Solar Elecricity

 

 

When driving around the countryside here, it is a common site to see fields of solar panels which are capturing the sun’s energy and converting it to electricity which is fed into the grid so the power providers can sell it back to us.  As you drive past, you may be asking yourself how you can also use the sun to generate your own electricity at home and help reduce your electricity bills. Well, you can do this with a solar panel electricity system, also known as photovoltaic (PV).

 

 

How do I make my own electricity?

If your house is already connected to the electricity grid, then you will probably need to have a grid connected solar electricity system. Basically, this consists of solar panels, or a solar array, which provide your home’s power needs during the day time while still being connected via an inverter to the local electric grid network. The grid provides power during the night time, or times when the solar system is not meeting all your electricity needs such as during a prolonged cloudy spell, which is luckily not that common in this area of Spain!

 

 

How do I connect to the grid?

As well as installing the necessary equipment, you will need to ensure that the installation has the correct permissions and certifications from the power supplier and the Ministry of Interior to ensure it meets current safety and electrical legislation.  Your installer should provide that as part of the installation process, as otherwise if the system is not correctly registered, you may be subject to fines or prosecution.

 

 

What if I am not connected to the grid?

Don’t worry, you can have an off-grid system and store surplus photovoltaic electricity in batteries for when you need it.  In addition, you could also consider having a generator as an additional back-up.  This kind of installation is not subject to the same registration requirements as the grid connected one. 

 

 

What maintenance do Solar PV Systems require?

Good news! If the system is correctly installed, it should require very little maintenance. It is important to keep the panels clean so they can capture as much of the sun’s energy as possible. Also keep an eye on any trees that may grow up and create shade for the panels as this will make the system less efficient.

Renewable Energy Feature

 

 

You may have seen various articles in the Spanish press recently about the current drought that Spain is experiencing.  Although periods of drought are relatively common in Spain, this September was the driest this century.  As the lack of rain has continued into Autumn, we have seen devastating wild fires in the north and speed limits put in place around Madrid to try and reduce the pollution affecting the city.

 

However, the drought this year has also had another, possibly for many people unexpected, effect.  It has caused an increase in the cost of electricity.  According to laSexta Noticias, this Summer our electricity bills have been 6.5% more expensive than last Summer, which works out around 68 Euros more per household for the first six months of 2017 than for the first six months of 2016.

 

The reason for this cost increase is that in 2017 hydroelectricity has only met about 10% of the total electricity demand in Spain compared with 20% for the same period in 2016.  Usually a cheap source of power, the lower amount of hydroelectricity being generated is affecting prices in the market.

 

When it rains, the power companies have to switch on turbines to protect the dams around the reservoirs from being breached and this movement of water generates a cheap source of power. However, when there is no rain and the water levels in the reservoirs are low, the power companies can choose when to activate the turbines and various sources allege that the time when they choose to do this is when electricity prices are at their highest. In the meantime, our electricity must come from other more expensive sources.

 

What can you do as a consumer? Well, it is always important to be careful with your water usage and not waste this precious resource. Here are some handy tips to follow:

  • Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth
  • Always use full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher
  • Take a shorter shower
  • Fix a dripping tap

 

As last month’s article highlighted, you can also make use of another renewable energy source, the sun, to generate your own free electricity and heat your water to lower your electricity bills. Lack of rain means there has been more sunshine which is great for generating solar energy, but solar panels still work on cloudy days too if we do get that longed-for rain.

Renewable Energy Feature 2

 

Green Energy Predictions for 2018 and beyond

 

As the New Year begins, here at Free-Sol Solar we’ve been carrying out the usual annual reviews and planning but we thought it may be interesting to share some future trends from the renewable industry.  Whilst all of these products exist today, there may be a little way still to go before they become part of our day-to-day lives…

  • Solar Powered Cars

As the world’s automotive manufacturers plough their research and development funds into electric cars, last year Sono Motors, a start-up from Munich launched the Sion, a solar powered car. In October, a Dutch futuristic family car, Nuna 9, won the annual World Solar Challenge in Australia after travelling at an average speed of 81.2kmh. Maybe you are thinking the next car you buy will be an electric one and as technology continues to develop with a solar car, your car will be capable of generating more power than it consumes and when it is parked at home, it can be charging and supplying energy back to the grid.

  •  Solar Clothing

Researchers in Japan have developed a solar cell that can be

attached to clothes and washed. The ultra-thin organic cell is stretchy and flexible and is expected to be used for wearable devices and e-textiles. The aim was to develop a power source for sensors monitoring things like blood pressor, heartbeat and body temperatures that can be easily attached onto clothes. 

Will this mean no more charging your wearable devices?

  • Emission-free air taxis

The HY4 plane can carry four people, including the pilot and runs on an electrical current from a supply of hydrogen and oxygen, aided by a battery. It is a greener way to travel as it emits nothing except water vapour into the atmosphere.  Instead of the Murcia to Madrid AVE you maybe taking an emission-free air taxi in future.

 

Whatever the long-term future may hold, the renewable energy industry is agreed that when it comes to solar, not only have solar panelsgot cheaper but they have got more functional also. 

Will 2018 be the year you start having the sun work for you?

Renewable Energy Feature 3

 

New Year, New Prices

 

Now the new year is underway and the holidays are well and truly behind us, we are starting to feel the effects of the annual price increases for basic services. As discussed in previous articles, the drought and lack of wind in 2017 as well as the cold spell at the end of the year caused the cost of electricity to rise. December saw our electricity bills increase by an average of 4.6%, with an overall increase of 10% for 2017.

 

Gas and water also did not escape the price rises. Last month the costs of gas increased 6.2% and at the time of writing, we are waiting to see if the cost of a gas bottle will go up again following the increase of 2.1% in November. The cost increases for water vary city by city but someone living in Murcia pays 6 times more for domestic water usage than someone living in Soria.

 

We’ve shared some basic tips on how to save water before so here are some tips for how you can save electricity and help reduce your energy bills at home.

  • Use more natural lighting at home. Open curtains and blinds and let the sun light your house. Always turn lights out when leaving a room, regardless of how long for.
  • Rethink your outdoor lighting system. Leaving outside lights on all night can waste a lot of electricity. Instead consider getting solar powered automatic security lights with motion detectors and replacing decorative lights with solar powered ones to complement your garden and pathways.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs inside your home. LED bulbs are more energy efficient and they save a lot of electricity and money over time.  
  • Unplug all your appliances and electronics when not in use as they continue using electricity when plugged in, even when the switches are turned off. They may all use small amounts of energy, but it adds up over time. Alternatively, there are products such as standby savers available that allow you to turn all your appliances off standby in one go.
  • Replace your appliances with energy-efficient models. AAA rated appliances are the most efficient and will save you the most money. Drying clothes outdoors costs nothing and uses no energy.
  • Heating and hot water typically accounts for over 60% of what you spend a year on energy bills. Switching to renewable energy solutions such as solar hot water heating; solar electricity and biomass (wood-fuelled including pellets) heating systems can help save you money as well as being kinder to the environment.

Electric Cars to rule the world’s roads

 

Is it true as National Geographic reports that the petrol engine may be like the horse and buggy a century ago: doomed to a rapid demise? With car manufacturers investing a great deal of research and development budget into electric cars, we thought we would investigate the factors driving this trend and what it may mean for renewable energy.

 

Researchers show that 90% of all passenger vehicles in the US, Canada and Europe could be electric by 2040.  If this trend is correct, then CO2 emissions can be cut by 3.2 billion tons a year.  Government commitments to reduce emissions are pushing the car makers to invest in the development of electric cars.  The UK, the Netherlands and France have promised to ban the sale of fossil fuel-burning cars and vans by 2040.  With Germany being hard hit by the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal of 2015 and more recently the revelations that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW also funded experiments in which monkeys and humans breathed in car fumes for hours at a time, it can be expected to also adopt a similar ban soon.

If electric vehicles are more energy efficient and help reduce harmful emissions from being expelled into the atmosphere, why are not all new cars purchased today electric?  Well, the reality is that unless you have somewhere to park your electric vehicle that’s close to an electrical supply, you won’t be able to charge it.  You also need to plan as it takes much longer to charge an electric vehicle than it does to fill up a car with fuel.  Currently electric vehicles can do around 120 to 150 miles without having to be charged but that is a lot less than the average car will do on a tank of fuel.

These current limitations for electric cars are having a positive effect on the renewable energy sector in general though.  The automotive industry is helping drive development into improving battery technology and both Tesla and Nissan have solutions also for home energy storage. The infrastructure for charging is being extended and additional investment is being made in generating electricity via renewable methods such as solar.  This means we can expect to see better and cheaper batteries and solar panels come to market as a result.

Longer term, there are still some issues to be addressed such as a potential lack of lithium or cobalt, that are used to make up the batteries.  The supply of these raw materials may limit the number of electric vehicles than can be produced, unless other solutions are found.  Today it seems the most eco friendly transport choice is to walk or ride a push bike.

Renewable Energy Feature 4

We often hear people who have either recently moved to Spain, or who are visiting from other Northern European countries, say that they are surprised to see so few houses with solar panels here when there is so much sunshine. It does seem strange that in countries such as Germany or the UK, for example, with much lower solar radiation than Spain, there are many more photovoltaic self-consumption installations. Some industry experts, including the PV industry association (UNEF) put the blame for this on the Royal Decree 900/2015 saying that it sets unnecessary administrative barriers and that it is discriminative against PV.

What is the Royal Decree (RD) 900/2015?  This is the regulation in Spain that governs the renewable energy facilities that produce electricity supply for self-consumption. In other words, it aims at regulating the solar electricity system that you may wish to install at your home to generate your own electricity, as well as regulating larger commercial installations.

One of the reasons for its unpopularity, was that the RD 900/2015 introduced what has become known as the “sun tax”.  However, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the sun tax and it does not in fact apply to consumers who intend to consume the electricity generated by their own system and who have an installation of less than 10kW.  The RD 900/2015 establishes two kinds of models:

Type 1 Supply with Self-Consumption.  This is where the electricity generated is less than 100kW and is only generated for self-consumption.  If there is any surplus electricity, there is no payment for this – the electricity is generated on a “use it or lose it” basis.

Type 2 Generation with Self-Consumption.  This is where any excess electricity generated from the system can be exported to the grid and payment is made for it.  For this kind of installation, a grid access charge is made (sun tax) but with exceptions, one of which is for systems less than 10kW. This means that you can have a grid connected system at home and send any excess electricity that you do not use yourself back to the grid for which you will receive payment and so long as the system is less than 10kW, you will not pay the “sun tax”.

As well as introducing restrictions on self-consumption, the RD is also seen as having raised institutional barriers which may prevent a user generating his or her own electricity.  The requirement that the solar electricity installation must be approved by the electricity provider and the user must register as a self-consumer are viewed as barriers.  Failure to register, or noncompliance with the rules means that the user and the installer may be subject to fines which can range from €6000 to €60000.

Whilst this can help explain why you don’t see more PV panels on people’s houses currently here in Spain, hopefully the situation will change in future. Each autonomous community does have a certain amount of control over its own destiny and some regions are keen to promote renewable energy solutions. There are also companies who can help you ensure that your new PV system is approved, installed and registered correctly and that you receive payment for any excess electricity you send back to the grid.  With the cost of electricity continuing to rise, solar is a good investment.

What is renewable energy and why is it important?

 

According to Wikipedia “Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.” Renewable energy is important because energy is produced using natural resources that are constantly replaced and never run out compared with fossil fuels which draw on finite resources which will eventually be used up.  

 

Fossil fuels were formed from the remains of living organisms existing millions of years ago and when they are burned, they release energy that can be turned into electricity. However, when burned, fossil fuels give off a lot of carbon dioxide and contribute to climate change.  Although fossil fuels are made from living organisms, they are being used up at a much faster rate than they can be formed which means that they will eventually run out. In comparison with conventional energy technologies like coal, oil and natural gas, renewable energy technologies are clean sources of energy with a much lower environmental impact.

As a homeowner, you may already have direct access to renewable energies such as solar energy and bioenergy. Solar energy is energy generated from the sun’s heat or sunlight and which is captured and converted into electricity or used to heat air, water or other fluids. Bioenergy is derived from biomass to generate electricity and heat. Biomass is any organic matter of recently living plant or animal origin, for example, the pellets which are used to fuel pellet stoves.

You may have consumed electricity from your energy provider which has been generated by ocean energy, hydropower or wind energy. As well as having a less negative impact on the environment, these renewable energy sources can be cheaper options for energy suppliers compared with traditional fossil fuels. You can also save money by using natural resources such as sunlight to heat your domestic hot water or your swimming pool and to generate your own electricity.

If you are interested in learning more about renewable energy and how it can help you, Free-Sol will be showcasing and demonstrating various renewable energy solutions later this month. You will be able to see the various products as well as ask any questions you may have. See the Free-Sol advert in this magazine for more details or contact Free-Sol at

admin@free-sol.com.

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