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Thread: Solar clock is ticking in NI

  1. #1
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    Solar clock is ticking in NI

    Would anyone be able to advise me on what to do here?

    NI ROCs are changing in April 2015 from 4ROCs to 1.6ROCs on solar up to 50kW. My preferred route was to fit 50 kW to farm roofs. I applied to have my existing single phase 80amp supply upgraded to 3 phase 100kv. The letter has just come in from NIE to say that the substation needs upgrading, and the 'negotiations' etc with the regulator will take to the autumn of next year. Load of bluff probably to put us off. We can stay in the queue or get our 1950 quid back if we withdraw.

    One fairly risk free option is to load the maximum 4kW onto each of the four single phase supplies we have across the farm land and make do with it. One of those is obviously the main yard, so 4kW there is really going to restrict the use I could make of the potential 16 on the farm. One of the other supplies lies only about two hundred metres away from the underground cable to one of the sheds, so I am thinking that with a little imagination with rewiring back at the main board in the yard, I could be splitting off some of the yard onto that supply, hence have the flexibility to either use or export 8kW at the yard.

    Then taking that a step further, I have heard about an export limiter. There are three milking robots, two air compressors (5 and 3 hp), a single 5hp bulk tank compressor, a 6kW boiler for the tank. Not much else other than a PC and a couple of small augers. The robots have like one and two horse motors on them for vacuum and milk pump each, and a 3.5kW heater each for the hot wash which they perform TOGETHER twice per day at a time of my choosing. Put it this way, if everything was on together, I'd say we'd be close to knocking out the 80 amp fuse. In practice, I stagger the robot wash and the tank boiler.

    So what would it look like to put 20 kW in the yard with an export limiter, splitting the yard down the two single phase supplies meaning I could send off 8 kW, and using a peak of 12 or more? There would be no requirement to send an estimated twenty grand to NIE for a new g59 supply. Or should I keep my application in, stick 50 on the roof now with a limiter and hope that they don't ask me an even larger sum come the end of next year?

    thanks for your help

  2. #2
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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    i thought the 1.6 rocs was only a proposal. how likely is it to be set in stone. wind proposal is 4.5 rocs/kw

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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    Being based in England, I am far from qualified to talk about the situation in NI which has its own rules

    Firstly are you sure the Tarriff step is going to be that high.
    currently the 4 ROCs per 1000KWh or 1 MWH (for 50KW installs) is very generous equalling about 16-17p per unit this compares to our 12.13p for FITS
    however dropping to 1.6 ROC is quite drastic and is the level we are looking at for over 250KW
    I have looked on line but can find no information on the proposed levels

    I understood they were looking at bringing in a system of FITS similar to ours, for smaller scale producers.
    However this may have been dropped.

    This requirement to upgrade the system is not unusual and can be very expensive if you are at the end of a long line, with an insufficient transformer/sub station.
    At present it would appear that you have only a 20Kw supply

    As I understand you are suggesting that you could install 4 KW per meter. This is considered domestic I presume.
    this is similar here but we can do 10 with permission from the Network operator.
    4 Separate installs would be expensive in relative terms.
    The benefit here is that the FIT is higher and the income is tax free, however for domestic you cannot reclaim the VAT but it is only 5%.

    However you then suggest you could somehow link the systems.
    are any of the meters sub meters? in which case they do not count as a separate supply.
    I assume all 4 are coming off the same supply from the same transformer.

    In England, to count as a separate supply, the meters, The buildings they are in, and the roofs the panels are on, must be free standing and separate, unless they are in separate ownership as in terraced houses with a separate ownership, or at least a separate deed
    Supplies cannot be linked in any way.
    however if you have a freestanding shed it could be served by one of the house meters
    Do you have an issue of EPCs (energy performance certificate) here, any domestic dwelling or building with heating, even hand washing, requires one of those buildings or houses connected to have an EPC grade D or above. This is not possible for old farmhouses.

    I do wonder if your network operator would be happy though to have 16Kw of solar on a supply of 20kw unless you fit a limiter somewhere in the system.

    So this makes the possibilities of fitting a larger install on the buildings a far better idea

    The next question is how do you see yourself
    As a farmer which you have a lot of experience
    or as a generator?
    To install 50KWp is going to cost 50K plus any upgrade
    this is a large sum of money perhaps better invested elsewhere
    of course the upgrade to 3 phase may be essential if you have expansions plans
    it does seem you are operating near the very limit.

    if you install 20 KWp with a limiter
    you can change your time clocks to make maximum use of the power
    particularly ice bank building
    install equipment which will turn on water heating when there is surplus power
    consider a large hot water storage tank
    consider placing panels on East West roofs , while this will give 10% lower output it will give a far more even power curve during the day.
    The network operator will prefer this too.
    if your houses are close enough it may be worth considering attaching them all to the one meter , you can put sub meters on them if you like.

    if you can put all your houses on them it may be worth going for 30KWp

    The payback on a 20KW costing 25-28K system where you are using most of the power could be very fast

    look at your consumption during the summer.
    This will be when your production will be
    Ixworth Solar Farming Ltd.

  4. #4
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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    Thanks for your thoughful response.

    Just pulled this random link off the web

    http://www.ecosystemsdirect.co.uk/-n...ation-released

    Its a proposal, but I think this department has a history of implementing their proposals. At the very least, we should probably assume that the 4 ROCs is going to drop a fair bit.

    Lots of questions there. I will try to touch them all.


    The four supplies I talk about are, as far as my understanding goes, individual supplies. Each has its own pole transformer. One comes into the main farm, off which the main farmhouse draws. This is the end of a spur. Another spurs off the same line a couple of poles back to a cottage just a hundred or more yards across the road from the main farmhouse, also ending with a transformer on the final pole. The potential here to join is perhaps to take an underground cable across the road to to the farmhouse, which is drawing from the main board at the farm yard. At this point, could we isolate this line from the farm supply, and perhaps add a shed, or the dairy onto it, so that in theory, power would not be travelling from the main board out to the farmhouse, but would be coming back the other way from the cottage supply, to the farmhouse, and on to the farm board where we could supply another shed from it. 20kW on the roof could perhaps be split so that half can export at the 4kW limit through the cottage, and half through the 4kW limit at the farm transformer? With a restrictor of course. Benefit is that we could send away 8 at peak instead of 4.

    So in summary to try to get free from the muddle of all that - split the yard in two at the board, run one half off the existing supply, other half off the cottage supply if we run a cable from it to the farm via the farmhouse.

    I hope my explanation of that is satisfactory. I know its not terribly clear.

    The other two supplies are separate small farm yards, with effectively only one house on each as the only electricity consumption. One is my house, 500 yards from the main yard, and the other is three miles, house rented out, with a stock shed and silo. I can imagine it would be as expensive to dig in 0.5km of cable as it might be to just put 4kw on the roof of my house/shed.

    I don't think epc is an issue here yet.

    I like your suggestion of flattening and widening the solar output curve. I can see how that would be helpful. There isnt a south facing shed in our yard, but there are plenty facing either south west or south east. (somebody said to me that you need to have the panels facing the same direction for a technical reason, I suppose if they are on one inverter?) Our consumption is fairly constant 24/7/365 with the machines and compressors clicking in and out on demand, the exception being heating water for hot wash twice a day gives you a couple of peaks by adding 10.5kw on for an hour each time.

    Back to the crux of the issue. I am not going to get an answer out of NIE about whether they will charge me a little or a lot for the privilege of sending 50kw down a new 3 phase line before next autumn, by which time, the 4ROCs will be long gone. If I put 50 on the roof now, restricted, in anticipation of getting a decent quote from them later, then I am very much at their mercy if they decide I cant have it, or decide to charge a fortune. After all, they are negotiating now with the regulator what they will be allowed to charge new generators for their part in the substation upgrades. So its rather unknown.

    My sums on 80% consumption of 28kW (20 at the farm and two 4's) with nothing to spend on the line, versus 50kw with 20grand line cost are surprisingly close. Potential net benefit of 97k over 20 years for the 28kw, 115k for the 50kw system. So 50kw still wins, 17k to the good, and i have three phase at the end of it too. But there is a very big IF. Drawback with the 28kw idea is that if I for some reason pack in the cows, I cant export the full whack.

  5. #5
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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    James
    just found this, it clearly states the tariff for solar will be 4 ROCS till september 2015
    http://powerni.co.uk/saving-energy/r...r-electricity/

    do be careful about people selling this technology as they are very aggressive and always trying to push a deal along
    Be careful about EPCs
    I did go through this site for guidance but found nothing there

    Are you certain you want to be generating for the sake of it?
    if you are on borrowed capital the returns will not be that good, especially if you are talking about 4Kw setups.
    The real returns are where you are using the power.

    I am however struggling on financial predictions as I am not sure how the payments continue.
    In England the FIT structure is increased every year with inflation
    not sure how this is with the ROCs
    Ixworth Solar Farming Ltd.

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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    I am taking on board your comments Stephen, and with that in mind actually looked straight into the horses mouth to see what the story is.

    http://www.detini.gov.uk/niro_small_...k_-2.pdf?rev=0

    My reading of the department's own proposal document is that the changes would come into effect from 1st April 2015 with a six month grace period for those delayed by NIE, provided they have been offered a connection quote and paid up the deposit. NIE will not be intending to offer me a quote until the autumn. It looks and smells like a stall tactic. They have been notoriously difficult to deal with according generators of all technologies.

    I certainly appreciate your testing questions, because we have to be rigorous in why we do things if they are to be safe and successful. Do I want to be generator for the sake of it? No. But what we could compare this proposal to is 'doing nothing'. The cost of doing nothing is quite unattractive. Circa ten grand a year in electric bills. The opportunity to not only reduce the cost of power, but to reduce the overall exposure to the risk of rising energy costs is attractive. Wind is not a goer on the farm. So it's not a slap dash idea, but yes, one is perhaps more focused now that a deadline has been given.

    ROCs are worth something like 4.25p/kW at the moment, and have an index linked base.

    Could we do a 4kW sum here to see?

    My guess was 3100 units at say .21 is 651 (ROCs + wholesale). Would it be accurate to expect half of the 3100 to be consumed, giving a saving of 200ish? Cost of set up a tad over six k?

  7. #7
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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    As far as I see it the Solar PV industry in Northern Ireland will join the dole queue on 1st April 2015.

    If you read the consultation document from DETI as well as the other advisory document that was drawn up for DETI by some other consultancy you will see that the price of PV panels has fallen dramatically since the four ROCs banding was launched in April 2010. It is not that long ago that a 50kW PV was costing 100k and now you can have a roof mounted one for under 50k minus your transformer costs.

    To the original poster: you have a number of hurdles. The grid is the biggest one. You say you are single phase and there are a number of other houses on the same transformer. Typically with a 20kW PV system in N Ireland NIE insists on two 25kVA single phase transformers back to back. So you will need to get a transformer upgrade. I only know of one, maybe two 20kW single phase PV arrays in Northern Ireland. They are by no means common.

    It doesn't help when you see the heat map from NIE which shows that the most of Northern Ireland has grid problems. http://www.nie.co.uk/documents/Gener...gust-2014.aspx Indeed NIE is a problem in itself. If you apply for a connection for a 20kW array it will be at least 90 days before you get a quote from them - provided the heat map doesn't mess it up for you. At this stage in the game xmas is going to be in the middle of the 90 days so add another 2 or 3 weeks to the 90 days.

    My understanding from DETI is that they will give up to 6 months grace to get your PV installed on the basis that you have your grid connection paid for (at very least 20% deposit) and are waiting for NIE to connect you.

    You mentioned the idea of separate PV arrays and separating the yard up. This will not work. NIE will not give you a second connection for the one yard for health and safety reasons. This theory was tried and tested by the people who applied for the Rural Development/DARD funding for PV in their yards a couple of years ago. The DARD rules stated ALL the power had to be exported and could not be used on the farm. This required a separate connection and NIE and DARD were at logger heads over this. In the end no one got their grant as they couldn't get the separate connection.

    A 4kW PV array is only going to generate you about 3,200 kW in a year. It's going to be useless from now till about March. However in the summer it will bring you good savings on your electricity bill. I have a 6.5kW array on a farm shed and I always look at the numbers and wish it was 20 or 50kW. With the robots etc you talk about your electricity bill is going to be pretty high so is a 4kW array only going to be a drop in the ocean?

  8. #8
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    Re: Solar clock is ticking in NI

    Get a guarantee regarding the efficiency drop off of the solar panels for a reasonable timescale. Of course if the manufacturer goes t**ts up after 3 years and starts up again in a new name like the upvc window suppliers what will that be worth.

    http://info.cat.org.uk/questions/pv/...olar-PV-panels

    If you are expecting to be paying back installation costs after ten years, bear in mind the 10% drop off is probably the 10% any projected profit was in. There are far too many new companies pushing for installations with no long term track record. Also bear in mind oil is currently trading at the 80-90 dollar mark and likely to do so for some time, a lot of the renewables maths was done on the 140 dollar past price. More towards the 80 than the 90 at present, the US is pumping volume with Saudi Arabia to leverage Iran and Russia. It's thought they can cause both countries to have an economic crisis using this methodology in the 3-5 year timescale so don't expect oil prices over 100 dollars any time soon.

    http://www.oil-price.net/

    The US is now a net exporter of oil partly due to fracking producing their own gas for big industrial applications and power generation.

    http://oil-price.net/en/articles/oil...oversupply.php

    "A rush to develop oil production in Europe could even see the oil price fall to $60 a barrel if Denmark is going to find a market for all its Arctic oil. If there is anyone in the world that would find such a price difficult to contemplate, it must be Russia. However, at the beginning of October 2014, Russia's central bank announced a $60 price would be its trigger to intervene in the economy. That shows that even the Russian's can see further price falls ahead and are planning for them"


    Screw putting money into renewables me thinks a lot of burnt fingers.

    Do expect the treasury to sieze this opportunity to stick several pence possibly even five to ten pence on fuel duty at the next budget though.
    Last edited by T P; 19-10-14 at 08:29 PM.

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