Solar family

As Germany hit 22Gw of solar electricity generation over the weekend (meeting over 50% of total electricity demand), my family was contributing to the UK electricity grid in a slightly more modest manner. My parents’ house in Birmingham has 2.9kW of solar panels installed and my brother’s house in York has 1.4kW. On Saturday they produced over 25 kW hrs of energy. At the same time we were all producing more hot water than we could possibly use through solar water heaters.

I know that it was one of the best weekends of the year for sun but it showed me that if we find lots of small ways of lowering demand and using distributed generation there’s a lot that could be done. Carbon zero in 20 years began to seem achievable to me.

For that to happen we’ll need a huge retrofitting programme — first concentrating on all council owned and housing association properties. By putting in place insulation, the most efficient windows available, thermostats and timers and then solar water heating and PV we could make a massive dent in CO2 emissions. Combine that with research into new storage techniques and major investment into things that could just solve all our problems and you could have something interesting. If that’s not investing in infrastructure for growth I’m not sure what is.

By the way if you own your own roof and have a bit of cash sitting in a saving account, you’d be mad not to get PV at the moment in the UK. Even though the feed in tariff has dropped, so has the price of the panels themselves and on a £6,000 investment you’ll get 5–10% return per year. If you can find me an ISA that gets that, let me know.
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