Renewable Energy - Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems and the Feed in Tariff

by Nick 8. September 2011 19:15


Renewable energy is energy produced from free sources such as sun, wind, tide, animal and plant matter.

In order to reduce the carbon emissions of our country the Government is encouraging householders to invest in renewable energy sources by the introduction of incentives.


Photovoltaic (PV) systems operate by converting solar radiation into electricity. Photovoltaic panels most commonly contain crystalline silicone cells. These panels are set directed towards the sun and convert the sunlight into DC electricity, which is subsequently converted into AC using inverters.


Installation types - Panels are often installed on pitched roofs although they can also be fixed to frames on flat roofs or the ground. Pitched roof panels can either be installed ‘in-tile’ or ‘over-tile’. ‘The in-tile’ system requires the removal of tiles and the panels are set within the roof finish. This system is more expensive to install and less efficient (due to the lack of air flow around the panels), however it is less obtrusive. The ‘on-tile’ system is fitted over the existing tiles.


Production - Although PV systems are capable of producing electricity even on cloudy days, efficiency is dependent on the intensity of light falling on the panels. For optimum electricity production the panels should not be in shade and the best orientation is between south-east and south-west.


Feed In Tariff (FIT) – As an incentive to homeowners and developers the Government has set up an initiative called the Feed In Tariff (FIT).

The FIT benefits the owner in three ways:


  1. It guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity generated by the installed system. This is known as the Generation Tariff and is paid regardless of how much energy is put back into the national grid system.
  2. Payments are also made for any electricity exported to the grid once the household’s requirements have been met. The Export Tariff.
  3. Savings are made on the household bills as less electricity is purchased from the grid.


For a retrofit system less than 4kW the tariffs as of August 2011 are:-


  • Generation Tariff             =             43.3p/kWh
  • Export Tariff               =            3.1 p/kWh


These rates are subject to change each year for new installations eligible for the scheme, however once the rate for the system is set it should apply for 25 years for PV systems. Homeowners should check the rates and guaranteed payment period prior to placing an order.


Cost – The cost of installation will depend on a number of factors. Mitsubishi Electric have provided us with the following rule of thumb for an ‘on-roof’ domestic installation:-

£5k for the first kW and there after £3k for every kW.

Example: A 3.6kW system would cost in the region of  £12,800 to install.

The Energy Saving Trust suggests that these costs may be slightly higher at between £5k and £7k per kW installed.


Mitsubishi electric’s website contains some useful case studies including a property with a 3.6kW installation. The case study suggests that the system will generate over 3,000kWh per year and has the potential to earn the householder almost £1500 per annum taking into consideration the FIT and export income combined with the savings in electricity purchase.


Some things to be aware of when considering a PV system


  • Use an installer certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.
  • Check the Installer is a member of the REAL assurance scheme.
  • Check the likely output of the chosen system meets your requirements.
  • Ensure that you will benefit from the FIT, check the rates and guaranteed period.
  • Ensure your proposed system is eligible for the FIT
  • As with all products, the quality of panels will vary dependant on the product manufacturer. Ensure your supplier is using a high quality panel and obtain product guarantees and expected life expectancy of the panels.
  • Maintenance of the systems is generally considered to be low. Take into consideration that the inverter may require replacement after 8-10 years.
  • With the FITs in place it would appear that Photovoltaic systems could be a good investment. The initial outlay can be significant and the investment is tied into the property. Individual customers should carry out their own research to ensure that the payback period and benefits of the system meet their requirements, as the return on investment is dependant on a wide range of factors.


Useful websites:-   - The Department of Energy and Climate Change       The Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation that provides free and impartial advice on how to save energy.             Mitsubishi Electric – Product manufacturers

(this is a useful source of information however we are unable to recommend specific products as we have not experienced these products in use and do not know how they confirm to other products on the market)  - The Renewable Energy Centre


Nick Belderbos

For and on behalf of                                          September 2011


State of the moratorium on new residential properties in West Wirral

by Nick 29. July 2011 14:32

We have recently been asked by a client to review the possibility of constructing a house on a plot of land within their garden. The plot is very capable of taking an additional dwelling and had previously obtained outline Planning Approval, which has since lapsed.


Earlier this year there was talk that the moratorium on new residential development in West Wirral, which has existed since 2003, may be partially lifted due to new Planning Guidelines and the preparation of new ‘Local Development Frameworks’.


This was reported in the press and the Heswall Society Newsletter suggested there was a possibility for some residential development in our area on a modest level.


On this basis we consulted with the Local Authority Planning Department and were advised as follows: -


  • Currently the Interim Planning Policy is still in place and would be applied to applications for development outside regeneration areas.


  • Following consultation the Council’s intention is to replace the Interim Planning Policy ‘New Housing Development’ when the Core Strategy for the Local Development Framework is adopted towards the end of 2012.


  • The preferred option for the proposed Core Strategy is to continue to focus new housing on previously developed sites in areas where regeneration is a priority.


  • Release of greenfield land in West Wirral is ranked lowest in order of preference for new housing development.


Garden land is no longer considered ‘previously developed land’ due to a directive from the Government as part of changes to Planning Policy Statement 3. As the preference would be for Brownfield sites it is therefore currently unlikely that Planning Permission would be approved for the development of housing within the garden plots of West Wirral properties.


We do, however, understand that there will be further consultation and an opportunity to submit representations for consideration when the Draft Core Strategy is prepared later this year.


With the situation currently in a state of flux, any landowners considering such development should monitor how the policies develop prior to making any decisions.


Nick Belderbos

For and on behalf of                                                      July 2011


With thanks to Wirral Planning Department for their valued advice






Why Do I Need An Architect?

by architects-direct 20. April 2011 11:39

Avoiding professional fees is a very understandable strategy when it comes to making any alterations to the home. Contacting the local builder, telling him what you want and then letting him get on with it might seem to be a low cost approach. There are many builders out there who are well equipped to do this and may do a good job; there are also plenty who are not.

However, you should consider:

· Are you getting real value for money?

· Are the best quality materials specified and detailed?

· Are you getting the most out of the design?

· Does the design it really reflect your requirements?

The building industry has changed significantly in recent years. There are less and less building firms that employ the full range of skills required to build an extension or even make some small alterations to your home. Bricklayers, joiners, groundworkers, roofers, plumbers and electricians are all required when creating even a modest extension. A small general building contractor will typically have his own ‘trade’ and employ the others as subcontractors. This keeps fixed costs down for the builder and allows him to complete the job whatever is required.

One of the drawbacks for the homeowner is that you will have little or no control over who is working on their project. On what basis has the subcontractor been selected? Is it quality, cost or the fact that he ‘needs a favour doing’?

An architect can guide you at every stage of your project; design, detail, costing by contractors and operations on site.

An architect will interpret your requirements and unlock the potential of your property, working closely with you until the design is just right and achieves your objectives in the best possible way.

Carefully considered detailing, coupled with schedules of finishes ensure that the costs obtained from builders are as accurate as possible, avoiding the unexpected ‘oh, we haven’t priced for that!’ and ‘that will be extra!’ so often heard on site.

Effective management of your project on site means you can rest assured that all efforts are being made to ensure your project runs smoothly with your best interests at heart.

The overall cost of the finished project does not need to be higher because of the professional fees of the architect. The benefits of creative design, technical knowledge, specification of materials, management of contracts and control of costs, means that most projects will have a cost saving in the long run, and you will have a great deal of ‘peace of mind’.

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