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  1. #1
    Senior Member matthew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Cornwall, SW

    What else for solar roof panels??

    The operators of our power lines have 'found' a window of extra capacity and offered it for roof mounted solar on several farm buildings. As prices have dropped pretty much in line with FITs we have agreed to go with this.

    We've had a structural survey done and that's OK, so must contact insurers. How are these things insured and for what? They have a 10 year guarantee as standard, so am I insuring the roof, the panels and for what?

    I understand that there's no planning permission required now, but there's a mention of building regs in the contract. Is that aimed at house roofs, or silage / livestock barns as well?

    Any other tank trap we should be aware of before signing this?

    Your experiences of roof mounted panels on farm buildings, would be welcome

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Bury St Edmunds

    Re: What else for solar roof panels??

    sorry this post is long winded.
    I drew up the following as an introduction to myself and building owners explaining what is needed for a good site.
    I have not included all the document, but I should emphasise, I do not sell or fit any equipment.
    On the insurance front, which is only briefly covered, you should notify your insurer together with the increased replacement cost.
    This advice only really covers installs up to 50Kw as over this level you are coming into a completely different set of rules., and serious professional advice may be necessary, I would be happy to discuss my knowledge of it.
    I would normally be very happy to visit and advise, particularly in East Anglia further afield I would have to charge I am afraid.
    please note the FIT rates are continually changing so must be checked before starting.
    Solar Power
    Sites and suitability

    1. Elevation
    Shed should be East-West to give a South Facing roof
    Roof angle ideal approaching 50 degrees, but this is not a major issue
    Not over shadowed
    Preferably out of public view

    2. Size and type.
    Ideally sufficient to fit minimum of 50KW installation. ie. 350 sq. metres = shed approx. 18 x 38 metres absolute minimum
    Old Asbestos sheds are not suitable, new cement fibre roofs are no problem
    Dust can be a major issue on certain sheds and may, make them not suitable. Ie property near mills and certain types of older poultry buildings
    Life span of buildings, must be considered a 20 year period is the absolute minimum.
    Chicken sheds may have issues with the thin roof panels which must be taken into account.
    Any building which is designed for the benefit of human occupation, ie domestic dwellings, rest rooms, toilets, egg packing rooms, workshops etc. which have any form of heating, even just hot water, must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band D or above, if it is connected to the array. This only applies to one building. If several such are connected, the most suitable one can be selected.

    3. Security
    Should not be a major issue on roof mounts, but low sheds may have to consider this.

    4. Planning
    This is normally considered, permitted development but must be considered.
    Planning permission is essential if a pre application for accreditation is to be made.
    It is advisable to consult the planners in any case before going ahead with schemes, although our experience is that they are not normally worried.

    5. Power supply
    This must be 3 phase
    Permission will have to be sought from the DNO ( District Network Operator, normally, UK Power Networks) but is normally not a problem
    Normally a margin of approximately 30% will be required for the supply, over the size of the technology being installed.
    Normally each meter can support a separate installation.
    On sites with 2 meters or more the use can be made of the higher payments for the lower size installations. As discussed below care must be taken in such Installations.

    6. Leases if appropriate
    We would ask for a minimum 20 year lease, (this is the life of the FIT payments).
    At the end of the Lease we would hand the equipment to the owner of the building, in working order.
    Being a 20 year lease, permission will have to be granted by the owner of the building, the landowner and anyone having a charge on that land, eg. Mortgagee, bank etc.
    The lease requires registering with the land registry

    7. Fit Payments
    Payments are Graduated according to the size of installation from 13.5p 7.1p per unit generated (50KW 250+Kw rates, applicable till 1st May 2013)
    This is independent if they use the power on site or not
    If power is not used an export payment of 4.5p per unit is attracted as well if an export meter is fitted.
    Economies of scale dictate that the larger the install the more cost efffective.
    This means that industrial installations tend to be 50 or 150 KW in size.
    Any install over 250 KW gives a return of approximately 7.5p which is only economic for very large ground mount schemes.
    It is though possible to install over 250KW if certain strict conditions are met regarding the separation of the installation. Initially they must have their own metering system and be mounted on different buildings with no interconnection, etc. Then they may be treated as individually and come in under the 250KW maximum.
    To do these type of installs, pre accreditation must be sought from Ofgem, the industry regulator. Any such applications are fraught with issues and can take months to gain approval.
    FIT payment rates are classed in bands which are unaffected by any other renewable technology on the same site
    Ofgem will not give pre accreditation for any site of below 50KW, so when single sites with multiple meters are used great care must be taken that the rules are adhered to.

    8. Export payments
    These will be paid on all production not used and exported to the grid.
    To claim this an export meter must be fitted.
    It costs approximately 500 pounds per annum to have one fitted so Exports must be substantial to cover this
    Up to 30 KW systems do not need an export meter and will be credited with exporting 50% of production even if all power is used on site
    No Export can be claimed if other technology already on site is claiming this 50% ie. Small wind turbines. Although they can be brought into the scheme, if already present and the operator is amenable. However this will probably mean all payments will be made at the export rate they are claiming which may be at the old rate of 3.2p.
    The 30 KW Total covers all technology feeding through any meter.

    9. The Equipment.
    All equipment used in the installation has to be brand new and certified MCS, to qualify for FIT payments.
    This means, the equipment has no real second hand value and cannot be used on any other site.
    The panels are warranted for 25 years. As they are solid state with no moving parts, it is expected that they should have a long life span, although they may lose some efficiency in this period. Some panels, have been used on satellites and other space vehicles, which are over 40 years old, are still working
    The inverters are warranted up to 10 years and replacement has to be built into the equation
    Nearly all the panels are manufactured in China and Inverters, normally either Austria or USA

    10. Production
    Production of all panels will depend on the alignment of the panel to the sun. In the South East production should be near 1000 units per KW installed annually. The bulk of this will obviously be in the Summer months of May August 50%. March, April, September & October 30%. November February 20%.
    Production will peak near mid day depending on Alignment and cloud cover etc.
    To make full use of the power, it is essential to time heating, machine use etc. to take advantage of the mid day peak.
    There are available, electronic switching devices, to heat water, which only use power which would otherwise be sent to the grid

    11. Insurance
    This is normally done on the normal building fire and all risks policy.
    Ixworth Solar Farming Ltd.

  3. #3
    Senior Member matthew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Cornwall, SW

    Re: What else for solar roof panels??

    Thanks exfarmer. That's most helpful.

    The system is 50kw. Not rent-a-roof, and on 100% agricultural buildings (livestock / silage barns) with fibre cement or galvanised roofs.
    It was the (DNO) network operator who contacted our supplier to advise of this small window, where they had 'found' extra capacity and did we want to go ahead?

    I believe planning changed recently to accommodate solar on roofs etc. up to 50KW, with no prior planning needed? (Installer info)

    One thing I didn't mention previously is VAT? As this system is purchased, can we reclaim? Anybody had any problems?


  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Bury St Edmunds

    Re: What else for solar roof panels??

    You will not need planning for under 50 Kw
    Unless you are in an AONB or somesuch.

    The system would be industrial and as such you can reclaim the VAT but any income both FIT's and export are subject to income tax.
    With cost of set up etc this would not be an issue. For a few years

    Exports would be subject to VAT
    FITs are not subject to VAT

    I assume you own the property.
    Ixworth Solar Farming Ltd.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Bury St Edmunds

    Re: What else for solar roof panels??

    Ps. Although you may feel you are exempt from the EPC requirements, even the smallest toilet block or wash / rest room probably farm workshop will mean that you require it on one.
    some people have even built a qualifying building ie v small toilet block
    Ixworth Solar Farming Ltd.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    M40 J15

    Re: What else for solar roof panels??

    Our 26 kW array was limited by the 50kW transformer, panels now been there nearly 2 years
    3 phase was already in the building, structural survey made us replace Z purlins for stronger ones
    our panel supplier dealt with PP which was needed at the time & also safety nets
    NFU mutual gave us a questionnaire & they insure the panels, building & everything else here
    we are with British Gas as they supply our electricity, every quarter they email us for readings & a cheque follows a week or 2 later
    our expected payback is 8 years without taking electricity savings into account

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