I will be the first person to put my hand up and say I am no expert in power generation, environmental consultancy or finance, but there is something very satisfying about knowing your solar panels are crackling into life at 4.50 am in the morning.
We have a 99.6 kWp system on our factory roof. The install was done at the same time our roof was replaced with a modern insulated roof replacing a corrugated asbestos tiles. The size was limited to the local grid’s capacity in our road. Above 100kW, there was a jump in cable sizes at several locations, making the return on investment less attractive. That said the 100kW system covers a lot of our demand and covers the majority of our roof.
We are a small Engineering business in Andover that runs a number power hungry CNC machines. Prior to the system going into service we paid around £2,000 per month for our electricity. This has on average halved clearly indicating the payback opportunity for this investment.
Where it works for our business is that we use all the power we generate, so we do not need to rely on the subsidised feed in tariffs to make the system viable. Our system when live as the feed in tariffs expired so our exported power is purchased at only 3 to 4p per kWh. Not having to pay for the power, effectively makes the rate 13.5p per kWh making the investment much more attractive, while only receiving the low rate at the weekend when not in use. With an initial investment of £70k, this project looks to have paid for itself within 5 years. I am sure that with subsidies on feed in tariffs that early investors got an even faster return, we are quite happy with what we have achieved. With a 20 year minimum life on the system it was an easy decision to make.
Moving on from a purely financial investment as a family run business, and personally as a father of 3, I feel it is right to do our best to protect the environment. As an industry perceived as dirty and energy hungry it is nice to move away from that image before we are forced by our customers or legally mandated to do so by the government.
The software that comes with the system gives you feed back on how the system is performing. A sunny May produced over 15MWh of power. With days over 600kWh covering all our energy needs.
We have fitted an Electric Vehicle charging point on the side of the factory, which we allow free charging during daylight ours for employees and customers. This has seen little use to date, but it is important to look forward to the needs in the future.
The final feature that makes me smile is a little icon that tell me the CO2 reduction and equivalent trees planted. I know this is somewhat of a gimmick, but it makes easier to rationalise as a non-expert what you are doing for the environment. It is difficult to relate to what 128 tonnes of CO2 equates to. Having had the system logging data for just under a year now, we are running at the environmental SI unit of around 1 tree per day.
The Bowyer Engineering PV system:
272 x JA Solar 72 cell photovoltaic panels
4 x Solis 25K 3 phase Inverters