When we moved house just over two years ago we knew this was our ‘forever home’. This afforded us the opportunity to plan what we wanted as it would be ours forever (unless we win the lottery or some other huge windfall happens, of course). We created a Wish List for our home. The first few things I wanted was solar panels followed by a kitchen extension followed by some chickens. With three kids following our footsteps I have been more concerned with what we are doing to our planet and what the solutions might be. Creating our own electricity was high up on my list…saving money and becoming less reliant on fossil fuels is a massive bonus.
We visited a couple of solar energy shops to see what was involved, how the panels might look, how much we could save, how it worked and we were impressed. The outlay costs were quite high but with the 25 year projections we saved loads of money. When researching the companies we could use we found a small, independent, very local (300 metres down the road) business called http://www.ugenenergysystems.com who came and priced the same system we were interested in. The quote came in significantly cheaper as they didn’t have a shop to pay for! We saw some other systems they had installed and were very happy with the service. Two weeks later we had our fully functioning solar panel system in place.
Northern Ireland has been a bit slow on the uptake of solar power so the government incentives are quite high – you get 16p for every unit produced whereas in London this is roughly 8p per unit. This is the amount you get paid for the electricity you produce whether you use it or not. This is a tracked payment so we will always get the equivalent of 16p. This figure is due to drop this Autumn so more people are taking up solar energy while the payments are good.
We have had our system in place since February 2015 and have seen dramatic reductions in our electricity bills. We have a keypad NIE system so we can track our usage and we can top up payments as we need to. We have been using roughly 50p per day now mostly for evening usage.
Our system has a clever little attachment by http://www.solarcache.co.uk which allows us to heat our immersion tank with any extra electricity produced rather than returning it to the grid. When you return electricity to the grid you only get 5p per unit extra so we felt using this excess was far more cost efficient. We now can heat water for free daily and if the tank is bubbling we can then press a button to return excess to the grid. If you are on holiday you can return all your excess to the grid to claim the small financial payment (I think over our ten day Easter holiday we got £9 for our excess electricity which is not to be sniffed at).
Even on dull days we produce good levels of electricity to do the washing and run the dishwasher for free. We fully expect to have our system paid for by savings, payments and better care of the electricity we produce within seven years (although it’s looking like it will be closer to six years). The panels are guaranteed to produce at 90% after 25 years but they fully expect them to run and run long after that.
This has been a substantial investment but that’s exactly what it is – an investment. We are saving money daily and we are paid for what we use…it’s a no-brainer.