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Solar Power

Solar Thermal

We have hot water heating via solar power. This produces most of our hot water in the summer months and quite a bit the rest of the year. About half what we use in total. Not bad for northern Scotland!
Grand Total of  5500 in 4 years. We have a Genersys system with 3 panels. We had to replace our hot water tank anyway as it was leaking.  The new one is larger and really well insulated so the hot water from one sunny day can carry over into the next rainy day. The heat pump now tops up the temperature if there is not enough sun. or we also have the option of an electric immersion heater, but this hasn't really been needed since the heat pump has been in action.  We received a grant for one third of the £4000 cost. The tank would have cost £1000 anyway so we will pay back the difference in 7 years time at current prices, but we are also wasting a lot less hot water through having a better insulated tank. If its a really sunny day and the water has hit maximum I run round trying to find more washing to do so we don't waste the sunshine! We often don't need any more heating for weeks at a time in the summer months.

Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) panels
We have a 3.5kW system consisting of 15 panels on our main roof. This is eligible for 'feed in tariffs' at 41p per kWh we generate for 25 years. It generated 3100kWh in it's first two years; 10% more than predicted by our installers and 20% more than the Energy Saving Trust calculator which seems to significantly underestimate returns particularly in this area.  We also get paid 3.2p for every kW we export if we produce more than we need at that time. The system cost about £13000 (we ended up having to get another bit of kit costing about £1000 because we had both wind and solar, which shouldn't really have been necessary but this was due to the way regulations were interpreted) It should generate income and savings worth about £1400, paying for itself in about 8 years. The tariffs reduce the longer you leave it, so its worth getting on with it if you can. Prices of panels have fallen quite a lot even since we installed them at the end of November 2010.
Although there is less sunlight this far north these solar panels are most efficient at 20 degrees, so the cooler climate makes up for this to some extent.
The panels were installed by Leeds Solar. They use a very good calculator which have been pretty accurate so far. Actually we have exceeded expected production on all but one month. Interestingly production peaked as predicted in May. 
The Feed in Tariffs are continuing to be cut gradually every three months but the rate of reduction is based on how many installations take place. The rate of pay back is still very good, much better than financial return on most investments right now and installing renewable energy means free electricity once finances are paid off which is very attractive for those anticipating or experiencing retirement.