Yesterday at about 11am I ran away from my desk to put the washing on, vacuum the house and plug in anything that needs recharging. Work distractions apart, it’s unusual behaviour for me during the working day.
But I suspect it will be familiar to anyone who has had rooftop solar installed, because that is the point – the first sunny day since the install – when the battery was fully charged, the panels were generating and the system was spilling onto the grid. What a waste of a kWh! My system is too new to have an export tariff in place – and even I did have one, reducing import has to be more beneficial than exporting.
The solar was installed as part of a joint buying scheme run by the local council. I’m slightly shocked that I really have no idea how the costs stack up, versus making all the arrangements myself. But it reduced the organisation process to a couple of forms and a short survey visit – less time than I would probably have spent working out how to begin organising the process if I had done it myself.
Getting from order to installation was a bit more difficult, as the company seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the organisational challenge (despite the best efforts of their staff) and, to be fair, had to cope with the Omicron Covid variant. Several different installation dates came and went. But the actual installation was quick and easy (and largely mess-free, despite minor wiring internally).
About ten days in, I’m still fascinated by the result – helped by a cheerful app that shows in real time when the system is generating, and the power flows between panels, battery, grid and consumption.
Some things that I had expected are still surprising to watch.
• Although the roof is not South-facing (more like East South East), it picks up sun for much longer than I expected. Charge is still trickling in on a sunny day towards 4pm. That will change as the sun moves around in the summer but it will also start earlier.
• It’s really responsive. Today, during storm Eunice, it is doing a lot of charging during brief periods as the wind drives cloudbanks past, and still getting some during the cloudier moments, of course.
• Gloomy days don’t mean no generation, just less. It still covers a good proportion of the usage.
• Also, I can see that the battery is really important and will be more so as we get into the summer. The maximum generation seldom coincides with maximum use and there is a limit to how much extra vacuuming I will do. The orientation means in the summer it will be charging in the early hours while I am still fast asleep.
• I now begrudge the gas used to heat up my stovepot coffee in the morning when the panels are generating. My next cooker will have to be electric.
• It’s really true – at least so far – that it is a gateway to interest in energy and carbon saving. Millennials in the house have been switching off lights and asking whether it is a good time to put the washing on. And how much charge is in the battery!
• It’s been a fairly simple process and has created some buzz among friends – and a useful example, as many people assume that they need a south-facing roof to generate at all and here is living proof taht you don’t. However, it’s not the case that your friends want continual updates on how your panels are doing.
• I’m not too concerned about a power outage in storm Eunice, as the battery is at half charge and topping up.
And finally, I’m not convinced scaffolders actually have a yard. They just leave it on your house until they want to move it to another job.