It’s time for solar power to go solo and axe the cash incentives, according to one of North Wales’s leading renewable energy providers.
David Jones, Managing Director of Denbigh-based Hafod Renewables, said it’s time for solar energy to pay its own way and he has backed the Government decision to scrap their subsidies for solar power next March.
The decision – which has caused an outcry in the renewable energy industry – is the right one according to David who says that solar power can now hold its own against oil, gas and conventional electric competitors.
“The tariffs are still available until March so if you sign up for a solar system before then you are still eligible but after that it will have to stand on its own two feet.
“To be honest the time is right for that to happen. Solar power isn’t a Cinderella-style operation any more. It’s a real contender and one with a better, cheaper long-term future than fossil-fuel or even nuclear generated power.”
Hafod, which was founded in Denbigh by David, a graduate in renewable energy, and his father, Richard, in 2010, has grown to employ nine people and has a turnover of £1.5 million.
Initially solar panel installation made up over 80 per cent of their business but gradually there was a move towards air and ground-source systems which overtook solar with over 60 per cent of Hafod’s business.
Earlier this year they were named as Wales’s top Renewable Heating Initiative installer, a field which covers air and ground-source as well as biomass systems, but solar is bouncing back.
In the last 12 months increasingly efficient and cheaper solar panels, often combined with sophisticated battery technology, have seen solar energy become more popular again.
There has still been predictable opposition to the Government‘s plans from the renewables sector and Frank Gordon, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, said the planned change would be “very damaging” for the industry.
“Our members are very concerned,” he said. “There are thousands of small-scale installers, 40% of whom say they could exit the solar installation market.
“That could mean 6,000 job losses for the sector if the Government follows through with this.”
Households in the feed-in tariff scheme – introduced in 2010 – are paid for the electricity they generate for themselves and for the excess energy they export onto the grid for others and can typically save up to £600 a year on their energy bills and receive around £250 per year in tariff payments.
But David, who has gone virtually off-grid at home in Trefnant, near Denbigh, with a combination of solar and air-source power which he also uses to charge his all-electric Tesla 4×4 and his partner, Jen’s, Mitsubishi Plug in hybrid, says solar is ready for the challenge.
“Solar is still worth it. The price of solar has fallen 80 percent in seven years, battery storage is now affordable and you can store the energy you generate for when you need it.
“We’re on the brink of an energy revolution. Coal is being phased out and nuclear energy is at record low levels due to under-investment in the sector and this year renewables accounted for over 30 per cent of the power used in the UK.
“Householders equipped with solar and battery will benefit the most as they will be able to charge their batteries with cheap electricity and use it in peak periods which not only saves their wallet but also helps stabilise the national grid.
“At times of high generation and low demand such as a windy, sunny Sunday afternoon the price of wholesale electricity can actually go negative which means the energy supplier pays you for taking electricity off their hands.
“Currently at peak periods, the national grid commission ‘peaking plants’ to make up the shortfall in electricity and this can be extremely costly and carbon intensive as most of the plants are diesel generators or gas turbines.
Hafod Renewables, also named as one of the UK’s top three Renewable Heating Installers, has become a key player in the region in the installation of solar and non-solar systems.
Most of their clients have been domestic systems but they have also installed solar systems on almost 100 farms and a recent ground-source system at a 16,000-hen egg farm, while other clients have included businesses, including one of Wales’s biggest boatyards, and a rugby club.