Solar Panels – Apple Green Energy

Preamble

I received a cold-calling door-to-door salesman, Tariq, on Saturday. He was canvassing for names, for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) installations. He was from Apple Green Energy.  I agreed to be signed up, and a brummie called Lee called me to arrange for one of his consultants to come out and visit. A nice old chap called Allan, an ex-commercial vehicle mechanic, who had problems with his hands (dermatitis from handling oil and diesel engine parts with his bare hands), and so, had to retire due to these work related injuries, came around today to size up the roof and explain the ins and outs.

The details

The Panels

The panels are 1.5m x 1m
4 Panels provide 1kWh of power.

Blurb

The price of energy is projected to double every 10 years, with it finally plateauing out by 2035.

The addition of Solar Panels to a property are estimated to increase property value by 5-15%.

It can be seen as an investment, and/or a safe guard against future price rises.

The return is about 7-15%  and is non taxable.

The government pays you for what you generate (50% thereof) not for the actual amount that you export back on to the grid. The government guidelines work on the basis that you will export 50% of what you generate, irrespective of what you actually do use and end up exporting. So, if you generate 1000KWh, it is assumed that you will export 500kWh.

Batteries

New solar power compatible batteries:

  • Tesla Power wall, Solar Wall
  • nPhase AC battery system

The scheme works on 4kW installations, using Solar Edge inverters, which comprises of 16 panels at a cost of £8995 (installation and tax included), with a 20 year guarantee. The panels themselves have an estimated life of 50 years.

The panels use a mono-crystalline substrate, which is surprising as polycrystalline and amorphous silicon is a lot cheaper to produce, although the yield for mono-crystalline silicon is a lot higher. However, twenty years ago, the energy required to produce mono crystalline silicon was so high, that the panels would never generate sufficient energy to return the energy invested, even over their lifetime of the panel.  However, I guess that things have moved on since then, and processes have become a lot more efficient.

There are, evidently, three tiers of panel:

  1. Tier 1 – Phono, a Chinese company owned by the government. These are the panels that AppleSolar employ.
  2. Tier 2 – ???
  3. Tier 3 – which comprises 90% of panels in the UK, where Toshiba source components from third parties and assemble them.
Inverters

There are two types of inverter offered by AppleSolar:

  • nPhase micro inverters – no need for power (voltage) optimisers, cost £2000 more than SolarEdge. Life expectancy of 20 years
  • SolarEdge inverters, see SolarEdge Monitoring software and Power converters – 12 guarantee, which can be upgraded to 25 years for an extra £250 – These are probably better value, I was told.

With both the nPhase and the SolarEdge inverters, you will get 15-25% more generated power.

Finance

The finance is provided by Shorebrook funding, the interest is 9.9% APR, with no deposit required, 12 month interest free and then payments for 180 months of £X (I was never told the cost). Evidently, the purchaser has to be earning a minimum of £10k in qualify for the finance agreement, so I fail to qualify.

However, the trick is to sign up , then as the interest free period comes to an end, then in month 11 or 12, refinance. So, obtain a personal loan from Tescos or Sainsburys at 4.86% APR, pay off Shorebrook and then the monthly payments will be approximately half that of Shorebrook’s, and the supermarket loan is over 10 years rather than Shorebrook’s 15 years.

The cost of breaking is the balance plus the cost of 56 days of interest, plus a £70 documentation fee.

Efficient Heating
  • Infra-red heating wall panels, were £6.5k, now down to £2.5k
  • Solar iBoost is a PV immersion controller that uses your excess solar electricity to heat your water, so it will monitor your output and set that against your usage and calculate the optimal time to switch on the immersion water heater.
House Dimensions

Here are the rough dimensions of the roof

Roof Dimensions
Roof Dimensions

North is at the top of the image. There is a 30° roof slope (and extra 15° tilt is added to the panels to bring up to 45°). The latitude of Brighton, UK is 50.84°.

The shape of my house necessitates that the panels’ coverage is split, and so the panels themselves are split over three distinct parts of the roof:

  • 4 Panels – South facing at the back;
  • 8 Panels – East facing, and;
  • 8 Panels – West facing
Requirement for direct light

I queried the fact that I wanted all panels to be South facing but I was assured that there was no need as only light is required, not actual direct sunlight. I remember from my days at the IES in the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, that there are three types of light:

  • Radiated;
  • Direct and;
  • Albedo.

The albedo light in Britain is lower than that in Spain, so the Radiated light must be absorbed by the panels, and that this process has become more efficient over the years, as direct sunlight was the primary energy provider, twenty years ago.

Luminescence, hours of sunlight

South facing 1127h/365 = h
West/East facing 848h/365 = 2.32h
Total = 1127 + (848 x 2) = 2823h
Total = 848 + (1127 x 2) = 2823h (wrong)

Payback

Given the above hours of light, taken from a study on a house in Sheffield:
= 3671 (where did this number come from?!?!) hours (what units?!?!) of generation
= £474.29
=> £89.20 exported
=> and a saving of £284.50
=> Annual cost savings = £848

With 15% extra, guaranteed by Apple Green Energy:
= 4222 hours of generation
= £545.48 feed in tariff
=> £102 exported energy
=> and a saving of £327.00
=> Annual cost savings = £975 (how was this calculated?!?!)
=> £28333 over 20 years
=> ROI = 9.31% return on investment (ROI) in the first year
=> ROI = 19.37% per year, over 20 years

With 25% extra, which can be expected, but not legally binding:
= 4589 hours of generation
= £592 feed in tariff
=> £111.50 exported energy
=> and a saving of £355.62
=> Annual cost savings = £1072.50

For the 15% extra figures

£545.48 + £102 = £647.86

Now £647 on £8995 invested gives a 8.75% ROI.

This is without the house being occupied and no self-generated electricity is being used. Obviously if the house is occupied and the generated electricity surplus, after the exported energy has been taken into account, is being used, then the savings, or return is even greater (up to a certain point, thereafter you will end up net importing electricity, if your consumption exceeds the excess power generated).

Feed in tariff

On December 1st, the feed in tariff will be reduced from 12.92p/kWh to 1.65p/kWh..!

It used to be 48.8p/kWh, which dropped to 43.5p/kWh and then to 27p/kWh (Miliband as Energy Secretary), dropping to 12.92p/kWh (Conservatives).

However, when the feed in tariff was at its higher echelons the installation cost was £24k, whereas now it is £8k, so the installation is cheaper by a third, as is the feed in tariff, so the ROI is about the same, for a smaller investment.

20 years ago, on the 7th July, the first solar house was installed, near Oxford.

Extra Panels

The 16 panels offered above do not cover the entire roof area. When I asked why do typical installations only use 16 panels and not more, I was told that there are certain bands, that the range of power generation is divided.

Summary of Solar PV tariffs
Summary of Solar PV tariffs

4 panels give 1kWh, which takes you into the 5kWh feed in tariff,

8 panels more gives an extra 2kWh.

Looking at the dimensions of my roof, 32 or 64 panels may be possible, which would provide 8kWh and 16 kWh respectively.

Conclusion

Hmm… interesting, but I have a week to consider the project, before the Crawley Manager, Neil, gets back in touch.

Useful Links

Which Local – Apple Solar Energy

Daily Mail – Great Solar Power Con: Rogue salesmen overestimate savings green panels provide for households

Heatmyhome.co.uk – PV (Photovoltaic) solar panels & installations

Compare My Solar – Compare 19 solar panel prices from 7 installers around Burgess-Hill

Notes

750kWh per year per kW installed. So 3000 kWh for a 4 kW array. The 3617 quoted by Apple seems somewhat high especially as not all of the panels are facing south

From Which Local – Apple Solar Energy:

As a competitor we have come up against Apple multiple times and usually the customer has told us that they were more expensive and less informative.

Some of the systems quoted by them have also been very easy to better.

Additional Suppliers

See the section “Further Surveys” below.

Comments on the overall blog

Here is a critique of this blog:

I’ve had a read though and I don’t agree with some of it.

250 watt panels sounds about right, mine are less as that was the sweet spot at the time.

It doesn’t increase your property value by 5 – 15% – that’s rubbish, I get approximately £1200 per year, which is guaranteed for 20 years, that’s only £24k. It might increase a very cheap terrace house in the north but not yours or mine.

The government pays you for all you generate and then pays you a little extra for what you export, assumed to be 50%, you can get a meter installed if you think it would be more but it’s hardly worth it.

The cost seems high, you should get some quotes from local companies. I paid £12k for mine, three years ago and have the highest tariff.

My panels have an estimated life of at least 25 years but are expected to degrade by a percentage over that time – can’t remember the number would have to check the paperwork. warranty is for 20 years I think with the degradation in mind. I can’t imagine that they have got a lot better in the last 3 years.

i think my panels are manufactured by Sharp, hard to remember. Your Tier 2 might be German.

Lots of solar tech apparently comes from there as they have been putting panels on the roof for a long time.

I have a Fronius inverter, I don’t think you can magically get more electricity from their inverters. Fronius are a major player in inverters.

Why would you want to finance it? Just pay outright.

As you have your panels split over three sections I think you would need three inverters – that is what I was told when I got mine, or you need an inverter that can take multiple sections or micro inverters.

If a section is not in direct sunlight, then it brings down the production of the other sections if they are on the same inverter.

Direct sunlight makes a big difference. Power is generated once it is light as you can see but not a lot, once direct sun is on them, the generation goes up significantly, mine don’t get direct sun until the afternoon. Note how the clouds affected my generation today:

Solar Output over one cloudy day - clouds broke up in the afternoon
Solar Output over one cloudy day – clouds broke up in the afternoon

3671 is presumably the numbers of units of electricity you will make. I make 2500 – 2700 a year. I reckon that as my array is west-facing I lose about 20% of its potential, based on never actually getting to more than about 3.3kW generated at its peak. So even if it was south-facing and 100% optimal, it’s hard to see how you get to the 3671 number.

I’m not sure how they can guarantee an extra x%.

Feed in tariffs were cut due to a yearly fund being put in place by the Labour government not the Conservatives They underestimated how many people would do it, and how many companies would spring up, and so the fund got exhausted too quickly. There was always a plan to reduce it but they had to speed up the reduction.

In short, I would get quotes from some other local installers.

This is who did mine: Ideea. My panels have been on for four years this month and my array is 3.88kW.

Updates

I received an email from Allan, with a summary of the survey

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday.

As requested below are the estimated figures from the Solar assessment made on the day.

.

This quotation is for our Standard System being Phono Solar Panels using a Solar Edge award

winning operating System.

Quotation

The Solar investment has FOUR important elements

1) It is not taxable on the return

2) Linked to inflation (RPI); the Feed In Tariff (FIT) payments increase every year for 20

years

3) Savings on increasing energy bills; energy costs predicted to continually rise until

2030/35 (Solar panels expected generation 50+ years)

4) The Solar system adds value to your property; minimum the initial cost once

installed within one year and as property prices increases the investment increases

Installing a 4kw Solar system on your roof using 16 x Phono ‘Tier One’ Monocrystalline

panels on your 4 x South facing + 4 x East facing + 4 x West Facing roofs and a Solar Edge

operating system using their own design and built components being 16 Panel Optimisers

and an Inverter.

Government Irradiance Level for postcode BN9 9AY

= 1127 South roof, 848 East and West predicted total hours of Solar Panel generation each

year; 1127 divided by 365 days = average 3.08 hoursand 848 divided by 365 days = 2.32

hours of possible Solar Electricity Generation per day.

Standard Government estimated calculation (no matter what Solar panel or operating system is

installed)

This estimated financial benefit is based on an estimated generation of 4,.211 kWh’s a year

Feed In Tariff generation payment £ 474.29

Feed In Tariff export Payment £ 89.02

Savings on reducing annual Electricity bill £ 284.50 (Using 50% of Solar Electricity generated)

Total £ 847.81 (£70.65 per month)

Cost of Solar System (Total cost) £ 8,995.00

Return over 20 years £30,487.00

Page Two

Apple estimated calculation with a 15% increase in Solar generated electricity

(approved by RECC)

This estimated financial benefit is based on an estimated generation of 4,843 kWh’s a year

Feed In Tariff generation payment £545.48

Feed In Tariff export Payment £102.38

Savings on reducing annual Electricity bill £327.21 (Using 50% Solar Electricity generated)

Total £957.07 (£79.75 per month)

Cost of Solar System (Total cost) £ 8,995.00

Return over 20 years £28,55300

Return on capital investment Year one 9.31% Average over 20 years 19.37%

We believe that the government Irradiance level of averaging just 3.08 & 2.32 hours a day under

values what you will generate and that your yearly generation will be greater than estimated

therefore increasing value of investment return.

Cost of Funding

Shawbrook

No Deposit + No payments for 12 months, the first 12 months being interest FREE & payment period

over 180 Months

£102.43 per month

9.9% Apr.

Page Three

Cost of Funding

Tesco

Tesco Loan (Clubcard holder)

10 years (reducing initial loan by 5 years)

5.6% apr

Monthly payment £97.44

Conclusions

Shawbrook

By using just the Shawbrook funding your Solar system will cost you nothing. The Solar system

becomes self-funding. Payments are over 180 months but early settlement is possible with no

penalties.

Tesco

By refinancing in year one with a Tesco loan, you will not have…

 Paid Shawbrook any interest just a £70 Document fee,

 You will have reduced the loan term from 15 to 10 years

Page Four

Guarantees

Phono Solar panels guaranteed for 20 year

Solar Edge Operating System: Inverter 12 years and Panel Power Optimisers 25 years

(An additional small payment can extend the Inverter to 25 years, offered once installed)

Solar panel Performance guaranteed for 25 years

Government SAP Calculation of estimated Solar Panel Generation guaranteed for 5 years

Workmanship guaranteed for 10 years

HIES back all Apple Solar warranties

Future proofing

Tesla will next year sell a Solar electricity storage battery

Enabling you to store and use 100% of the Solar electricity generated.

Electric Home heating by low operating cost Infrared Heaters will soon be on sale allowing you to

heat your home with Solar Power saving or completely removing your need for Gas.

Please note the UK Government recently lost a case in the European courts to charge just

5% vat on Solar panels, this could soon see a rise in vat on panels to 20% effectively

adding 15% to the cost of a Solar panel.

PLEASE NOTE ALL FIGURES ARE ESTIMATED

Again many thanks

Allan

Apple Crawley Office 01293 817663 (Neil)

Allan 07958 316622

and a phone call which I missed, and which I haven’t had time to respond to.

Follow up

About two weeks later, I got a phone call from Ahmed, to see what decision I had come to. I politely told him that his quote was two grand over every one else, and he hung up.

 

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2 thoughts on “Solar Panels – Apple Green Energy”

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