The all-seeing Eye!

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Solar and security lights may seem like an unlikely partnership to the uninitiated, but they are actually a perfect match. Some solar sceptics reading this will no doubt chuckle at the idea of relying on solar for their security needs, but hear me out if you will.

Having been in the business for 8 years there is no doubt in my mind that motion activated Solar Security Lights outperform every other type of solar light. They do that by reliably serving the right purpose at precisely the right time of year (even though that right time of year happens to be the wrong time of year from a solar point of view).

As soon as the clocks go back in October and the nights draw in we start to think about security lighting. For manufacturers and retailers of solar lights, the clocks going back is like the grim reaper ushering in the end of days. For a start its one hour less of daylight (where solar lights would normally be charging) and one hour more of pre-bedtime darkness where customers expect their lights to work. It also heralds the beginning of real winter where only the best solar lights in the best locations will work as the sun struggles to make it above the garden fence for 3 months. In summer the UK gets an average of 7 peak sun hours a day, but this drops to just 1 peak sun hour in winter. This means that a typical solar light that works for over 8 hours a night in summer, will work for about an hour a night in winter.

The reason solar security lights work well in winter even though they are brighter than all other solar lights is simple – they are only meant to come on a few times a night as and when they detect motion. This means that they can continue to work reliably through extended periods of bad winter weather and recoup those losses when the winter sun makes an appearance.

The Eye Solar Security Light
The Eye ticks all the boxes: it’s brighter than anything in its class, completely waterproof, much more manoeuvrable, easy to install, has a remote digital sensor and boy does it look good!

Lets crunch some numbers with our latest offering the Eye Solar Security Light (above).  The Eye can comfortably deliver 100 minutes of light once fully charged. The average customer will opt for 30 second activations each time the Eye detects motion giving them 200 hundred activations in a fully charged battery. Based on our own experiences, and those of our customers, a busy security light should not be activating for more than 20 times a night. Assuming your light activates 20 times a night you will have 10 nights worth of activations in the battery before any fresh charge is taken into account. A well located solar panel will give the Eye 10 minutes worth of light (20 activations) after a bad winter days charge, around 20 minutes (40 activations) after an average winter day and 30 minutes of light on a good winter days charge (60 activations).

The Eye will not compete with a 500W mains-powered halogen light, but it is more than a match for any 100W fitting which is more than good enough for most household applications. Unlike mains powered lights, solar security lights can be set up anywhere around your property without the need to run cables from your house which can be hideously expensive. You can safely install a solar security light yourself in minutes with minimal DIY skills so there’s no need for an electrician. Best of all is once they are up and running they are completely free to run and will continue to work even if there’s a power cut in your area.

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Bristol’s Solar Scheme to Become UK’s Solar Capital by 2015

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Bristol Bristol £47m Solar Scheme

The Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, has cleared the first stage of the scheme to install £47m worth of solar rooftop panels over the next four years. The plan is to install the solar panels on council owned houses and public buildings as part of a bid to become European Green Capital in 2015. Bristol is also hoping to become the UK’s “Solar Capital” by installing 1GW of solar power by 2020.

Minister of State Gregory BarkerMinister of State: Gregory Barker’s Solar Energy UK Speech

This comes after the announcement from Minister of State Gregory Barker’s speech to the Solar Energy UK conference, which set out the vision for growth of UK solar PV. Gregory Barker quoted “I think we can go faster and further. I am on record as having a personal ambition to see 20GW [in the UK] deployed by 2020. And I continue to believe that is possible.”

 

The Changes Needed

However, he also went on to explain that several things needed to change for this to become a reality:

  • The Industry needs to drive down costs even quicker.
  • Solar companies need to innovate faster.
  • The energy sector needs to push for efficiency through the whole supply chain.
  • Solar PV developers need work closer with local communities and avoid alienating them.
  • And the energy and solar industry needs to look at export markets.

 

Bristol Harbour

The Scheme Details

Bristol City Council confirmed yesterday that it has already started to seek contractors for the first £6m phase of the solar scheme. The formal tender process is expected to begin in January 2014 and start work in June. The programme could also cover more properties, depending on the success of the project and tenants, and could use some fields in the region to create larger solar panel arrays. The council said it plans to borrow money to pay for the phase, which will then be repaid by the feed-in tariff payments. The scheme could save occupiers £130-£260 a year and reduce council costs.

George Ferguson’s thoughts regarding the plans: “I really welcome this proposal. It is an important step forward which supports our environmental role, a leading one in Europe.”

 

Sources:

Business Green: Bristol Shines with £47m Solar Scheme

Gov.uk: Solar Energy UK Roadmap Launch

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Plastic Bag Charge is Coming!

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Free Flying Plastic Bag

 

5p per Plastic Bag

A 5p per plastic bag charge is coming to England. The fee, due to be launched in Autumn 2015, is being introduced by the government. It is hoped that the fee will discourage the use of plastic bags by making customers think twice. Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to degrade, can kill animals, costs the tax-payers millions to clean up, and litter the countryside.

The Decision

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg quoted: “This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now.” He said he hoped any money raised would be donated to environmental charities although this is still to be discussed. In Wales the money is voluntarily donated to charities.

The ResultPollution Caused by Plastic Bag

The charge, which includes bags made from both plastic and paper, is already in effect in Wales and Northern Ireland. The statistics here show an 80% reduction in plastic bag use since the fee was introduced. Northern Ireland had been discussing on whether to raise the charge to 10p but this was vetoed by Mark H Durkan because the present arrangements are successful.

Exempt?

Small businesses (with less than 250 employees) will be exempt from the charge and bags which meet the biodegradable standard will also be exempt as they are less harmful to the environment.

Environmentally Friendly Go Green BagThe Professional Opinions

The news has been met with differing opinions: Craig Bennett, policy and campaigns director from Friends of the Earth, agreed that it is a step in the right direction but that the fee is not tackling the nation’s huge waste mountain and cannot hide the government’s woeful green record. He called for tougher action with more ambitious targets. While Matthew Sinclair, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, argued that the answer to every problem cannot be a new tax. He stated that the reward method when customers do not use plastic bags should be pursued instead.

Currently …

Supermarkets are already encouraging customers to use their own bags with different schemes or point systems. Plastic bags are no longer at the end of the checkouts either and have to be asked for from the checkout assistant and are often smaller for customers purchasing only a few items.

 

Sources:

Gov.uk: Plastic Bag Charge Set to Benefit the Environment

BBC News: Plastic Bag Charge to be Introduced in England

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5 Misconceptions About Solar Power

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Converting to solar power doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Converting to solar power doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

1. Solar Power is Expensive.

This could not be any further from the truth and myth-busting it is easy. The price of solar panels is falling, dramatically, as the demand and amount of importers is increasing. The statistics from the Department of Energy & Climate Change also reported that 50% of all installed solar panels across the UK are residential. If other people are doing it, surely it cannot be that expensive? You also get money back via the Feed-in-Tariff issued by the government for each unit of energy you create. That’s right: you get paid!

You don’t have to convert your whole house to benefit either. If you want garden lights, security lights, or gadgets, a lot of these can now be powered by solar energy. In the long run, even if you only change a few things to solar power, you will save money on your bills each month. It all adds up.

 

2. Solar Power Doesn’t Work at Night.Starry Night Sky

All solar powered items come with batteries. Why? Because the sun isn’t around at night. The solar panel charges to the batteries which then power the light or item at night. Eventually the batteries will need replacing but usually they’ll last a very long time (saving you more money!)

 

 

Installed Solar Security Light3. Installing Solar Powered Lights is Expensive.

You don’t need to hire an electrician to install solar lights or solar kits. You can do it yourself and usually in under an hour; depending on the light you choose. You also don’t need to tap into your mains or drill holes through your house to get the mains wiring outside because solar lights are usually self-contained units with only one wire to the panel. Easy peasy.

You might prefer to hire somebody if you’re like me and worry about falling off a ladder but that choice is yours. The rules (Part P of the planning regulations) include full details about this rule.

Another point to consider if your solar light is an LED light: the bulbs won’t need replacing as often because they last that much longer. (Some quote up to 50,000 hours light-time.)

 

4. Solar Power isn’t Reliable.Reliable Street

This may have been the case when solar power first hit the markets but technology has since improved. Solar panels are better, the batteries can hold more and be changed less often, and the lights are now using the most up-to-date LED technology.

 

 

Yes, I had a Pet Rock as a teenager. I even put boggle eyes on it.
Yes, I had a Pet Rock as a teenager. I even put boggle eyes on it.

5. Solar Power Won’t Last.

This one is an opinion rather than fact based. However, when you look at the statistics, it is hard to believe that this will be a fad that will die out like all of the rest. Governments all around the globe are starting to spend a lot more on renewable energy as we race towards the future. Scientists are exploring new ways that solar power can help us and how far it can go. More importantly: we are starting to think about a greener future as the Eco-movement grows!

Unlike some other fads that I’ve seen in my time!

Also, the sort of solar panels we use degrade less than 1% per year. This means that in 20 years you should still have at least 80% of the performance you had in the first instance.

 

 

Sources:

Planning Portal: Electrical: Part P

Statistics on Increased Demand for Solar Power

The Analysis on The Department for Energy & Climate Change DUKES 2013 Report

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12 Tips to Reduce The Performance of Your Solar Lights

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We often have people telling us our solar lights are too bright or work for too long and that they don’t want to offend the neighbour by their garden being lit up all night long and are fearful of planes landing in their back garden. So we’ve put together a few tips on how you can reduce the performance of your solar lights or even stop them working altogether:

How to Achieve The Worst Possible Performance of Your Solar Lights:

Solar Lights Next to a Wall

1. Under a Bush

Solar panel Under a bush or in a tree. Any bush or tree will do but the best reduction in performance is achieved by thick foliage conifers are the best trees for reducing performance as they keep green all year round.

 

2. Next to a Fence or Wall

Solar panel next to a fence or Wall – best reduction in performance is achieved by putting the light immediately adjacent to a solid fence or brick wall, if you place the light at the base of a brick wall and on the north side you should be able to get your light to stop working in the winter months.

 

Solar Panel Underneath a Car

3. Solar Panel Under a Car

Parking your car over the top of the solar panel will stop all light getting to it and should result in the light not operating.

Solar Panel Facing North

 

4. Solar Panel Facing North

Facing the solar panel in a north direction reduces the performance significantly.

 

5. Solar Panel facing the Floor

If you want to stop your light working you could try directing the panel downwards facing the floor.

 

Disconnected Panel From Light

6. Disconnect the solar panel from the Light

A light with no power will never work if you are able to disconnect the panel from the light you will remove all energy and completely disable the light from working some lights have the batteries separate from the panel so you may need to drain these down before complete failure is achieved.

 

Solar Panel Behind Glass

7. Solar panels behind glass

This is a great way to stop lights from working as not only are you restricting the amount of light the panel will get by the shadow effect you are also blocking the UV rays as modern windows are designed to prevent the energy required for solar power getting through.

 

 

Solar Panel in Conservatory for Reduced Performance of Your Solar Lights

8. Solar panels in a conservatory

Not as effective as a window sill as less shadow effect however you still have UV protection so should be able to reduce the performance of your solar light significantly.

 

Solar Panel Under Snow

9. Solar Panel Under Snow

This is like putting your solar panel in a shadow; performance will be reduced but unfortunately a good quality solar product will still work a little in this situation.

 

Charging Solar by Moonlight

 

 

10. Solar Charge by Moonlight

If you only try and charge your lights on bright moon lit night the light will fail, make sure you remember to bring the light in before dawn and lock it a way in a dark cupboard during the day though.

 

11. Solar Panel in The Arctic Circle

This is a good way to reduce the performance of your solar lights but that is all it will do the further you get from the equator the more successful at stopping your light working will be.

 

Circuit of a Solar Light Under Water

 

12. Solar Panel Underwater

This will pretty much guaranteed failure of your light because not only is it difficult for UV to pass through water but the water will also seep into your panel and destroy it from within. This will of course mean you will never be able to get your light to work again.

 

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Walkie Talkie Skyscraper in London Melts Jaguar Car

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Okay, so we may be exaggerating here! But this did actually happen … Witness the power of the sun! Go Solar Power!

The Walkie Talkie

The new 37-storey London skyscraper (aka “Walkie Talkie” because of its shape) has been reflecting sunlight which has melted parts of a Jaguar car parked on a nearby street: Eastcheap on Thursday afternoon. It only took two hours to melt parts of his car including the wing mirror and badge. The total cost of damage £946 in repairs.

The Walkie Talkie Skyscraper in London
The Walkie Talkie Skyscraper in London

The Owner of The Jaguar

Mr Lindsay (the owner of the car) said he “Could not believe” the damage. “You can’t believe something like this would happen. They’ve got to do something about it. It could be dangerous. Imagine if the sun reflected on the wrong part of the body?”

Proof of Melted Jaguar
Proof of Melted Jaguar

The Developers

The developers have apologised and paid for repairs. They left the following note on this windscreen: “Your car’s bucked; could you give us a call?”

In a joint statement, developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf said “We are aware of concerns regarding the light reflecting from 20 Fenchurch Street and are looking into the matter. As a precautionary measure, the City of London has agreed to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected while we investigate the situation further.

Sources:

‘Walkie-Talkie’ Skyscraper Melts Jaguar Car Parts

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Solar Power In The UK Passes The 1GW Milestone

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Solar Trophy

 

 

The UK has reached the grand milestone of 1 gigawatt (1GW) in demand for solar PV panels. Using year-to-date data, and despite the 46% decline in the second quarter, the solar power in the UK is currently on trend to smash the current record.

 

 

Solar PV Demand Per Quarter 2013 in MW
Chart showing solar PV demand per quarter in 2013 in megawatts

Why The Sudden Drop?

Why the 46% decline? There’s a bunch of reasons but lets briefly touch on a couple:

  • The cut in the Renewable Obligation Certificate incentives on 1st April 2013. This is less impacting for the end users and more about the companies who provide power. It led to less ground-mounted solar PV panels.
  • The European Commission increased the import tariff on China made solar PV panels. This meant it was more expensive to import solar PV panels.

On the whole, we’re not helping ourselves! But what’s more interesting is that it’s the little people who count more.

In The UK Currently:

Cumulative solar PV panels installed in the UK (at the end of June 2013) currently stands at 2.71 gigawatts. The largest percentage being residential installed panels! It’s the Joe Blogg’s of the UK with solar PV panels on the roof, shed, in the garden, anywhere possible.

Installed Location of Cumulative Solar PV Panels in the UK
Installed Location of Cumulative Solar PV Panels in the UK

In the first half of 2013 alone the UK has installed a whooping 106 solar PV panel farms. More than half of the new solar farms have an installed capacity of over 5 megawatts with 8% boasting over 10 megawatts.

 

Sources:
Annual Demand for Solar Power in UK Passes 1GW Milestone
UK Solar Power PV Demand in Quarter 2 Declines

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Space technology heads back to earth

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The Differences:

Whenever you see footage of a satellite out in space chances are the solar panels you’re looking at are not the same type of panels you see on roofs or in gardens back here on earth. The PV (photovoltaic) solar panels we have been using here one earth since the 1970s convert roughly 15% of the sun’s energy into electricity. The CPV (concentrated photovoltaic) solar panels often used in space are able to convert up to 44% of the sun’s energy into electricity which makes them three times more efficient.

Why The Solar Panels are Different:

CPV panels are more efficient because they use optics to focus large amounts of sun onto wafer thin photovoltaic surfaces to generate more electricity than traditional PV panels. Put simply, imagine setting up a parabolic telescope, pointing it at the sun (not something we recommend) and then sticking a highly efficient multi-junction solar cell in the eyepiece – that’s basically CPV.

 

Efficiency gain is just the beginning of the good news. A recent report by IMS Research suggests that although the upfront cost of CPV panels will be more expensive, CPV will cost 30% less than PV over the lifetime of a system because CPV produces three times more electricity. CPV panels will also be up to 3 times smaller than equivalent PV panels which will be great news for houses with small areas of south facing roof.

Solar Panels and The Future:

Large CPV solar power stations are already being developed in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Residential CPV is still very much embryonic, but there are companies blazing a trail with experimental designs. If all goes to plan you might just see some CPV systems appearing on houses near you by 2025.

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How Is The UK Re-Charging?

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DECC LogoThe DUKES 2013 Report

Last month the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) released their Statistical Press Release: The Digest of UK Energy Statistics (aka DUKES) taken from 2012. It has a lot of graphs and numbers but what exactly does it mean?

I’m here to provide a closer look and point out some of the interesting trends.

Offshore RenewablesRenewable Energy on The Up!

This graph shows the gradual increase of renewable energy produced by the UK from 2004 to 2012. The UK only became interested in renewable energy in the mid-1990’s. The news is good! Each year has shown an increase and each year it has been above the target set by the government.

UK Energy Produced by Renewables
The percentage of UK Energy Produced by Renewables

But It’s Not All Good News …

However, the target set for the government is low compared to other countries. Each time we’ve surpassed that target it has only been by 0.1%, which is hardly breaking any records. Germany, for instance, has just broken its monthly solar power generation record (again). In July 2013 they logged 5.1 terawatt’s hours of electricity. (To put that in to perspective we only got 1114.2 gigawatts from renewable sources!)

Installed Capacity of PV Per Country
The total capacity of Photovoltaic panels per country.

Quote From Clean Technica:

“In terms of total solar power capacity per capita, Germany crushes every other country. At the end of 2012, it had approximately 400 MW of solar power capacity per million people, considerably more than #2 Italy at 267 MW per million people, #3 Belgium at 254 MW per million people, and #4 Czech Republic at 204 MW per million, and #5 Greece at 143 MW per million people. The US came it at #20 with about 25 MW per million people.”

Notice how we don’t even feature on that list? I know we’re a small country but we could be doing more. It’s certainly spiked upwards but it’s hardly the runner-up to winning the medal, let alone the gold seeker!

The Good News

There is good news in this muddle of information. Offshore wind generation (which is the UK’s second largest renewable source currently after biomass) has increased by 46% in 2012 and had a greater load factor than gas. (33.7% from wind compared to 30.4% from gas.)

UK Electricity Generation by Fuel
UK Electricity Generation by Fuel

The Final Word And Going Forwards

Slowly things are changing. It’s not just about turning off the television or light bulb any more. It’s about moving forwards and growing with the changes happening around us. Perhaps the UK government should review their plan and set more aggressive targets for renewable energy so we can try to catch up on the swift progress being made elsewhere in Europe.

Sources:

Germany Breaks Monthly Solar Generation Record, 6.5 Times More than US best, from Clean Technica

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) 2013 – Press Release

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Do solar panels work when there is no sun?

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Do solar panels only work in summer?  Can solar panels work in winter? Does solar really work in the UK?  I hope that by answering these questions I can make things a little clearer and hopefully shed some light on how solar works. An important part of the answer is the type of solar panel being used. There are many different varieties of solar panel available for generating solar energy “electricity”, but these are generally found in one of three guises; amorphous, polycrystalline and monocrystalline.

Amorphous Solar Panel
Amorphous Solar Panel

Amorphous panels

Amorphous solar panels are most commonly found on smaller solar products that are designed with a shorter life span and low energy requirements.  A huge advantage of amorphous solar panels are they need very little light to generate some energy, this enables them to work in shaded locations and means that they are very easy to position anywhere and deliver some light.  The disadvantage is they are very inefficient and so need to be more than twice the size of the other panels to deliver the same energy; or to look at it another way, generate less than half the power for the same physical size.   The result of less energy means the product has to be more efficient with what it consumes and so in regards to a garden light the bulb will be dim. Products that use Amorphous Solar Panels would be decorative path lights or lights that hang from trees in partially shaded locations.

 

Polycrystalline Solar Panel
Polycrystalline Solar Panel

Polycrystalline panels

Polycrystalline panels are basically bits of scrap monocrystalline panels that have been recycled.  Although they will never be as efficient as the monocrystalline panels in direct sun, they do get very close and the fractured nature of the construction makes them more efficient in changeable whether conditions.  Although more expensive than amorphous, polycrystalline panels deliver more energy for your £’s.  The disadvantage is that in very low light conditions they will not be able to harness much usable power – positioning of these panels is very important to achieving the best results. Products that use polycrystaline panels would be more utilitarian in nature where bright light is required for longer periods and in open spacious locations like solar security lighting and feature lighting.

 

Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Monocrystalline Solar Panel

Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient panels. They are designed to give maximum energy from minimal space and have the greatest life expectancy.  Unfortunately they are the most expensive.  Due to the cost they are rarely found in smaller applications such as home and garden lighting and would be more at home in a solar farm in the desert .  The disadvantage is that they do not perform well in cloudy or darkened conditions.

Monocrystalline solar panels are ideal for larger home energy systems and solar farms.

Summary
All solar panels will perform better in open south-facing locations that get direct sunlight. Amorphous panels will work best in shady or cloudy conditions, but will not compete with monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels will when the sun comes out.  Monocrystalline panels are better than polycrystalline, but are more expensive.

So do solar panels work when there is no sun?

do solar panels work when there is no sunNo, but all solar panels perform best when the sun is at its best and that is in the summer. Can solar panels work in winter and does solar really work in the UK? Yes, so long as the size and power of the solar panel is relative to the thing it needs to power. Take solar lights for an example. Cheap solar lights that have a panel the size of a postage stamp will struggle to work at the best of times. High quality solar lights with bigger panels can work reliably reliably in UK winter time so long as they are well located.

panel-comparison

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