“Sorry, honey, I can’t do the ironing you scheduled for me (as if!), because the sun has gone in.”
So, to make the best use of the system, we are learning that heavy-use appliances should be used during daylight hours and also sequentially.
This is not always possible but it’s a good aspiration.
We did consider thermal panels, which heat water. But the house has been added to at different times so there are a few different ways of heating water which are not integrated.
Solar PV produces electricity, so can be used to power anything electrical.
The downside of this is that either the energy has to be used when it is being generated or stored for use at another time. Electricity is not easy to store, and batteries are expensive.
The PV panels take up a fair bit of roof space. From an aesthetic point of view, we were hesitant to put them on the house so were lucky that there is a shed nearby with the same south/south-east aspect.
We had two reasons for installing solar power: to reduce our electricity bill and, perhaps more importantly, to reduce our environmental impact.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is offering grants of €700 per kW of installed power, up to a maximum of 4kW, plus €1,000 for a 2.4kWh battery, on houses built before 2011. The cost for a 3kW system would be in the region of €7-8,000 (less the grant).
Our job was done by a Tipperary-based company SolarCo. We went for a 6kW, plus the battery, which cost almost €11,000, and qualifies for the full grant of €3,800.
So it’s not cheap. The financial return on thermal panels is reckoned to be about six years, those on PVs about twice that. We’re promised that maintenance is minimal.
But there is an even bigger barrier to the widespread uptake of solar energy technology, as any excess electricity not used in the house is currently exported to the grid for free.
In the UK, by contrast, ordinary houseowners can make a nice few quid out of selling their excess. I personally would be happy just to be able to get credit for the excess produced.
A recent report from the European think tank CE Delft found that almost half of EU citizens could produce almost half of the EU’s energy by 2050.
But our government is slow to take action.
However, a private members’ bill, the Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill 2017, has put forward by Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley.
It would allow households, farms and community groups to receive payment for excess power they generate from renewable energy sources.
I’ve heard that it will be next year at least before its enacted.