Sheffield Renewables moves into community solar PV

As mentioned in our previous blogs, Sheffield Renewables are moving into the exciting world of community-owned solar PV. Although you may think that Sheffield is too grey for solar panels, having less irradiance (the amount of useful sunlight that we receive) than other European countries is in fact beneficial for solar because:

  • The panels work more efficiently in Sheffield’s colder climate
  • The lack of direct sunshine in Sheffield means sites can be less sensitive to orientation

High latitudes and altitude have also been found to benefit solar panel efficiency. Sheffield, being the most geographically diverse city in England, has a good range of altitude. This means that there are fewer overshadowing issues.

Sheffield is also home to one of the main Solar panel testing facilities in Europe. The University of Sheffield’s Solar Farm is at the forefront of solar panel development and provides a wealth of publicly available data on solar.

Potential schemes

We are looking at schemes with a peak output of around 30-50 kW. These schemes would:

  • Require approx 200 – 400 sq. m of roof space
  • Cost £42,000 – £70,000 to install
  • Generate 20,000 – 44,000 kWh per year
  • Result in carbon savings of approx. 12.5 – 25 tons of CO2 per year
  • Would take only 2 – 3 years before they see a carbon payback
  • Ideally be south east facing

 Potential sites

We are planning to install panels on the roofs of buildings with strong community and social links, such as community organisations, schools, children’s centres and social housing. We are hoping to install our first scheme over the summer/autumn of 2013.

 Revenue

The schemes will make money through two streams of revenue:

Feed in tariff (FiT):

  • Introduced by the government to help them meet their renewable energy targets
  • Split into 2 parts, the generation tariff and the export tariff
  • Generation tariff is approx. 13.5p/kWh and the export tariff 4.5p/kWh, both linked to the Retail Price Index
  • FiTs are fixed for 20 years and once accredited the level of FiT will remain constant for that period
  • The government is offering some extra support for community schemes, such as reducing the level required for the energy performance certificate required to get the full FiT and guaranteeing FiT rates during developments of schemes

Sale of electricity to the building users:

  • This will be at a percentage below market rate

A modest return on investment will be paid to our investors. All further profits will be re-invested in further schemes and the community benefit fund. This fund will be used to support local environmental projects.

Dancing Panels

For your entertainment – some solar panels that move to follow the sun.  We don’t have the funds to do this, but it shows what can be done.