Property owners go green

Solar panels fitted to the 'Eye sleep over' hotel in Eyemouth.
Solar panels fitted to the 'Eye sleep over' hotel in Eyemouth.

BERWICK-based builders George Craig have installed solar panels in around 40 properties since moving into that area of the green energy market earlier this year and last week they completed their largest contract to date - installing a 20kw system at the Eye Sleepover hotel at Eyemouth.

A financial investment by motel owners Craig Maltman and Alex Flockhart, their peak electricity demand is 17kw, which means that the extra capacity generated by the solar panels can be fed into the national grid.

Eyemouth and the north Northumberland area may not be the sunniest of spots but the Sharp Mono-crystalline solar panels used by George Craig work in daylight regardless of whether the sun is out or not, although obviously they produce more electricty on a sunny day than on a cloudy day.

At the height of the summer it is possible to get around 17 hours of free electricity every day but even on a winter’s day, when the daylight hours are shorter, they still produce a significant amount of electricity for household needs.

Snow can reduce electricity production from light but as the heat rises in melts the snow lying on the panels and once clear their production levels go up again.

Obviously electricity capacity is greatest during daylight hours so those who are keen to increase their green credentials may need to adjust their daily routine slightly - for instance making sure they use electrical equipment such as dishwashers and washing machines during daylight hours.

But the long term benefits to both the environment and their pockets are making solar panels a popular option for many in the area.

The 81 solar panels on the roof at Eye Sleepover took four days to fit and went live last Friday.

And Alex said he was delighted with how well they’re working so far.

He commented: “The bulk of electricity we use here is during the day with the cleaning and so on, so we are using the electricity being produced from the solar panels rather than having to buy our electricity from the national grid.

“The rooms are all thermostatically controlled so we can heat the rooms before guests get in, using our own electricity.

“We think we should see the panels pay for themselves in about eight years time.

“The feed-in tariff is index-linked so it goes up at the rate of inflation, and it’s got to be a better rate of return than investing money with interest rates as they are at the moment!”

On a domestic building the solar panels produce outputs of between 1.6Kw and 4kw but with an output of 20kw the Eye Sleepover project has been a major investment for the owners.

As a rough guide George Craig work on costings of about £4,400. per KW installed, giving an indication of the investment required for a project the size of the motel.

At the moment property owners can take advantage of the Government funded Feed in tariff, currently set at £0.43 per Kw installed, plus a further 3p per Kw fed back into the National Grid.

Having the panels installed could save around 50% on your annual electricity bills by using free electricity during the day.

The solar panels are designed to go to go straight into the existing property electricty fuse board.

They can be installed in portrait and landscape versions to suit a variety of roof sizes and shapes

Unsure how many panels they would ultimately need Alex and Craig ended up with 81, and as they run the full length of the roof, Alex said that unless you knew they were there, when you look at the building you wouldn’t notice them.

The electricity generated by the solar panels feed straight into the inverters which sets voltage and current and that cable goes straight into the metre.

When there isn’t sufficient electricity being generated by the solar panels then the electricity metre automatically takes power from the National Grid source without any interruption in the power supply.

Building contractors George Craig realised that meeting the government’s environmental targets was becoming more and more important when it came to getting building warrants and with the advent of feed-in tariffs, which are a financial incentive for property owners to ‘go green’, Neil Craig spent a week down at Durham learning all about the technology and design side.

Determined to get it right, he then spent another two months researching products before finally deciding which one he wanted to work with.

“We watched the market for about eight months, did the training and made sure we had a good system to work with, and since we started installing the solar panels earlier this year we have done about 40,” explained Neil.