Friday 21 June 2013

Wrong on Many Levels

The solarblogger is Concerned For You

While out and about near Cambridge, I passed a building site and snapped this photo. 

Discretion is my middle name

I guess I was planning to rant on my blog about one or all of the following (take your pick):

  • The box-ticking mentality that results in house builders giving their customers a 0.5kWp solar photovoltaic system – something that no one would ever buy for their own home (see my earlier blog Specifying Solar for New Build Houses)

  • Why the designers didn’t choose one of the many low-profile roof integrated solar options that would have been so very easy to do as a new roof was going on anyway.

It was only when I downloaded the photo and reviewed it on a larger screen, that I realised what I’d inadvertently caught.

Did you see that in the background?  If the guy working on the roof between the solar panels slips, they’re both coming down.

Can you see what it is yet?

I’m guessing what we’re looking at here is the result of having to install to a price. In new build, the panels are often fixed in place by the roofing contractor and you can’t complete the electrical installation until there’s mains power in the house (which normally means long after the scaffolding has gone). Repeat visits to site are costly, better to do it all in one trip than to make the electrical connections to the panels when the scaffold is up.  Must be really tempting to just nip up there on a ladder and get it done.

Is there a better way?  Well, one option is to roof-integrate the solar panels at the same time the roof covering is going on, pass the electrical connections from each panel through into the roof space and the whole system can be connected up from inside the building.

Perhaps you think I'm worrying unnecessarily for the welfare of my solar colleagues?  Is this 'elf and safety gone mad?  If the ladder was tied on, would that make it OK? Please post your thoughts in the comments box below...

Note Added: 22/07/2013

People have started to send me photos of their own - I have started an image set on Flickr here.  Please keep 'em coming!

Wednesday 12 June 2013

SAP 2012 Gives Solar Heating a Boost

What the Government's new Calculation Means for Solar

Credit: Viridian Solar

Ahead of the announcement of the new Building Regulations later this summer, BRE has published the accompanying energy calculation, the Standard Assessment Procedure, or SAP.  

If you think this document is only relevant to the new build sector, you would be wrong. SAP is also the basis for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), and therefore is also highly influential in the refurbishment of existing homes, for example under the Green Deal. SAP Appendix H is also used by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) for installers of solar heating to provide customers with an estimate of their likely energy savings. Finally, whichever of the proposed routes to calculate payments under the forthcoming incentive scheme for renewable heat, the domestic RHI, is chosen, SAP lies behind it somewhere.

This document is not for the faint-hearted, comprising a thick booklet of dense calculations and notes. Fortunately the solarblogger has done the heavy lifting, so you don't have to...

A detailed assessment has been published as a briefing document available from the Viridian Solar website, but here's a quick round up of the headlines:

 New postcode-based irradiation data (PV&T)
The UK average irradiation remains the same, but the value varies depending on location with northern Scotland around 10% below the average and southern England around 10% above.  This feeds directly into the solar pv estimate, but results in a smaller +/- 5% change across the country for solar heating.

► Updated fuel carbon emissions factors (PV&T)
Carbon savings from solar electricity reduce by 2%, carbon emissions avoided by solar thermal replacing natural gas increase by 9%

 Addition of hot water use factor (T)
There is a 29% increase in hot water used from the hot water cylinder in the solar thermal calculation if no electric showers are present, and a reduction of 36% if only electric showers are present. This produces a 20% increase in solar heating energy in SAP Appendix H compared to the previous version

 Reduction in solar pump electricity consumption (T)
The 75kWh flat rate for the solar pump electricity consumption is reduced to 50kWh for mains powered solar pumps, based on evidence from EST solar thermal field trials submitted by EST and Solar Trade Association

 Addition of second order coefficient for thermal panel efficiency (T)
Creates a level playing field (for more information see my paper on this issue here)

So What Does it all Mean?


For solar PV, the main impact will be on new build housing.  Here the changes are relatively neutral, being a 2% drop in carbon savings on average due to the lower emissions factor for solar electricity. Of course, compared to the previous version of SAP, which used a single figure for irradiation for the entire country, some areas have increased significantly while others have fallen. (See map, below)

Credit: Viridian Solar

For retrofit PV the recent MCS PV installation Guide has already implemented a new energy calculation based on a different set of  irradiation data.  This produces slightly higher energy outputs than SAP 2012.  The discrepancy could be explained by the different uses of each calculation, with the MCS method taken to predict year one energy (with solar panel performance degradation taken into account later for any financial forecasts).  By contrast, SAP is more aimed at producing a whole life average estimate.

Solar Thermal

For solar heating, the calculation impacts both new build and retrofit, and in a really positive way. (See map, top of post)

In new build, carbon savings will increase significantly for almost all homes with solar heating.  The new adjustment factor for electric showers rightly produces a disincentive to install these alongside solar heating.  I reckon that overall the boost to solar heating carbon savings from all the changes is worth between 17% and 31% depending on where the house is.

In retrofit situations, the MCS installer will perform an energy calculation  for the customer using SAP Appendix H. The new version of SAP will an average of a 20% boost to the solar energy estimate, again differing depending on the location of the installation.  

Further changes are coming down to road to improve things even more in MCS, more on this soon....