Generating your own electricity is more feasible than you may think and with the government incentive scheme you can even receive an income from it!
What Technologies are Available for Homes?
Renewable energy technology over the past 10 years has become much more affordable as the industry has scaled up production and systems have become more efficient.
There are a few options available to homes:
- Solar PV
- Combined heat and power
- Wind turbines
Solar PV systems in simple terms turn UV light into electricity. The panels are formed from a collection of cells that are made up of several layers of silicon which are interspersed with metal conductors that absorb the UV light. This absorption of UV causes the electrons in these cells to move which creates electricity. The electricity generated is DC and needs to be converted by an inverter into AC before it is transmitted into the electricity cables in the home.
The system will also include a meter that enables you to track the energy generated and how much you use and export to the grid. Electricity is exported to the grid if it is not used in the home and it passes through the consumer unit into the grid.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, solar panels can produce energy all year round as they only need UV exposure and not heat from the sun to produce energy. The intensity of the UV rays and the length of daylight hours will affect the performance of the solar panels.
However, the location of the panels, as well as the roof pitch and any shading, can greatly affect the amount of electricity that they can generate. It is advisable to get a technical survey so that these factors are considered and that you get a more accurate picture of what you may be able to generate.
Combined Heat and Power
Domestic combined heat and power systems are called micro-CHP. These are boilers that create heat like any other boiler, but the unique thing is that they utilise the wasted gases to drive a generator to produce electricity.
The electricity generated is not a huge amount, but it will help power your home and reduce the amount of electricity you need to buy.
Micro-CHP boilers are current similar sizes to conventional boilers, they generate similar levels of heating, and can be wall or floor mounted. They are compatible with gas and LPG. The energy used by the boiler will generate a ratio of 6:1 heat and electricity. Micro-CHP boilers can generate up to 1 kW of electricity at present when they are at full capacity.
There are some small-scale wind turbines available that can be mounted on to a house or sited in a garden, but these are likely to produce low levels of electricity and will be less exposed to wind. Wind turbines that are mounted to buildings often have issues with movement and vibration which make them undesirable when combined with the amount of electricity generated.
Small turbines suitable for gardens will struggle to get sufficient wind due to neighbouring buildings preventing them from getting the maximum wind exposure. Therefore, domestic wind turbines are not really viable unless you have a significant amount of highly exposed land.
The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme is a government initiative that was designed specifically to promote the adoption of renewable and low-carbon electricity generating technologies in the UK.
The FIT is made up of two elements. The first is a generation tariff which pays the owner of the system for every kWh of electricity they produce. The second is an export tariff which pays a rate per kWh for the electricity that is exported to the National Grid. The generation tariff is based on the metered amount of electricity generated, whereas the export tariff is a deemed proportion of the system capacity as it cannot be accurately metered at present.
You can learn more about the FIT in our FIT guide.
Home Energy Efficiency Requirements
There are additional requirements for properties that have solar PV systems as they need to prove that they had an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D or above before the system was installed to receive the higher rate of FIT payments. To evidence this you will need to supply a valid EPC.
If your property’s EPC rating is below a D rating you then you will need to use the advice from the EPC in order to bring your EPC rating up above D and get the EPC re-done before installing the solar PV system to be eligible for the higher of FIT. Our EPC guide includes all the information you need about these essential certificates, the ratings, why you need it, and how to obtain an EPC.
Choosing an Installer
When you are searching for an installer for your renewable energy system you should look for ones that are MCS accredited as your system will not be eligible for the FIT without this. The system being installed should also be MCS certified to again make it eligible for the FIT.
The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is a quality assurance that certifies microgeneration technologies that generate electricity and heat from renewable sources and low-carbon technologies. They accredit both the system technologies and the competency of the installers. It covers electricity generating technologies up to 50kW and heat generating technologies up to 45kW.
You should also obtain three quotes and compare their costs, the systems they propose, and any reviews about their workmanship.
Can I Store the Electricity Generated?
Electricity storage is available but can be costly and it is probably not an economically viable option at present, but it may be in the near future.
There is a lot of investment going into energy storage as it will greatly improve the grid flexibility and make renewable energy more viable on a much larger scale which will allow countries to start decarbonising their electricity through switching to more renewable energy like wind and solar PV, and reduce the amount of coal and gas power stations.