific sub-structures in the butterflies’ wings that reflect light from the sun very efficiently.

A team from the Environment and Sustainability Institute and the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Exeter found that by applying a similar wing-like structure to solar panels, and artificially replicating the layer of reflective scales covering butterflies’ wings, the power-to-weight ratio of a panel can be dramatically increased, making it more efficient.

Tapas Mallick, the lead author of the paper explains: “Biomimicry in engineering is not new. However, this truly multidisciplinary research shows a pathway to develop low cost solar power that has not been done before.”

Richard French-Constant, a co-author on the paper, adds: “This proves that the lowly Cabbage White is not just a pest of your cabbages but actually an insect that is an expert at harvesting solar energy.”

 

Solar PV named most popular renewable energy technology

Statistics released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Tuesday 4th August reveal that solar PV is the UK’s most popular renewable energy technology.

The DECC surveyed the general public to gage attitudes and acceptance towards different renewable energy solutions, and solar PV was the runaway winner with 81 percent of respondents in favour of its deployment. Just 6 percent of respondents opposed the technology.

Wave and tidal energy was the second most popular source with 74 percent support, while onshore wind was the least popular – that being said, onshore wind was still supported by almost two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents.

The latest DECC survey suggests that wide support for renewables remains high in the UK, with 75 percent stating their support for renewable energy generation. In total, just 4 percent of those questioned opposed renewable energy deployment altogether.

These statistics appear to contradict the Conservative government’s continued assertions that the general public has had enough of utility-scale onshore wind and solar farms, using it as added ammunition for withdrawing subsidies.

Daisy Sands, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, told Solar Power Portal that the survey showed ministers’ priorities with regard to renewable energy are “at the polar opposite” of what the general public actually wants.

“Popular technologies like wind and solar are having their support axed, whilst the unpopular fracking industry keeps getting preferential treatment. It’s becoming quite clear that people are seeing through the smokescreen of propaganda and spin created by the shale lobby and their minister friends,” she added.

 

Ofgem confirm new feed-in tariff rates

Ofgem have confirmed what many had already predicted for the solar PV feed-in tariff rates from 1st October to 31 December 2015.

With Tory policy clearly aiming for an early end to government subsidies, the industry has received what looks to be a little rest bite.

The administrator confirmed that all tariff bands below 50kWp would experience a 3.5% degression at the end of next month. The only other band to be effected will be the stand-alone tariff, dropping from 4.44p/kWh to 4.28p/kWh.

Installations over 50kWp will remain as they are until 1st January 2016, when we are expecting to see a fairly significant reduction across the board. Time to move quickly and get your installation booked in.

Full tariff table below:

Can solar and wind power generators prosper in Britain without subsidies?

UK energy secretary Amber Rudd has defended her plans to reduce renewable energy subsidies and cut funds for home energy efficiency; saying that solar and wind power generators can prosper in Britain without them.

The Conservative government has put an early end to solar and biomass power subsidies and has cut schemes aimed at better insulating and powering homes. The programme’s inefficiencies and cost to tax payers has been cited as the reason for the cuts, however the decision has drawn widespread criticism from climate change groups and the industry itself.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Rudd said, “I feel we can deliver on low-carbon electricity through fewer subsidies. The point about subsidies is they should be something that provides support, ahead of going without subsidies. Nobody wants subsidies to be there permanently.”

“I will be talking to the solar industry to make sure that the support we are going to continue giving them for a little while longer does actually focus in the right area, to help become subsidy-free,” she added.

Industry shake up causes uncertainty

It seems that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) *may* have learnt from its series of solar-related legal disputes.

This time round, instead of taking immediate emergency action to revise subsidy rates the government has taken a rather more creative approach.

Soon after entering office, the Conservatives realised that the Department of Energy and Climate Change was going to be a problem. The latest internal analysis revealed that the Levy Control Framework was all but spent, including the 20% emergency headroom.

Given the wider austerity message and Treasury’s calls for £20 billion worth of cuts to Whitehall budgets, the Conservatives were never going to allow such a perceived overspend to continue.

The solution? Nine different green energy schemes have been cut or culled in the last fortnight.

Solar RO (Renewable Obligation) was unsurprisingly first up on the chopping block, partnered with a change to the pre-accreditation process for feed-in tariff projects. At first glance the proposed changes don’t look as bad as the industry had prepared itself for. But DECC has quietly introduced something that has the potential to be far more destabilising than immediate, harsh cuts…uncertainty.

Let’s look at the RO first, and the explosive removal of ‘grandfathering’. As part of the recent consultation, DECC is proposing that all solar farms installed between 22 July that aren’t eligible for the grace period will no longer have their support grandfathered.

Essentially what this means is that DECC can intervene at any point during the project’s lifetime and change the level of support a project receives. As DECC confirmed to Solar Power Portal on Monday, this will apply to both roof- and ground-mounted projects.

So now developers have the unenviable task of trying to convince investors to part with their money without even knowing what return they could be in line for. The problem for commercial rooftop owners is even more acute; how can you convince skeptical stakeholders that going solar is beneficial when you can’t even predict what level of support you will receive when you connect it?

Another change that DECC is looking to implement is to remove the pre-accreditation process for the feed-in tariff. The pre-accreditation process allows installers to lock in a proposed installation’s feed-in tariff rate ahead of the install being completed. DECC’s proposed changes would again hit the commercial rooftop sector the hardest. Currently, ROO-FiT pre-accreditation gives a six-month window for installers to complete and connect a system. Crucially, this window allows installers to give potential customers the exact financial modelling for the proposed array. With the pre-accreditation process removed and an imminent announcement concerning the major review of the feed-in tariffs, installers won’t be able to give customers potential FiT rates with any degree of certainty.

All this means that those in the solar industry are the ones who will end up shouldering all of the risk. Do you guarantee the feed-in tariff rate to give some certainty to clients, putting enormous pressure on the company to deliver ahead of any potential tariff degressions, not to mention putting the project at the mercy of Ofgem’s accreditation process?

If DECC’s proposals don’t budge at all during the consultation period than solar at all scales will have no idea what level of support it will receive from the government until the site is accredited and generating.

I don’t believe that it is cynical to suggest that DECC knows exactly what impact its proposed changes will have. They are designed to drown the sector in uncertainty and put a halt to the perceived ‘runaway solar subsidy train’ – all without breaking any laws.

Well I’m sure we’ll find out if the proposed changes are legal and, going off past consultations, the industry isn’t holding out much hope for sizeable revisions to the department’s proposals.

Originally published by Peter Bennett on Solar Power Portal 31 July 2015

Bernard Matthews on target to achieve carbon zero by 2020

Bernard Mathews, the largest turkey producer in the UK, has broken ground on the next phase of its large-scale carbon cutting exercise. By 2020, they aim to have reduced their carbon footprint to zero. A goal it hopes to achieve in part with the installation of 2.5MW of solar PV across 11 farms.

The key driver in the decision was ensuring a greener future for the company, but the greatly reduced running costs are a welcome bonus. Stuart Read Procurement Category Manager opted for Solar “as a safe, non-contentious, low maintenance and low intrusion option that suits our specific energy needs. We will benefit from lower operating costs for years to come.”

RenEnergy has been contracted to finance, design, supply and install 19 roof and ground mounted arrays, consisting of 10,000 PV panels paired with 110 inverters, generating an estimated 2.3 million kWh of energy per year.

“The technical challenges we have encountered are no different than any number of agricultural projects we have completed in the past, but operationally working around the critical timetables of numerous active poultry farms has been tough. Fortunately we have been aided by the excellent support of the farm managers, allowing us to minimise any onsite disturbance to the workers or birds.” Damian Baker, MD of RenEnergy.

Following the switch on of the first system in late March, BM have seen a reduction in grid electricity of 30%, with the site operating self-sufficiently for significant periods of the day. At this one site this saves a whole year’s worth of CO2 emissions from a family car every two weeks.

Phase two of development is following on from the successful installation of 229 biomass boilers and two large-scale solar farms totalling 11MW that formed the first phase of the big green plan.

RenEnergy, who offer a range of renewable technologies to customers across the East of England and South Africa, have been working in conjunction with a London based funder to deliver the project. The ground mount frame design is bespoke; designed specifically for RenEnergy by Wymondham-based firm Hi-Span. The proprietary frame ensures maximum use of the available space.

The installations will use ReneSola PV panels and inverters from the industry-leading Austrian manufacturer Fronius. “Design was key, and was carried out in conjunction with Bernard Matthews agriculture team to get the correct size system to ensure as much on-site usage as possible. Maximising usage year-on-year provides a higher return and increases reliability of the system” commented Mr. Baker.