Harvesting Cornwall’s most abundant natural resource
In addition to its spectacular coastline, superb beaches and magnificent moorland, Cornwall benefits from a still relatively untapped natural resource – solar energy. Cornwall is solar ‘prime location’, receiving the highest amount of solar energy in the UK.
We can all share in this good fortune and harvest clean energy for our homes – but where to start? There are two types of solar panels. Both will reduce your energy bills and produce an income from government incentive schemes.
If you have a roof (small or large) facing any direction from East through south to West, your water heating costs are high and aesthetics are important to you, then solar hot water (solar thermal) panels may be for you.
One to three panels are typically required, and can be integrated into the roof to provide an unobtrusive finish (much like a Velux window). They can provide 50 to 70% of your hot water needs throughout the year, and solar thermal system owners often say that from April to September they hardly use their boiler (or immersion) at all, which reduces boiler wear and tear.
You also receive payments from the government, and, unlike Solar Photovoltaic systems, your property does not need to reach a certain energy rating to qualify for them (though you may need to increase your loft insulation and insulate any uninsulated cavity walls). Installation typically takes 2 days, and includes replacement of your existing hot water cylinder with a new, highly insulated one.
If, on the other hand, you have a larger roof and are prepared to initially pay more for potentially higher long term returns, then solar photovoltaic panels may be for you.
A typical domestic system comprises up to sixteen panels. They produce electricity during daylight hours, so to make the most of your system, think of daytime electricity as cheap rate, and use electrical appliances accordingly. Devices are available to automatically divert any surplus power you generate to your immersion heater, so you get hot water into the bargain! Your property must have an Energy Performance Certificate of D or above (which is achievable for most properties) for you to qualify for government feed in tariff payments.
Whichever way you choose, you can relax in the knowledge that you are using clean energy that will always be free, and have a valuable buffer against fluctuating energy prices for decades to come.
High quality solar thermal systems can be installed from around £4,500, and 4kW (16 panel) photovoltaic systems for around £6,500. As with any other significant home improvement, make sure that you are comfortable with the company you choose to do the work; a professionally designed and installed system using quality components installed by a reputable company will provide many years of excellent service.
Celtic Renewable Energy is a family-run MCS accredited renewable energy installer operating from off-grid premises near Launceston, which has been installing solar systems since 2001.