Rugby FoE > Local Campaigns > Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy:

In the UK a typical home uses 4,700 units (kWh) of electricity a year and each unit costs about 7p each so that adds up to an annual electricity bill of around £329. Therefore, Rugby's 39,000 households demand a yearly supply of over 183 GWh (183 million kilowatt-hours) of electricity for which we collectively pay about £13million annually;

Where will all their energy come from?

Wind power has great potential to make a significant difference:

The British Isles is the windiest place in Europe -

Local wind power saves energy:

Photo of small windmill against large cement works in the background 2008 taken by FG

Power stations tend not to be near centres of population, so there is an average power flow across the grid of about 8 GW (i.e. 8,000 megawatts) from the north of the UK to the south and on average about 5% is lost in transmission to get the power to the area where it is needed.

Wind power is popular:

Climate change is the most serious long-term threat not just to us but to wildlife too, yet windpower is emission free and comes from a renewable inexhaustible source; When compared to other power generation, windpower is also quiet, safe, visually attractive, and has a small footprint and minimal impact on the land, residents and any wildlife.

Not surprisingly, around 80% of the population is in favour of wind energy:

  1. Construction of wind farms is quick and simple
  2. Very little space is used by the wind turbines themselves. The larger turbines are visible but not intrusive. Most of the land within the site can generally continue to be used as before.
  3. Appropriately positioned wind farms do not pose a significant hazard for people, birds, bats or other wildflife. They create no waste and, as they require no fuel, have no pollution or risk of accidents in the supply chain.
  4. Wind farms provide clean, efficient, safe, sustainable energy that contributes to renewable energy targets to fight climate change
  5. At end of their lives, turbines can be decommissioned quickly and simply, with the site reinstated to its former landscape

Site Selection ...

Proximity to the National Grid is essential (usually the link travels underground following the roads) and clearly a significant requirement is a suitable access route to bring the structures in, so sites near motorways or major roads are good, but ones which avoid disruption to the local community are best.

Nearby examples:

The best thing to do is visit Burton Wold Wind Farm near Kettering (also in Central Networks' area) for an idea of what a wind farm looks like in real life and how quiet it is. Burton Wold Wind Farm is Northamptonshire's first Wind Farm, consisting of 10 turbines with a combined maximum wind farm output of 20 MW, generating 47 GWh of renewable electricity annually (equivalent to the needs of around 10,000 homes and also equivalent to £3.29million of bills from households).

There has been no effect on house prices in Burton Latimer, the town nearby:

Near Rugby there are now also several plans for wind farms to the east of the M1;

The developers are putting on exhibitions and holding consultations with the community, so if you require any further details please do not hesitate to contact them. Their details are available on their respective websites.

More renewables are needed:

To hit a national target by 2020 of 15% renewable energy this would require something like 12GW from onshore windfarms, plus a further 20-30GW from offshore windfarms but windpower is is only one solution among many and we also require power from other solutions such as;

On a local scale:

Micro-generation from rivers is needed too. Thousands of river weirs once powered the industrial revolution and we've got some rivers in the Midlands, so we should re-use them to produce green electricity at no cost to the planet.

Photo of Clifton Mill taken by FG       Photo of Little Lawford Mill taken by FG
A number of nearby watermills have been converted to apartments or inns like the Old Mill Inn, Baginton and the Saxon Mill pub, Warwick, but some watermills still operate. Restoration of Charlecotte Mill started in 1978 and Wellesbourne Watermill was restored in 1990. However, it would be great if all these mills could be renovated and put to work generating electricity.

Once installed, hydro turbines can run for between 50 and 100 years using a natural and free source of power - running water! So, let's rebuild Rugby's great heritage in power systems and on the basis that every kilowatt helps let's refurbish all those old mills and, instead of grinding corn, start grinding out kilowatts!

The tide is turning:

On a national scale:

The Severn tidal schemes could provide up to 1% of UK energy. There were ten options being considered by BERR in their Severn Tidal study.

On 26th January 2009 a shortlist of five schemes was unveiled by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for 3 months of consultation which closed on 23rd April. There are concerns about these proposals as the least damaging option for wildlife, the tidal reef, has been excluded, whilst two very damaging ones have been included on the shortlist.
  • The Wildlife Trusts immediately said the tidal reef should have remained in the shortlist: "We implore the Government not to leap-frog common sense. Barrages are not the only answer. Current studies indicate a barrage across the Severn Estuary would destroy wildlife on an unprecedented scale. And it would be the least cost-effective means of tackling climate change."
  • Martin Harper, Head of Sustainable Development at the RSPB said it was "hugely disappointing" that the Cardiff-Weston barrage option was on the short list.
  • Friends of the Earth Cymru's energy campaigner and author of their Severn Barrage Report, Neil Crumpton said: "Plans to build a Severn barrage are too big a threat to an internationally important wildlife site and must be scrapped - ministers must focus on developing the estuary's potential for tidal lagoons instead."

Looking at the bigger picture:.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) mirror arrays covering just 1% of the Earth's deserts could generate a fifth of all the Earth's current energy requirements. It is the single biggest energy reserve

Introducing Reg ......

By members of Rugby Friends of the Earth

Photo of Reg taken by JJ

..... the Renewable energy generator - a system of a dozen photovoltaic solar panels which have recently been fitted to the roof of our house.

We are members of Rugby Friends of the Earth and have agreed to submit regular information to the Rugby Friends of the Earth website about Reg's performance and other matters related to generating power by solar panels. The aim is to show how solar power can and does generate a worthwhile amount of electricity. This can be used in the household or exported to the national grid, thereby supplying a potentially significant proportion of the nation's energy needs from renewable sources.

The basic requirements of the house for photovoltaic panels to work effectively are described here, followed by a brief non-technical description of the main component parts of the system and indication of its size and anticipated output, i.e.;

  1. Where should the panels go?
  2. What does the system include?
  3. How many panels are needed?
A general idea of Reg's performance to date is also given. In the future it is hoped to provide more detailed figures for energy production.

Read on...

Basic requirements:


House orientation:

  • When fitting solar panels it's a major benefit if the house has a south-facing roof. This will ensure maximum exposure to sunlight.
  • The angle of the roof is also important. Somewhere between 30 to 35 degrees is said to be ideal.
Fortunately our house met with these requirements although a very large tree, located close to the property, is likely to cause problems with shading during the winter months.


Reg's main components:

Solar Photovoltaic Panels
Photo of Reg's HIT-240-HDE4 panel taken by JJ The 12 panels installed were manufactured by Sanyo. The type chosen was the HIT-240-HDE4 model. These hybrid panels, as they are called, are said to deal with shading problems more efficiently than other panels. As shading is an issue with our property we chose these Sanyo panels.
  • The general output of these panels is higher than for other mass produced solar panels. Each panel can produce up to 240 watts.
  • The dimensions of each panel are 1,610 × 861× 35mm.
Thanks to JH Power Solutions (now JH Solar Solutions) of Banbury for permission to use the photo with their staff member on it, showing the size of the panels.
The panels are fitted to a frame which is secured through the tiled roof to the beams of the house. Photo of Reg's panels being fitted to roof taken by JJ


Photo of Reg's inverter taken by JJ An inverter is an appliance that converts direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC). Reg's inverter converts the DC electricity produced as a result of sunlight hitting the surface of the photovoltaic panels to AC which can be used in the home or exported to the National Grid.

Data logger
This is not an essential part of the system but, if fitted, a data logger can be used to collect detailed information on the performance of the system.

The information from our data logger will be used to provide updates for the Rugby Friends of the Earth website on a monthly basis.
Photo of Reg's datalogger downloading data taken by JJ


System capacity

The 12 x 240 watt panels give the system a potential capacity of 2.88 kilowatt peak (kWp). The kWp is the peak power of a system as tested under optimum conditions. The tests are standardised for panels produced by all manufacturers to ensure that comparisons can be made. The potential peak power is unlikely to be the same as the power that will actually be produced by the panels. In practice, this will be approximately 15-20% lower.

Reg, because of these losses that occur within the system and less-than-optimum conditions, including the tree shading losses, is expected to produce about 2100 kWh per year, 73% of peak.

Find out more

Find out more about what you can do to install your own renewable power at Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) or at Renewable Energy Association (REA).

Check on the web

Ascertain the potential solar power production capability of locations in the UK using the PV potential estimation utility - A website set up by the European Commission to help with this.

For a very basic assessment of what your own property might be able to produce, go onto the site and put in your postcode. Where it says 'Installed peak PV power' tap in the size of system you might like to install (providing you have enough roof space). If you are unsure of a system size, type in 2.5 (by way of an example) and click on Calculate; the site will do the rest. There is an assumption you that you have a south facing roof and the angle of it will be between 30-35º. The choice of panels is limited so simply go with the default of crystalline silicon. This site is not perfect but it gives a reasonable estimate for your own location.

Also visit the Energy Saving Trust's Solar electricity webpages

Follow our adventure in renewable energy generation:
Photo of Reg installed taken by JJ

Reg became operational on 11th June 2010. The whole installation was fitted by a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certificated installer (essential to qualify for feed-in tariff, also known as clean energy cashback).
To see how we get on with Reg and follow our adventures watch this space for further updates.

So how is Reg doing?

Reg's output of electricity is recorded by the solar kWh meter.

Photo of REG'S Solar kWh meter taken by JJ Performance to date:

In the first 2 ½ months Reg produced 858 kWh of electricity.

Update on Reg Performance June 2011

It is now one year since Reg became operational. Reg's performance for the 12 months (11th June 2010 to 11th June 2011) can be seen in Table 1:

Table 1: Monthly KWh production


Monthly kWh Total

Jun-10 409 133
Jul-10 315 As the date of commencement
of operations was part way
through June 2010,
the calculation of the monthly
total for June is the production
from 11:30 am
on 11th June 2010,
to the end of the month,

and up to 11:30 am on
June 11th 2011

(276 + 133 = 409).
Aug-10 255
Sep-10 183
Oct-10 125
Nov-10 66
Dec-10 36
Jan-11 49
Feb-11 65
Mar-11 181
Apr-10 278
May-11 368
Jun-11       133
Total for Year 2330      

Reg's performance was better than predicted. The original estimate was for 2100 KWh for the year. The total achieved (2330 kWh) represents an 11% increase on what we were expecting. The good weather in April and May undoubtedly helped.

Figure 1 shows the production figures in bar chart format.

Figure 1: Monthly KWh Production
Graph of Reg's Monthly KWh Production The bar chart shows that June was the best month of the year for energy generation. During the 30 days of June* 409 kWh were produced, an average of 13.6 kWh per day. The best single day for production was on the 3rd June 2011 when 20kWh were produced.

*See Table 1 for explanation of calculation of figures for June.

The lowest month for energy production was December 2010, with an average of only just over one kWh per day. Reg did not produce any electricity on six days during December. Not surprisingly the worst spell for nil production was concentrated around the shortest day (from the 20th December to the 24th December Reg did not produce any KWh). Short days, bad weather and the shading of the willow tree all combined to drastically reduced Reg's capacity to produce electricity at this time.

We were very relieved that the system more than met our expectations for annual energy production. Much of our concern about how viable the system would be was based on the effect of the tree shading on the panels. The tree is very large and during the winter months the shading effect on the roof begins soon after 1:00 pm. Fortunately, the sun's path through the sky during the spring and summer means that it is high enough for much of the sunlight to avoid the tree.

Carbon Savings and energy savings

The estimated CO2 saving for the year, figures provided by our energy provider, is 1.3 tonnes . This is pleasing as we have exceeded our expectations with this figure.

It should have been easy to work out how much energy we used directly from non-renewable sources, e.g. as purchased from our energy supplier. However, this has not been the case as our electric meter began to run backwards after Reg was installed! The meter reading was falling as a result of the input going in to the system. It took our energy company several months to fit a new meter that did not run backwards when the sun was shining. This has made it difficult to work out the amount of electric we used from the national grid during this period. However, it has been possible to make estimates for the annual kWh bought from our supplier.

From the fitting of the new meter in September 2010 to mid-June 2011, 902 kWh were recorded. This is approximately a period of 9 months, and so an estimate for the forthcoming three months is necessary to calculate the yearly figure. Estimated from our current average daily summer usage (2.44 kWh), the remaining three months' usage would be 186 kWh, giving a total of 1088 kWh for the year. We can check this on the new meter's anniversary in September.

Continuing with our assumptions, our yearly purchase of grid electricity, pre-Reg, was 1780 kWh (2009/2010). If this has now fallen to 1088 kWh, as estimated, then, very roughly, this means that our annual consumption of grid electricity has fallen by 39%. Solar panel installers normally work on the basis that there will be a saving of around 50% on electricity purchases. The reason, we think, that we haven't reached the 50% level is that we were already low users; at least 50% below the national average (although what is meant by the national average?!). At this level of usage it is more difficult to achieve high levels of savings.

Taking this a step further, if our overall electric consumption has remained at 1780 kWh, this means that 1088 is coming from the national grid and 692 is being supplied by our own system. Going on, if our system has produced a total of 2330 kWh and we have used 692 of them, then our export to the national grid is 1638 kWh. If we had an export meter fitted, as well as the solar production meter, we would be able to work out more easily what we are using and what we are exporting.

We were discouraged from acquiring an export meter by the high cost of purchase and maintenance.

Table 2: Generated, Used & Exported KWh

      Total Generated by Panels
Used from Grid Used from Solar Exported Solar
1088 692 1638
Total Consumed      

Feed in Tariff

On 1st April 2010 the Government introduced the Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) to encourage new investment in low carbon green technologies such as Solar PV. Under the FITs, anyone who installs an eligible Solar PV system will receive a guaranteed fixed payment for all the electricity they generate, including what they use, for a period of 25 years. They will also receive an additional payment for any electricity they don't use that they export into the National Grid. For a standard household system of 4 kWp or less the tariff is shown below in Table 3.

Table 3: FITS tariff

Size of System Tariff received until 31 March 2011 Tariff received between 01 April 2011 and 31 March 2012 Tariff received after 31 March 2012
4kWp or less (retrofit) 41.3p per kilowatt hour 43.3p per kilowatt hour 43.3p per kilowatt hour

The export figure is 'deemed' to be half of whatever is produced. A further 3p per kWh is paid for export units.


  • We have had a lot of fun keeping an eye on how Reg has performed during the year.
  • We have found that it is an interesting topic of conversation (not just for us!).
  • We have saved 1.3 tonne of CO2 through the installation and use of the panels.
  • We have learned that the system actually works. To produce 2330 kWh of electricity in a year, with our own little power station, is no mean feat. This is proof positive that the technology works
  • We have become even more energy efficiency conscious and we are constantly looking for new ways to reduce energy consumption.
  • We have earned, from the FiT, approximately £982
  • We have saved approximately £85 on the purchase of electricity from the grid.

* * * August 2011 Update * * *

We have now passed 3000 kWh production (by mid-August - approx one year and two months) and have received total payments for the FiT of over £1100 for the first year's consumption. This is helping to pay back our capital expenditure which will, hopefully, take slightly less than 13 years.

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