Over 150 companies have signed a letter which was sent to Prime Minister David Cameron 7th July 2014. The letter is urging him to support the UK’s thriving solar industry and support UK solar farms and providers. Top dog companies that have signed the letter include: Ikea, The Eden Project, and Finesse Energy Ltd. The letter comes after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) closes their talks about removing the renewable obligation support for solar farms over 5MW. This has been described by some of the leading solar suppliers and experts as a “kick in the teeth”. Without this support the predicted £78 billion per year global solar market (by 2020) becomes an impossible target.
Support UK Solar: The Home-Grown Energy Crisis Solution
Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association explained: “Solar is a home-grown solution to Britain’s energy crisis. If the government provides a stable policy environment solar will soon be subsidy free. But the government is now proposing to tilt the playing field against large-scale solar, while not taking sufficient action to unlock commercial rooftop solar – that is unacceptable. We urge DECC not to close the Renewables Obligation to large-scale solar and to rethink proposals on feed-in tariffs to allow a meaningful rooftop market which their own Solar PV Strategy recognises has such tremendous potential.”
Government Needs to Wake Up to Renewable Markets
Jeremy Leggett, chair of SolarAid and non-executive chairman of SolarCentury added: “Despite all of the incredible achievements of the UK solar industry since 2010, it’s still very clear that the Whitehall mind-set has yet to catch up. Too much of the wording in the current solar consultation has the whiff of Groundhog Day about it. It’s time that the government woke up to the fact that, with stable support, jobs rich UK solar will be cheaper than onshore wind during the next Parliament, opening up immense opportunities for UK PLC and driving down the costs of delivering the 2020 renewable energy target in the process.
You can read the full letter in the link below.
Energy demands across the world are soaring and the price is still climbing for the end users. As the population grows and more technology (electric cars, more appliances for the kitchen, etc.) is added this strain is only going to increase. To meet the rising demand for energy more pylons, cabling, resources, and man-hours will be required, which could add up to £1,000 per year by 2050 to the end users bill. (Quotation from S&C Electric the power services company.)
At the moment, in the UK, renewable energy sources are growing at a steady rate but even they cannot match the growing demand required. Renewable sources are also not constant: the days where there is no wind for the windmills and no sun for the solar panels means less energy is created.
Which leads to the question: how can this issue be solved? Are we facing an energy crisis?
A suggestion from Anthony Price from the UK’s Electricity Storage Network is that we look at how the UK stores it’s energy. If energy was stored and saved during the lulls between high demand then it could be used as a back-up for when it soars again. This would cover the gaps in the renewable energy sources as the surplus energy created on great days could be saved for the rainy days. This ruling would also mean that the windmills are not turned off once their quota has been reached and instead could be saved for the future.
How to Store Energy: Pumped Hydro and Efficient Batteries?
There are a few ways to store energy from pumped hydro to powerful and efficient batteries (currently being implemented around the world). The Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab estimates that if we were to invest in better energy storage that it could save the UK £10bn per year by 2050. The estimates from Lux Research suggest the global industry for energy storage could be worth $100bn in the next few years.
Andrew Jones at S&C Electric believes the real difference will happen when smart meters installed in homes will know when to turn appliances off. This could lead to a give and taken relationship when the power is needed elsewhere. For example, turning the television off from standby so the power could be used to balance the rest of the grid. Germany is already starting to implement these types of smart appliances.
The bigger picture and Your Bill
This could then lead to a larger scale operation where small-scale power generation is feasible. Households and businesses already sell energy back into the grid but soon any device able to store energy could also feed it back. The electric car not being used could turn into the battery required to power something else as connectivity grows. The technology isn’t there yet but it’s headed in that exciting direction and could save the UK a fortune. According to S&C Electric the original £1,000 predicted for end users bills by 2050 it could be as little as £100 if smart grids and energy storage were implemented.
A team of researchers at Liverpool University have discovered a way of replacing the toxic element in the manufacturing process of making solar panels. This could mean cheaper solar energy. The key: a material that is found in bath salts or tofu. Their aim: to make solar panel manufacture cheap enough to compete with conventional power generation.
The Science Behind The Discovery
Here’s the science part: 90% of all solar cells are made from silicon and at least 7% are made from cadmium telluride. The cadmium telluride cells are thinner than the silicon panels and are more popular due to the cheaper manufacturing costs. However what they save in pennies and pounds is poured back in resources cost. They use the toxic material cadmium chloride which is expensive, a limited resource and very rare, and needs to be disposed of as contaminated waste product in current manufacture. Using the non-toxic alternative, magnesium chloride which is extracted from seawater, could work instead. It is completely safe, creating no chemical/contaminated waste product, and is typically found in bath salts.
The Simplified Version
By using the alternative chemical (magnesium chloride) to make solar panels we could cut out a lot of the waste and also cost! There would be no contaminated waste product which requires special procedures and disposal. This would mean a lower cost of disposing the waste and a lower cost for the planet. As a double whammy the cost of extracting the chemical (magnesium chloride) is also cheaper.
Physicist, Dr Jon Major from the University’s Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, carried out the research. He said: “If renewable energy is going to compete with fossil fuels then the cost has to come down. Great strides have already been made but the findings in this paper have the potential to reduce costs further.”
The Future: Cheaper Solar Energy
Your future solar panels could be (and possibly should be) manufactured using a chemical that is obtained from seawater. Hopefully, if researchers continue to make these ground-breaking discoveries, the world could generate all of its energy from the sun and for a lot less! I look forward to when our entire range is manufactured with this new panel technology.
The UK has broken its own personal best solar power record in the last few weeks by nearly doubling its 2013 solar output for the same period. This is a massive step in the right direction and wasn’t predicted. (With the budget removed by the government it was feared this would shrink.) Solar capacity in the UK is difficult to measure due to massive array of small personal PV and solar cells on houses. However, it is estimated that last year the installed solar capacity generated from homes, buildings, and solar farms was 2.7GW. It has now risen to 4.7gw!
What the Experts Say
Ray Noble, consultant at the UK National Solar Centre, said this: “There are now 530,000 installations in the UK, of which 510,000 are domestic small-scale ones. Last weekend we estimated they generated about 8% of daytime electricity in total. We think that this is likely to double again within a year. There is nothing to stop it getting to 30-40% of UK electricity at this time of year.”
The Worldwide Picture
We’re not the only ones breaking records either! France, Italy, Denmark, and Germany (amongst others) are believed to have generated record amounts in June as well. Germany has been one of the fore-runners in moving to renewable energy for a long time. They managed a peak of 23.1GW hours at lunchtime Monday 9 June. This is equivalent to 50.6% of its total electricity need. It’ll be a long time before we can challenge them for the top spot but the UK certainly isn’t the last horse in the race.
Europe added 10.9GW of PV capacity in 2013 which made a total of 81GW worldwide!
There are plenty of options if you want to light the inside of a shed or outbuilding from the simple to the slightly more complicated. Choosing the right option can be difficult but with this blog post hopefully it’ll be a lot easier!
First off, let’s assume that you have a long garden and getting mains power to the shed (building) would be a pain. Not only do you need to drill holes through your house, you also need to hide the cable, which means a lot of back breaking work digging and (most likely) an electrician. All of this is expensive in both time and money.
Solar is the opposite of all mentioned above. All of the lights sold at The Solar Centre do not need an electrician to install them. This includes the Geo Lighting Kits which are like a mini solar panel array. Also, it won’t cost you anything in terms of electricity because it’ll be self-sufficient.
Evo 15 Solar PIR Utility Light
This Evo 15 Solar PIR Utility Light packs out a big punch for a small light. It is easy to install with a slim solar panel and clip on style bracket. It is PIR motion activated, which means when you open the door (and as long as you are within range: 2m – 6.5m) the light will turn on and stay on all the time you are in there. This is the smallest shed light we have which can also be used as a basic security light. (You could use the higher powered security lights in your shed but it may be a little overkill if it is only a small area!) It is not designed to stay on for hours though, so I would suggest a different light if you wanted to use it for long periods.
This light will not work during the day. To use it during the day you need to “Fool” it into thinking it is night by unplugging the solar panel which has a lux sensor. This is to stop the light from working during the day when it should be charging. A lot of people use this as a simple security light, for a light over some bins, or for potting sheds.
Vortex Shed Light
The Vortex Shed Light is another light that is super easy to install with a clip design. The solar panel can be attached to the top of the shed or building and the disc shaped light part inside. At night, when you want to use the light, simply click the button on the front. The Vortex Shed Light has three settings: all 36 LEDs (super-bright), 24 LEDs (a little less bright), and 12 LEDs (lowest setting).
This light also has a lux sensor in the solar panel. To make it turn on during the day follow the instructions above for the Evo15 Solar PIR Utility Light. I would not recommend this light if you wanted to read things (like seed packets, a magazine, etc.) as it is less directional than the Evo15 Solar PIR Utility Light and spreads the light further out to illuminate the room. It can, however, run on a full charge for 7 hours.
Solar PIR Porch Light
The Solar PIR Porch Light is like a hybrid that is between the Evo15 Solar PIR Utility Light and the Vortex Shed Light, as it does a bit of both. It has a PIR sensor in the middle (range is 2m – 6.5m) so it will activate rather than the manual turn on and has a slim solar panel, although again it will only work in the dark (unless you unplug it). It has 360 degrees detection range and installs with the clip design similar to the Evo 15.
As this is a hybrid light a lot of people use it for a lot of different reasons but the most common is an entrance light. The light will activate as you get closer to the front door and enables you to find your keys. It’s also perfect for a shed or a bike shelter.
Geo Lighting Kits (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)
This is the most complex option but also the most popular for lighting areas that are quite large and don’t have access to a power source. Don’t worry though! As a general rule of thumb, if you can wire a standard household plug – you can use this kit. It is a little more involved than the previous lights mentioned on this blog and I’ll only go into the basics here as we could write a whole blog on just Geo Lighting Kits.
What can you use this kit for: we’ve had customers using them for a whole range of things from sheds, to stables, to Eco-toilet’s, etc. The options are almost limitless and because of how it all works you can modify it to make it suitable for your needs. For example: want it to work on a sensor: add a PIR, want more switches: that’s fine, need less/more bulbs than the kit provides: just include/remove one bulb. So long as you aren’t using more than the battery can store, you’re good to go! (We generally don’t recommend these kits for anything more than lighting and accessories for lighting. Example: using a power tool with this will put a massive drain on the battery as it was built only to light bulbs.)
Each kit will light up to a different sized area, using a different amount of bulbs, and a different sized battery and solar panel. Your choice of kit will depend on the size you need to light:
Geo 1: 16 square metres (5m x 3m) with 1 LED bulb Geo 2: 32 square metres (5m x 6m) with 2 LED bulbs Geo 3: 48 square metres (8m x 6m) with 4 LED bulbs Geo 4: 60 square metres (10m x 6m) with 6 LED bulbs Geo 5: 84 square metres (10m x 8m) with 10 LED bulbs
After choosing which would be applicable for you the rest is easy. The main set-up is: solar panel (on the roof or using a bracket), to fuse, to battery, to fuse, to light switch, and finally to bulb. Everything you need (apart from the tools to install it like drill) comes in the kit. The only thing you need to purchase is the battery (which you can do at time of purchase via our website).
Video on how to install a Geo Kit:
Checkout for full range of solar lights for home and garden.
Tired of the doldrums of winter? Fed up of soggy days and snow? Garden looks worse for wear? Spring is nearly here and now’s your chance to take on that project you’ve always wanted to do. Rejuvenate your garden with some decorative lights, make a garden cinema, plant a vegetable patch … the world’s your oyster! Here are some great ideas we’ve seen and that we wanted to share with you:
Do it Yourself (DIY) Garden Cinema:
This can be a cheap venture. The only part that might cost a little more is the projector and sound system. Simply hang a white bed-sheet across the garden and aim the projector at it. For a cosy cinema find some pillows, lazy chairs, pop some corn, and relax.
If you want something a little more special just add some decorations like fairy lights, tea lights, pretty bunting, and a couple of tables. A lot of people use pallets to make garden furniture and should keep the price down.
This Spring Plant a Vegetable Patch:
There’s nothing more rewarding than fresh peas straight out of the pod, or tomatoes from the vine, or a luxurious strawberry. This is even better if you’ve a household with children to teach them about growing food and how to. It doesn’t have to be expensive either and in the long run will save you money on vegetables.
Don’t worry if you haven’t got a lot of space either. We’ve seen stuff grown in all sorts of places: gutter-pipe along a fence, in a post, from window-boxes, etc. The list is endless. Get creative and see what you can do. (While you’re at it, consider making a compost heap. It doesn’t need to be massive and you could put your kitchen scraps in there!)
Toast Yourself with a New Fire-Pit:
Fire-pits are all the rage for 2014 (you just need to look at Pinterest to know it!) There’s a load of instructions on how to build your own and not spend a fortune. You could even pop down to your local tip or builders’ yard and find some really unique brick-work to build the surround. (This also helps if you have a lot of leaf litter or vegetable patch waste to burn). Add some benches, cushions, drinks cooler, and maybe a little smores bar (toasted marshmallows, biscuit, and dark chocolate) for entertaining purposes.
Don’t forget health and safety though. Add some buckets of sand to quickly extinguish any fire that has gotten out of hand and always check to make sure your neighbour hasn’t hung fresh washing as it’ll end up smelling otherwise.
Get arty with your Garden Path:
Make your garden path more than just a walk-way to get to other places. Make it a piece of art! Mosaics or unusual garden paths can be easy to make. With a little time and effort you could have something truly outstanding. We’ve seen a lot of things done with garden paths and also the borders along garden paths. You could create something that looks like a stream with smooth stones, or a patterned mosaic, or get the children involved in making stepping stones using old broken pottery or china with delicate patterns on. The choices are endless.
If you do decide to rejuvenate your pathways you should also consider some lighting to show off your new found skills as an artist. The Solar Centre has a lot of different Solar Powered Pathlights that can be installed in minutes and will keep on going!
With so many options to choose from, finding the right Solar Garden Spotlight can be difficult. Luckily we’re here to provide you with a little guidance on the spotlights The Solar Centre provides. In this blog I’ll outline the advantages of each spotlight and where it would work best.
Thea Solar Garden Spotlight
The Thea Solar Garden Spotlight is a broad beam spotlight, almost a mini-floodlight, which is good for lighting large areas and can light up to 15m in distance. It is a winter worker which means it has a large solar panel and a battery to help it during the winter months where light is sparse. On a full charge it can power on for up to 12 hours.
There are several different ways to install the Thea Solar Garden Spotlight ranging from the spike to push into the ground, to the triangle mount which can be screwed to decking, walls, fences, etc., all of which is included in the box. It is mostly made out of hardened plastic.
A lot of people have used this light for sign-lighting due to the broad beam but also for sides of a building, mural, and anything that is large.
The advantage: it lights a huge amount of space and has multiple options on how to install/mount the light.
The disadvantage: the solar panel is attached to the top of the light on a directional joint. If you intend to light something under a tree/shade I would not recommend this light as the solar panel would be in the shade. This light must be installed in direct and unobstructed sunlight.
Helios Solar Spotlight
The Helios Solar Spotlight is a directional beam of light that can go up to 8m. This is another light that will work well in winter, same as the Thea Solar Garden Spotlight. On a full charge it can power on for up to 10 hours. It is made out of metal and glass. It’s a robust little light.
The Helios Solar Spotlight also has several different ways to install, including spike and wall mount, all of which is included in the box. This light tends to be used for single plants to highlight a part, or a small statue, or a series of spotlights along a walk-way.
The advantage: this light is great for highlighting an area to draw the eye to the spot. It’s also ideal for the smaller garden as it won’t flood the pitch.
The disadvantage: the solar panel is attached to the top of the light on a directional joint. If you intend to light something like a tree I would not recommend this light as the solar panel would be in shade. This must be installed in direct and unobstructed sunlight.
Selene Solar Landscape Spotlights (Set of 2)
The Selene Solar Landscape Spotlights has two spotlights that run from one solar panel. The light part is a lot like the Helios Solar Spotlight, it is a directional light that is great for highlighting a particular area but in this case you get two for the price of one! This makes it great to highlight the same area from two different directions as there is 5m of cable from the solar panel to each light (splitting with a Y connection from the solar panel).
This light also a works in winter conditions and can go for up to 10 hours on a full charge. The light is made of metal and spikes and solar panel is mostly hardened plastic. The Selene Solar Landscape Spotlights also has several different means of installation, including spike and wall mount, all of which is included in the box for each light individually and the solar panel.
The advantage: as the solar panel is connected by a cable it means you can position the lights in a shaded part of the garden. So long as the panel has access to unobstructed daylight they’ll work just fine.
The disadvantage: how large is the area you want to light? If it is large and you can put the solar panel in direct sunlight then I would recommend the Thea Solar Garden Spotlight instead.
We hope this guide will help you in choosing what is right for your garden and your specifications. As always, if you have any questions regarding the lights and range that we offer, you are absolutely welcome to call the office for some advice. We are happy to make suggestions on your specifications or answer any questions. (Tel: 01727 841014)
The new Blackfriars rail station in London has opened this week. Taking only five years to build, the bridge crosses the River Thames, hosts Blackfriars rail station, and, surprisingly, boasts a total of 4,400 roof-mounted solar panels making it the world’s largest solar-powered bridge!
Solar-powered Bridge Will Cut Carbon Emissions
The panels are expected to cut the stations’ carbon emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes per year. (That’s roughly the average weight of 73 African elephants for some fun perspective!) The photovoltaic panels will provide up to half of the energy for London Blackfriars station. This will reduce the carbon footprint of its train routes to the south east of England.
What First Capital Connect Said:
“Electric trains are already the greenest form of public transport!” David Statham, Managing Director of First Capital Connect stated, “This roof gives our passengers an even more sustainable journey. The distinctive roof has also turned the station into an iconic landmark visible for miles along the River Thames.”
The Company Behind the Solar-powered Bridge:
Solarcentury installed the panels in a series of phases over the past two years – only stopping to reduce inconvenience during the 2012 Olympic Games. It was one of the company’s most complex tasks to date as a giant jigsaw over a large river which was a lot more complicated than a warehouse rooftop where they would normally install them. “We had different sections of roof available at different times to fit in with this complicated jigsaw of getting everything up and going,” explained Gavin Roberts, Solarcentury’s senior project manager.
London’s Efforts and The Future!
It is expected that the new solar-powered bridge will give a major boost to London’s efforts to become a sustainable city. Solarcentury’s Suzanna Lashford, head of commercial sales, hopes the project will inspire more developers to turn towards other sources of renewable energy. She said, “Network Rail has invested funds into the project is a great sign for the solar industry. They’re an old English institution and they’re looking to the future to make investments into non-core technologies for the business, and that’s a great statement that other large corporations in the country can start realising.”
With the end of the camping season (for those not crazy enough to camp in the snow) coming to an end now is a great time to plan next year’s trips and camping sessions. Here at The Solar Centre we’re helping you on your way with 5 solar power tips for camping:
1, Avoid tripping over the guy-lines with pathway lights around the tent.
I do a lot of camping and my vision in the dark is ridiculously poor, especially at some of the camp-sites that don’t have lamps or pathways for that matter. If I had a pound for every guy-line I’ve tripped over and woken somebody up in the middle of the night I’d be a millionaire by now. There is one easy solution and the craze is spreading quickly: use solar pathway lights or LED lights to mark the guy-lines. You would be surprised at how many people do this now. It’s simple, effective, and will mark your tent out from the rest if you like going to big festivals and have trouble finding it again. Most pathway lights or LED lights also pack down to be really small and won’t take up a lot of space in your kit bag.
2, Jazz up your tent and camp with fairy lights. Bring the bling to the party!
Who says camping has to be dull and boring with plain canvas tents or tents that are run-of-the-mill standard? Jazz it up with some solar powered fairy lights. Your tent and camp will look fantastic. (It’s also a good excuse for a party and a few drinks around the fire!) Everybody will want to be at your party. Also, why stop at just the tent. When you aren’t camping use the fairy lights in your own garden to highlight a tree, statue, or decorate an outdoor cinema or fire pit.
3, Need your phone for emergencies? Make sure you take a solar charger with you.
If you are somebody who cannot leave the grid for various reasons (i.e. you run a business and have to take every call, or have a few old friends who need to keep in contact, or children who may need to get hold of you, etc.) then be sure to take a solar power charger for your phone along on the camping trip – or any trip for that matter! Let’s say you are going to deepest, darkest, Peru and they don’t have power. The solar power charger can keep you going and going and going! Most solar power chargers also do more than just phones: batteries, camera’s, iPods and iPads, notebooks, etc.
4, Take a solar power camping/torch light with you.
This sounds daft but a torch is usually the first thing I forget when packing to go camping. Even worse, you’ve remembered to pack the torch but once you arrive you find out the batteries have expired. There are plenty of options on the market from wind-up to solar powered torches. The newest is one that combines both wind-up and solar for the days spent in deepest, darkest, Peru! Everybody loves a good gadget.
5, Use solar power to cook your food.
Everybody loves a good barbecue but have you considered cooking your food using solar energy? Technology is improving every day and at rates which are in leaps and bounds. There is now a metallic tube which can boil water or cook meals using directed heat from the sun. There are also various other solar cooking methods – all of which surpass the fond Scout days of covering a cardboard box in aluminium and waiting for the food to cook. It is so simple and really effective.
With Christmas just around the corner many people are updating their wishlists and don’t know what to ask for. Here at The Solar Centre we’ve made it easy for you with our top 5 solar items for your Christmas Wishlist.
With the Solar Power Monkey Extreme (which comes in many colours: yellow, red, grey, blue, and black) you’ll never worry about how much charge you have left in your phone, DVD player, notebook, iPod and iPad. Simply let the solar panel charge up the battery. Once the battery is charged you can use it on the go to power many of your electrical devices.
The Solar Power Monkey Extreme also isn’t the only one of its type on the market. You could choose a Freeloader Globetrotter for holidays with a solar panel that you can clip to your backpack or caravan to charge it up.
New to The Solar Centre in 2013 the Eye Solar Security has zipped off the shelves faster than we can keep up with. This solar security light is discrete but powerful and comes with a new completely innovative bracket to allow for better versatility when angling the beam of light it kicks out. It works on a sensor as well so you won’t blind the neighbours. Better yet, it’s solar powered, so you don’t need to find an electrician or ask the council for planning permission.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to find a security light even if it’s only used as deterrent, for finding your keys in the dark, or so you can park on the driveway without scratching the car on the wall.
If you don’t think the Eye Solar Security light is the right one for you then The Solar Centre has lots of solar security lights. We also have solar lighting specialists to recommend the best one for your requirements. Alternatively you can also read this: https://www.thesolarcentre.co.uk/pages/solar_security_light_review.html which gives you the low-down on what to get.
There are a lot of solar powered toys on the market these days and most of them are educational. This Solar Station toy makes the perfect gift to any wanna-be-scientist girl or boy. A mix between a Transformer and a science experiment this toy will bring any adult peace and quiet while trying to sort out the Christmas dinner. (And when the children have gone to bed there’s nothing stopping you from playing with it.)
Support their imagination and create new ways of harnessing the solar energy. They will be our future and it’s best to start early.
If you are looking to do a little home renovation next year or you’re bored of the old style. Ask for a Canterbury Solar Wall Light this Christmas. It’s easy to install and looks great with a white diffused light and stainless steel body. Better yet, it’s solar powered! This means you don’t need to hire an electrician to install the light or pay for costly electricity bills just for a little style.
A great one to pair it with (if you’re like me and love themes and continuity) is the London Solar Post Lights for the pathway to the house.
Voted 9/10 in Garden Solar Gadgets review by Sunday Mirror and featured in The Independent‘s 10 Best Garden Lamps.
These solar powered fairy lights will bring some sparkle to your garden all year round. They will even work in Winter with their large battery capacity, super-solar panel with USB charging for the miserable days, and IP56 rated waterproofing. Who knew keeping the Winter blues away when the world just seems dark would be so easy. You can even choose eight different settings for the LEDs from running flashing to constant.
The Everbright range was designed at the beginning of 2013 to incorporate USB charging capabilities for the really rainy days. The pack comes with everything you would need from a multi-mount to the USB cable and comes with batteries already inside.
I personally recommend the warm white colour for that truly cottage style Christmas!