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Going Solar in Ireland

It is not obvious for most, as the beautiful weather has a bad reputation in Ireland.

The cost of a system and the lack of roof space could turn often down…

BUT I hope this article will demonstrate why this is a no brainer and the effort will help you with your consumption, your budget, your carbon footprint, your government, your energy supplier and your overall satisfaction.

First, this graph below is representing what we get here in Ireland.

It’s as much as the north of France or Germany where there have many systems in place already.

Sun irradiation Ireland – click on the picture to access the website

The top of the curve is the summer average and the bottom is the winter. (It doesn’t include clouds and eclipses)

Let’s first clear things: it is NOT easy to install such system. You will need to:

  • understand what prevents it.
    • own your roof,
    • a planning permission in most cases
  • have a budget
  • know your consumption (here is a helper)
  • know if your house can support such equipment
  • decide if you add a battery
  • choose the right installer
  • Maintain your installation
  • the facts
  • your benefits

What prevents you to have a Solar system above your head?

Own a roof

This sounds selective but will make the rest much easier. So anyone who lives in a share house, flat, underground, …

Alternatively you can seek options to:

  • ask your landlord,
  • acquire a surface exposed to the sun
  • share a property to trade on this activity.

No jokes, it is actually easy to become an energy supplier. Here is the CRU, ESB page, and online leaflet to understand how the microgeneration works

Planning permission

It is time to check if your potential investment is allowed as not every properties can accommodate such systems. reasons are:

  • protected architecture
  • protected area
  • local lobby
  • roof size
  • elements already present on the roof…

Your local council or government will clarify what you can or can’t do.

Currently (June 2021) you don’t need a permission to install system that is either up to 50% of the roof surface or 12 square meters. (Whichever is the minimum)

Lets cross our fingers for the future as the debate is currently happening. Let’s hope that all dark lobbies of the past will be ignored.

Local feedbacks also confirms that tiles do not need permission.

They just need to respect the 50 cm boundaries away from the border of your roof.

Have a Budget

Understand the investment payback period
Consumer vs Prosumer

Depending on how much you plan to consume, aim to limit your budget to the end of the warranty of your installation. Specially the battery, if you decide to get one.

This is the only thing you need to keep in mind.

The rest is called an investment. Remember this system will pay by itself as any unit that is not taken from the grid, is money you save on your electricity bill. In Ireland in June 2021, one unit in kWh costs between 13 and 20 cents according to the 13 official providers (source).

Direct debitPay-As you GoOn receipt of bill
13c to 20c

… for a year but if you stay on the same contract it is more 17c to 19c because a natural increase will terminate the marketing campaign that drove you into it. (I received a note for a +12% increase in 06/21)
20c to 25c

or 17c to 19c for 3 years
20c to 28c

(Purposely high as its a risk for a provider)
(standing charges anything are from €107 to €198)

The idea is to make sure that your investment could be paid back before the end of warranty or any uncovered failure.

A Cent saved is a Cent earned

– Me

SEAI info : 9c/kWh available from ESB Customer Supply

This means,

  • What you consume is twice to 3 times more expensive than what you will produce.
  • If you consume 1 unit, you will have to produce 2 to 3 to compensate.
  • If you save one, it’s up to 4 units saved

Master your consumption

It is not a legend, the energy wasted continuously hits new record as if the purpose of humanity was to be the reason of its failure.

Reminder on how to calculate the consumption

  1. the capacity of your electrical appliance, expressed in watt.
  2. the number of hours that the appliance is in use in one day.
  3. the number of days per year when the appliance is in use.

So don’t say : “My videogame console only costs €198.98” but “321.62 per year including idling costs” because yes, you spend that amount on vampire drain when not in use.

Do I need this?

keep asking yourself

This is your money, your life: any waste is the extra thing your won’t be able to afford later.

A little routine taught by your seniors will keep you tidy here as well:

  • unplug any devices that are not used
  • switch OFF: no more vampire appliances
  • get rid of all old devices if a more efficient is proven to work at least as well as the old. Attention it is not an invitation to compulsive purchase.
  • don’t save a penny on a less efficient device, the cost after is monstrous
  • close your doors if your heating/cooling system is on…
  • evaluate your consumption if your Smart Meter doesn’t tell you…

How do you consume your energy?

It’s okay to say: this is not good for me right now.

This Beautiful illustration is not a Mountain, it represents the expected production (Yellow) vs your expected consumption (Blue).
This Beautiful illustration is not a Mountain, it represents the expected production (Yellow) vs your expected consumption (Blue).

Be mindful of you habits, I mean, at what time of the day are you more active?

Modern society has surely brought the notions of early and night shift but if you can move some of the load during the period where it is cheaper to help yourself.

At best you want to cover your highest needs.

This could mean a cold and short winter day at home using your utilities.

See how you can durably offload some tasks that consume energy:

  • Is your water heated? By the sun, gaz, Electricity,…
  • What type of heating/cooling system are you using: heat exchanger, fire, gaz, electricity…
  • how do you acclimate your rooms, by radiation, ventilation, under the floor….

Quick pause here

Okay now that you have a rough idea of your budget and your consumption, the expectation is to feel more at ease with your need and your limit.

  • Can you have a solar system?
  • How many panels?
  • With our without battery?
  • Will they cover your needs? By how much (%)?
  • What will happen once you have a system?

Let’s hope the next will help your answer.

Can your house support this system?

Urbanization anarchically eating the rest of your surfaces to turn it into a wasteland instead of optimizing space

Structure

How was your house built? (wood, stones, blocks, mixed…) such system could become very heavy considering the panels, elements of support, electrical devices, batteries …

Count at least an add on of 500KG if not more. This will work on the entire structure.

Electrical network

How old are your cable, the fuse box and all other elements?

This is consider as a major update so make sure that your system can handle the change.

This conversation can happen with a qualified electrician.

Orientation

These elements will directly contribute to your performances:

  • Roof orientation
  • Roof inclination
  • Elements in the roof (chimneys, antennas…)
  • neighborhood (tall buildings, trees, powerlines…)

Here is a series of links to help:

Power, Performance, Quality, Warranty

The solar panel works with… The light spectrum! Yes, the light. However the best way to know how if your system will be optimal is to understand this:

  • max power generated by a panel are the consequence of the:
    • type of cells available to public
      • Monocrystalline, most efficient, and beautiful dark colors stands at 22-27%
      • Polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline), less efficient but usually blue ish.
      • Amorphous (or thin-film) least efficient but still good if well made between 15-22%
    • Size of panel
      • the bigger the better unless you can chain more smaller one on your roof (like tiles)
    • type of glass used
  • Performance will be reduced by
    • The angle in which the panels is fitted:
      The sun will change with the rotation of the (non flat) planet.
      So expect that system will not work at night.
      The system will also be less effective in winter.
      A Tracking system can increase the performance if the panels are not on a roof and the cost can’t be explained
    • The weather
      Clouds, rain, hail, snow…
    • The heat
      Performances advertised are usually measured between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius
      Any degree in temperature above or below will decrease the performances from 0.2/0.5 % per degree. (Source)
    • The Quality of the panels
      Scratches, Cracks…
      It is important to know how the manufacturer makes them.
      Usually the website and comparison websites will help
    • How clean you are
      Dust, Dirt from animals, …
      Even if a good panel has a self cleaning glass, a regular wash eventually be suggested.

So ideally you would have a standard: Power/square meter and a price associated to it according to quality regardless of the brand: I have not found it yet.

Instead you will have to dreadful triangle: Cost/Quality/Availability chose max 2.

You can still compare the last lab searches and brands showing off on the NREL.

Decide if you add a battery

This part is so costly, it will actually challenge the whole idea of going solar.

Quick reminder:

  • A battery is a chemical element that is subject to natural degradation over time
  • A chemical reaction is influenced by atmospheric conditions (extreme cold and heat will reduce the performances)
  • Keeping a battery completely empty or full all the time accelerates the degradation.
  • An electrical system needs a regular maintenance
  • This device takes less and less space, works silently and could emit some heat.

In Ireland going off grid is not a standard behavior. Therefore a power outage needs to be reflected in a house for safety reasons.

In short, imagine that your system keeps delivering power in the network while a maintenance was planned: you can literally be responsible of a regrettable situation. So unless you ask, a solar system with a battery will shut down with a power outage.

If you chose a system without battery, you accept to use the grid as a massive battery service.

If you accept a system without panels, you can configure it to recharge when it’s cheap to deliver when it’s expensive. Some are actually happy with this reduction but with Smart Meter the risk is to see a movement in peak time that will force a refresh of your settings.

Yes, the battery can also be charged by the grid, this is inefficient but it can be configured.

Prefer a battery system that is paid back before the end of its basic warranty.

Every columns are your battery over time, this should give an idea on how the battery wears out

Out of these reminders, depending on your configuration, the battery has advantages:

  • The sun light is not a regular source.
    If it doesn’t produce enough, if charged, your battery will compensate so you don’t need the grid.
  • The (charged) battery will be delivering energy regardless of the time
    (it could remove the peak times imposed by a provider)
  • You can use the battery as Uninterruptible Power Source
    for your computers or your fridge
    or the whole house in specific configurations (you will need to discuss with ESB and your electrician for that)
  • You can send all excess back to the grid…
    This also means your system is oversized for a house consumption
    It is however totally valid if you plan to become a provider (don’t forget to change your 6kW per year, source page 9 for consumers)

Multiple charge circle will degrade the batteries but this is considered as a normal operation. This can actually last 25 years but do not use this number for your budget, prefer the end of warranty.

In fact use the Payback day as starting point for the next upgrade, you never know what the future will bring.

Choose the right installer

Between nationwide companies sponsored by a energy provider or not and the amateur that managed to power his off-the-grid mansion, the only difference is price you will have to pay at the very end called: damage control.

Ideally you want to choose a system that covers your needs in winter when the sun shines less and your consumption increases.

Your budget and any other influencers will drag it down, with this idea you will probably chose between. My personal opinion is: below the consumer limits suggested by your government, it is not too big because it pays by itself. Alternatively, do not hesitate to wait for this near one off payment.

The cost of the installation service could be the main part of the invoice so make sure that installation happens once otherwise you can explode your budget.

An installer will make profit on

  • the service,
  • the hardware
  • administration fees and so on.

They will be happy to come back. And it will be difficult for them to stop your ambition and wait.

Do your homework and take your time, this should last for a generation and most of the providers will want to assume that you did:

  • What are the local legal standards
    • SEAI will be a good starting point to inform yourself. in fact the best.
    • You can also apply to receive a grant until they remove it.
  • Does the company has accreditations, certifications, recognitions, affiliations …
    • you can ask when you are in contact with the provider and verify.
    • you can check the SEAI portal
  • What are the average reviews (avoid promoted opinions)
  • Compare them and let them know.
  • Don’t just fall a deal, ad or other attractive baits
  • Search and compare the price of the hardware proposed.
  • Is the installer passionate by his job…
  • what services are offered?
    • Is there a maintenance service after?
    • do they care after point of sales?
  • Prefer local because the equipment is anyway unlikely to come from Ireland but at least you help someone from your community

I worked with https://www.southernsolarelectrical.com/ for all of these reasons and recommend to keep Mark, Frances and Brian busy because they literally fought through elements and the global economy to help 🙂

The job is usually done in 3 days unless it rains.

Maintain your installation

This part is so easy, it feels like the job is nearly done… BUT

If you maintain your system, you keep you warranty valid and guarantee a maximum performance ratio for a long term.

Keep your panels cleaned but too often is uselessly expensive.
Most panel will use the benefits of the frequent natural showers to clean themselves.
Thanks Ireland for this. (Yes, you can say it)

If this is really not enough and with time, cleaning services should appear, offering many pampering options, if they are really good at convincing:

  • Ideally do it before sun rise or after sunset
  • Turn off the DC switch
  • Never walk on a panel
  • High pressure wash is often not recommended as panels are not sealed on the edges
  • Only use ambient temperature water
  • Additives will pollute, be mindful about that; a soap will help cleaning the modules. (Some use the water harvested to feed plants and animals)
  • Abrasive materials will increase the glass opacity soft brush are the only option even if it takes more time.
  • Let them dry and power your system back on.

Your panel will passively deliver don’t worry for them they should not move, minus effects from:

  • Their angles, if they are not perfectly aligned with the sun
  • Any interference between the cells and the sun (remember: weather, heat, light, dust…)
  • Any damages
  • Disconnections

Modern society has surely brought the notions of early and night shift but if you can:

  • move some of the heavier loads during the period where the sun shines.
  • prefer, as before, the night for quieter activities this will affect your battery less

Know your facts

About the smart meter

You have probably also seen a lot about the smart meters and their benefits but this is what I understand from reality

Important, a failure in one of these 4 conditions will make you lose rewards:

  • your meter accepts the backward rotation when your energy is sent to the grid.
  • the rotation goes the same speed both way
  • your supplier accepts the meter going both way
  • Don’t let your provider be too intrusive on the frequency of measurements.
    A maximum of 4 readings per year is recommended by ESB. This is more than enough. (Frequent measurements of your consumption will give an impression that your system doesn’t perform well enough and will consider unfairly the exchanges operated between your installation and the grid).

There are 4 types of meters in Ireland and ALL of them are approved:

  • Mechanical revolving disc meters
  • Electronic meters
  • Pay as You Go meters (may not be compatible)
  • Smart Meters

Non-Smart Meters

Most, will measures the units of electricity coming from point A to point B:
Let say A is the grid and B your house
If the electricity is produced by the house the meter will turn backward as much as you produce unless specified in contract.

It will turn at the same speed.

It cannot be accessed remotely so manual readings are needed.

No other services will be made available (No info on your phone or sent to your provider, you do the measurements and let someone read the meter from time to time)

Cannot measure when your peak of consumption happens and from what device.

You need to give access to your reader up to 4 times per year if you are not a commercial structure

If it is broken, ESB will replace for free.

Smart Meter

Measures the units of electricity coming from the grid to you house only until the Feed in Tarif are in place (hope was set for July 2021, so now).

In short, it is a connected device (2G Network); Health and safety and network security have been guaranteed by ESBN.
The campaign of replacement aims to answer the new European directive about energies, increase readings accuracy and reduces the cost of the nationwide system.

Consequences are savings for the nationwide energy infrastructure:

  • less staff deployed to read meters,
  • less mistakes,
  • better accuracy on the peak periods due to multiple reading (every 30 minutes that is 4380 time more controls in a year)
  • Easier to adjust tariffs and peaks to force a spread of load

That’s why most will complain about an increase on their bills and intrusive behavior (that also absorbs the conversion).

Nothing guarantees that data cannot be overwritten remotely.
Power can be cut remotely.

Precise measure of your consumption.
User friendly interface.
Helps you spot where/when you consume the most but does not guarantee savings.
It will however be beneficial for everyone because the loads will be spreader during the day nationwide.

Damaged are at users cost.

and NO it is not mandatory to have one.

You Can refuse an installation. You can’t roll back

Common for both

  • Import/Export have to be negotiated with ESB. Your provider should be unhappy to support such competitive system but should not forbid it.
  • Standing fees will apply with your provider regardless.
  • The effects are not observed straight away on your next bill. An estimate bill can still come. You may need to do some research there.

Myth and rumours

Benefits

It’s probably never said enough… and yes anything above sounds now negative.

Better control of my consumption

All system will come with an inverter.

This device will, in most cases be programmable.

All data could be consolidated on an app.

Your interface will show you:

  • your production
    • what you use
    • what you send to the grid
    • what you send to the battery or any backup system
  • your consumption
    • what you use from the panels
    • what you get from the grid
    • what the battery provides
  • when, at the minute

Your smart meter is therefore redundant here because you will know when your are using what.

This could influence your habits like:

  • No need to wait the night to have cheaper prices
  • Summer can pay for winter
  • If you have an electric car, you can charge it for free
  • You will run after any vampire electronics

Prosumer

A consumer will just pay. You are in a position where you will pay a fair price or even less if well negotiated.

The system pays by itself.

What else in your house brings passive money back? (Excluding your clan)

Your roof

Your roof has now two functions: covering and harvesting (Heat, light and water).

Also if you have the traditional panel version you may create a sort of umbrella that makes less heat in the attic by exposing less of your tiles.

Environment and health

Right now a standard energy provider who says that he is fully green enters in a greenwashing conflict with the official report made by the government as in 2020 only up to 32% Maximum was coming from renewable resources like the wind. It’s literally redirecting your open fire chimney back in your house every time your use electricity.

None of your energy suppliers want to scare you on this you lovely golden gooses. Because the rest is made of burning materials that you breath everyday. But you can help reduce that.

They rather charge you as well for the losses in transportation, the Smart Meter and marketing campaign. You can also reduce this.

Anyway, it has so many big benefits that it can only be made for the best first, right?

Be the change, Stay Awake Adaptable, Future proof.

Thanks for reading
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