A desire to become Net Zero, to make hard-earned savings work better and to educate local children about green technology has inspired a charity to invest in a new solar PV installation delivered by NGRE.
Stokenchurch Scout and Guide Headquarters Trustees, who run and operate the Betty Messenger Building in Stokenchurch, hope the solar installation will offset nearly 7 tonnes of carbon dioxide, save them £1,000 a year on electricity bills and provide an interesting learning opportunity for the Stokenchurch Scouts and Guides who use the building.
The investment in solar renewable energy, made possible with a grant from the North West Chilterns Community Board, complements a raft of other technologies installed in the centre by the forward-thinking group when the building was erected in 2011, all designed to make it energy efficient and reduce its carbon footprint.
Jim Casper, a trustee and building manager, said: “The building was pretty efficient from the start; it is very well insulated, and we installed an air source heat pump and underfloor heating.”
Mr Casper said: “The investment in a solar solution was part of our vision to be net zero. As a group we are focused on environmental considerations – we’ve helped the parish council with the planting of trees and we’re now looking at revitalising a nearby pond – and this complements that approach.”
Investment and Cost Savings
Mr Casper said: “We also wanted to reduce our energy spend and have a better return on our investment. At the time, we had an amount of money invested but it was not getting much of a return due to low interest rates. We thought that we might get a better return if we invested in solar panels, getting a better return than it just sitting in the bank.”
He added: “Even at this time of year, in mid-January with the low winter sun, we are generating about one third of our need in terms of total energy, about 30kW, and we’re consuming most of it with our underfloor heating.
“We estimate we’ll save nearly £1000 per year.”
Mr Casper said: “The project goes hand-in-hand with educating the children. We’ve talked to them about the panels and we’re going to build it into activities. For example, we’re going to get them to do an energy survey. We can use the app to show them the impact of the lights being on, and we want them to reach the conclusion that replacing all our lighting with LEDs could be a good move.”
The new system features 37, REC 365w monocrystalline panels fitted to the south elevation of the building’s roof and is connected to a 9kW SolarEdge inverter with power optimisers to maximise performance. It will produce 13.50 kWp and is estimated to produce 13,195 kWh annually.
Greg Bishop, Managing Director of solar installation experts, NGRE, said: “The optimisers will help to exploit the system to the max. If there is any debris or shading on a panel, reducing its performance, unlike with some systems in which the whole array will be affected, the optimisers will allow the remainder to operate to their full potential.”
Users can easily monitor the system through an online portal or via the mySolarEdge mobile app. Using this they can keep track of their energy generation and energy usage either in real-time or historically using easy-to-follow charts, ensuring they use the energy produced as efficiently as possible. For example, users can compare consumption with production to see where, when, and how much of their free energy is being consumed and how much is being exported to the grid, allowing them to change to more efficient usage patterns.
Greg said: “The SolarEdge system features an impressive monitoring capability, including individual panel monitoring, that will help them get the most out of it and pinpoint any issues quickly.”
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme and Battery Storage
Mr Casper said: “The next thing we are looking at is signing up to an export tariff as soon as possible. The monitoring capabilities of the system show that even now, during some periods, we are not consuming all the energy we are producing.
“We’ve no battery yet but during the next 12 months we’ll see what the figures look like and see ways in which we can optimise the system. A battery might be one of those.”
Greg said: “The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme allows homeowners a way to earn money from the unused energy they export back to the grid. Small-scale generators should shop around to see which tariff is best for them.”
Mr Casper said: “We’re very happy with NGRE and their clean, tidy professional approach. We’ve already recommended them to two others.”
Greg said: “This is a really great story, where an organisation can reap multiple benefits from their investment, particularly in this instance, where the children will learn how renewable energy installations and self-generated energy can make a real difference.”
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