Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Alternative energy sources
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The usual. As I have two large solar PV systems here, and my lab assistant just put one in, and others are interested in things like this, here's where that stuff goes. This is mostly for things that work now, not "gee someday a fusor will do this" -- we know that, but it's not someday yet.
The hope is to save anyone embarking on this sort of thing a lot of wasted time and money, as at least I have been off the grid since 1980 and have had a lot of practice (and made mistakes you won't have to).

Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Postby chrismb » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:10 pm

I was wondering whether, and/or at what point, solar power could make sense here in the UK.

I found a website that calculates overall solar energy production depending on where and how the solar panels are sited. This seems to suggest that 'pay-back' would be around the 12-15 year mark.

So I was wondering why, e.g., Frank Sanns reckon it's an answer for everybody, everywhere. Re-calculating for his latitude, Pittsburgh, 40N and, say, Richmond, 38N, are similar and show that during winter months solar panels installed at a 35 degree pitch would generate 3 to 4 times the energy as would the same solar panels at my latitude of 51N.

In fact, 4kWp would produce around 1 single kWh/day here during winter months. Gee! That'll really cover a lot of my ~25kWh/day [winter] consumption!

Agreed, the story changes during the summer and 4kWp should be generating some 12kWh/day or so which would be most, if not all, my daily consumption during those months.

So it's a nice idea for the summer months here, but is a piddle of energy during winter. I guess the secret to solar energy is to be born in a country at a lower latitude! You should be getting payback periods of just 5 years or so, I guess. I can only dream of that ....
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Re: Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:57 pm

Or just go south. But do go to a place where it's not cloudy so much. Even here, that's the real issue for me, even around winter solstice - if it were just clear, I'd be fine, but yep, there's about 3 weeks, with Dec 21 in the middle, where I run a backup generator a lot. Most of the rest of the time, no need (even with that car as a load, since I don't have to drive too much). We had a whole hour of clear skies today. Wow. Sometimes 2 weeks - no sun. Well, by "no" I mean an array that's nominal 8kw puts out like 200w. Close enough.

Our friends in Arizona etc, have it sweet - sunny all day, every day. Or not - it's hot as hell there all the time and they need A/C all the time - so...

Clearly, solar can't be the answer for everyone everywhere - think dense city apartment dwellers - just one roof for so many people. Of course, I ran away from that whole lifestyle and the crap it entails as fast as I could, but other people don't feel like they have the option (eg, lack courage to move or whatever).
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Postby chrismb » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:17 pm

Doug Coulter wrote:Our friends in Arizona etc, have it sweet - sunny all day, every day. Or not - it's hot as hell there all the time and they need A/C all the time - so...


... some optimum is preferred!? You might even be around the optimum where you are, Doug.

It's just not possible to move far enough south in the UK to make much of a difference to my figures here in the Midlands (~52N). We're around about where Calgary is, for something to compare with in N America.

You tend not to get the impression the US is so far south, because it does not appear to be as hot as the eastern side of 'the pond'. Of course, that's because of the Atlantic currents bringing warmer equatorial waters up, while you guys get the cold stuff coming back down from the pole.

But consider Richmond is as far south as Seville is here in Europe. Or that Phoenix shares its latitude with Baghdad, then you begin to appreciate how much extra winter time sunlight you get.

I'd never thought about it before, but I always enjoyed those winter days in Colorado/New Mexico, they always seemed so bright, and no small wonder because at 40N they are as far south as Madrid! Here up in the 'ice-lands' where I live today at 10AM, with a little cloud cover too it still looked more like night time than day! And now at 4PM the same is true, curtains drawn and lights on.

The flip-side is that at the summer solstice here, you can still see the Sun's twighlight at 11PM.

Yeah, solar makes a ton of sense at 40N or lower. Here it's good - for 3 or 4 summer months a year!!
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Re: Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Postby Joe Jarski » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:42 pm

Chris,
I was up in Aberdeen a few years ago in mid-December. It was a surprise to only have ~6hrs of daylight, but then I realized that it was like being on the northern edge of the Canadian provinces.

Even I feel like I'm too far North for good solar. On the other hand, I have the world's largest solar installation about 30 miles East of me in Canada so it can't be all that bad.
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Re: Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Postby chrismb » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:15 pm

I'd still stick a big pile of panels up if I had a good south facing roof to do it on. It kinda bugs me that mine is just about the only house in the street without a suitable roof to put panels on, but no-one else has bothered.

Property is cheap in south Spain these days. I wonder if I could down-size on recoverable equity from my current house, and live a 'detached' life there? Nice idea, just a long way from having enough money for that just yet!!

The best roof I have is a dead-east facing roof. This should come in at 20% lower than a due south facing roof, but the problem is that there are some big trees nearby. So there are additional complications, as well as not being ideally sited, plus the pay-back period would be well over 10 years, more like 15 or 20, with ambient lighting here.
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Re: Solar power in the UK versus USA.

Postby Doug Coulter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:15 am

I find weather almost more important than latitude. For example, this week, it's predicted to be cloudy/windy/rainy all week - and it is almost always more so than they predict - their idea of partly cloudy is one hour of sun in a whole day. Doesn't matter where you are if that's the case - you don't get very much.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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