My Solar System


The solar panels

The solar panels






In early spring I was making energy while the sun shone – my solar panels were trapping me about £1.30 worth of EDF’s payback per hour on sunny middles of days when the sun was high.

On a really good day I earn a tax-free £8 – shame it’s not been such a great summer recently. However, I estimate that the £11,000 outlay will be paid back via the Feed-in-Tariff in about six or seven years. EDF are just about to pay me about £750 for all the electricity that I have generated since February.

My neighbours, Tony and Angela Jones and Nigel and Karen Hutchings have had solar panels since December, and no doubt their panels have earned a bit more than mine.

As a supporter of green energy and having been teaching my science classes about global warming and its effects upon our more extreme weather, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to cash in on the government’s offer to pay 43p for every unit of electrical energy generated by solar panels. It’s very encouraging that the government has been willing to pay about three times as much as electricity costs us through the meters when we get it from the roof.

Add to that the fact that they let you use it (all of it if you can) and they still pay the Feed-in-Tariff for every kilowatt I make per hour. Even better, it used to be 43p, but it’s index linked (and guaranteed to be for the next 25 years), so since April they’ve been paying 45p. As well as all that, EDF make a calculation that 50% of the electricity is fed back into the grid for others to use, and they pay an extra 3p per unit for that.

The best bit for me (though sadly I’m no longer getting away with it as they’ve mended it) is the electricity that I did not use went backwards through my EDF meter, turning the little flat wheel in reverse, winding down my electricity bill. But this week they changed my meter to a new one with a ‘backstop’!

If I make electricity fast, when the sun is strong, my meter reading stands still. In bright sun I can boil a powerful 3KW kettle all lunchtime for free. In a dull summer I can manage to play Captain Beefheart CDs and use my electric drills all day without the meter turning.

The trick now is to judge when to turn on the immersion heater, and when to put on the washing machine. If I get it right, I can sometimes do all that without needing any electricity from EDF – and that is saving the pollution from a power station making my tea. Sometimes the meter just turns slowly, so I need to wait for good weather and put up with a waiting pile of washing up!

At least the bill is less than it could have been now that the sun is helping. But I think I might get myself a slow-cooker if the weather doesn’t improve soon!

Thomas Edison said:

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Mike Ritson

August 2012 (Fete Special issue)