So twice this week I’ve had conversations with people who said something along the lines of “Well I’m no expert but really solar isn’t much good here in Northern Ireland because unless its really sunny they don’t work and its never really sunny here so why bother. We’d like a wind turbine”. It’s not an uncommon thing for people to say. However the most important part of the sentence is ‘I’m no expert’. And neither am I really, but what I am, is someone who relies on solar to keep my lights on. There they are – definitely on, and I don’t live in an unexpectedly sunny part of South Down. Quite the contrary. So I’m talking as someone who has a very vested interest in solar pv doing its thing in our lovely climate.
Solar power does work. In Northern Ireland. There are of course a couple of rules you need to follow to make it work well though. Here they are:
- Be realistic. We have a washing machine, a dryer and an induction hob, but we choose our moments, and use them sensibly. You need to reduce your consumption before doing anything else, it doesn’t cost anything, and you don’t have to go back to living in 1750. Yes in midwinter there isn’t much daylight so there will be less power, but you can oversize your panels to compensate to some extent. In summer you will have more power than you know what to do with. Heat your water with it perhaps.
- Point the panels in the right direction, and install enough of them. They need to be south (ish) facing, not be shaded by anything, and you need a decent amount. A lot of people have 4kw because that’s all the stupid arbitrary rules allow you to connect to the grid. Get a bit of battery storage to make the most of the power, and enjoy not selling the energy companies cheap electricity. Panels are as little as 44p per watt, so you could put 8kw in for less than three and a half grand. Thats not bad. Used panels are even cheaper.
If you’re not sure, have a look for yourself. We publish all our data here – https://vrm.victronenergy.com/site/share/3b08d1c1 for a 4kw array. They are 9 year old used monocrystalline panels, so not the latest technology, and they work grand. There is plenty of info about them solar panels
The other thing to remember is that There Is No Magic Super Solution Coming Soon. One day no doubt there will be better ways to do things, but right now improvements are marginal (and expensive). Panels last for decades with almost no loss of performance (there are loads out there that are 20 years old and only 2 or 3 percent down), and very cheap, so you could get the benefits now.
Wind turbines are great, but they are generally expensive, require more maintenance than solar pv (it just needs a wipe from time to time), and have moving parts. That means they will need more care. Plus they are fairly large, visible and not silent. They have their place, and yes we have one, but we couldn’t have afforded it new, and can maintain it ourselves.
If you’re still not entirely convinced, come and have a look, and I’ll be happy to show you the setup, and hopefully reassure you that these things do actually work.