Increase In Energy Use In 2015 But Increase In Renewable Energy Too

The official body for sustainable and renewable energy here in Ireland, the SEAI, released their official national energy statistics on November 23rd. The report shows that there had been significant growth in energy use across almost all sectors of the Irish economy in 2015. Energy in Ireland 1990-2015, illustrates the first significant growth in energy use since 2010 at almost 5%. In line with this figure, energy-related CO2 emmissions increased by 6%. Both of these figures are understandably put in the context of strong economic growth in 2015 within the report.

Greenhouse Gas Emmissions

When looking at greenhouse gas emmissions, energy accounts for about 60% of the total. This puts a greater emphasis on the importance of developing low-carbon solutions in this industry for Ireland. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we’re obviously already providing this in terms of solar thermal and also solar PV, but we’ll continue to look at developing technologies and how we can help Irish homes make improvements in energy efficiency.

Renewables

Over 9% of Ireland’s energy use came from renewable energy souces, which is great. But we’re still quite a bit off our 16% target which needs to be reached by 2020. Looking at the 9% figure however, this has resulted in almost 4 million tonnes of CO2 being avoided as well a cut-down in over €400m of energy imports.

When it comes to electricity alone, over a quarter of our electricity needs were provided through renewable energy including wind, hydro, landfill gas and bioenergy – with our solar electricity levels at a very low level in comparison to countries with similar climates and circumstances to us. There is optimism that this will grow significantly in the next couple of years. In addition, renewables contributed 5.7% to energy use in transport and 6.5% in the heating sector.

On the SEAI website, Jim Gannon, SEAI Chief Executive said:
“The publication of these energy figures is a timely and pertinent analysis of Ireland’s energy usage following the conclusion of COP22 in Marrakech last week and Ireland’s ratification of the Paris Agreement earlier in November. We are seeing good progress on renewable energy and energy efficiency, however, this needs to be further accelerated to keep pace with higher economic activity and demand for energy. The Government is already responding to this challenge with significant increased funding committed to energy efficiency and renewable heat in Budget 2017. This allows us to build on the progress to date and continue to decarbonise our energy system which will reduce costs, improve energy security and reduce environmental impact.”
Jim Gannon continued: “In 2015 the average household emitted 5.5 tonnes of CO2of which 61% came from direct fuel use in the home and the remainder from electricity use. The transition to a sustainable, low-carbon energy system requires the participation of citizens and communities in both decision-making and action. It is vital that we have an informed debate about the choices for Ireland as we move to a low-carbon economy. SEAI is committed to the provision of timely, robust and transparent data to ensure that policy development, decision-making and our energy transition is based on high quality data and evidence.”


Solar PV 56 kWp System Installed in Courtown Co. Wexford

One of our most recent installations, a 197 solar PV panel installation in Courtown, Co. Wexford is an indication of where the future of energy is heading here in Ireland. Solar panel installation continues to grow and the expected production of our system at Courtown Leisure Centre can act as a case in point of how commercially viable solar photovoltaic has become for Irish businesses looking to consolidate their future expenses when it comes to electricity and energy. You can watch the production of this system at the bottom of this post.

The Solar PV Process

After a successful tender for the contract on the Courtown Leisure Centre, we worked through the half hourly readings and along with CKEA (Carlow Kilkenny Energy Agency) to optimise the size and set up of this heavy consumer of electricity.

The leisure centre themselves had already taken numerous progressive steps to reduce their consumption over the past year, shaving their peak consumption from an average of 93kVA right down to 71kVA. Not happy to sit on their laurels, they pushed on to apply for an SEAI grant for the installation of a solar electric system and with the help of CKEA they were successful in their bid.

Solar PV Specification

With this 56kWp solar PV system, Courtown will reduce their energy consumption by over 40,000kWhr’s (units of electricity) on a yearly basis. Due to the utilisation of Enphase Micro Inverters on this job, this system is guaranteed to continue production of electricity for at least 20 years, which leaves the leisure centre with the peace of mind that they have locked in the cost of approx. 800,000kWhr’s. So no matter what price electricity goes to over the next 20 years, Courtown Leisure Centre have secured approximately 40,000units of electricity per year, for the next twenty years at approximately 5cents.

In the short 18 days of October, the system has generated as much to offset the planting of 38 trees. To put that into perspective on a yearly basis, the installation of this solar system is equal to planting over 800 trees per year, for the next 20 years. Truly cementing Courtown Leisure Centre as one of the greenest and environmentally conscious in Ireland and a solar PV champion.

The installation consisted of 197 solar panels (generating DC electricity), and 197 micro inverters (converting DC to AC electricity) all mounted on a standing seam mounting system. The installation took 4 days, with the majority of the heavy lifting completed in just 2 days. With Solar PV looking to become a larger part of the Irish lexicon over the next five years, it really is great to see SEAI supporting such a system and CKEA helping a forward thinking business such as Courtown Leisure Centre become early adopters to what is sure to become the future of energy in Ireland.

Live Enphase Monitoring

When we had a look at the live monitoring of the system through Activ8 Energies and Enphase. For anyone not familiar with the equivalent units of electricity produced, look at the handy infographics provided. As an example, the 194kWh produced on Sunday October 2nd is the equivalent of the power produced by 64,689 AA batteries.


Solar Case Study: An 'Eco Pub' Uses Activ8

Andy's Bar & Restaurant Use Activ8 For Solar During Their Energy Efficiency Improvements

Andy's Bar & Restaurant in Monaghan Town featured in the Irish Independent as one of Ireland's first 'eco pubs'. It was great to see the family owned establishment getting national media attention given their environmental efforts in the running of their business. Something we here at Activ8 Solar Energies got to see up close and personal when we installed the solar thermal system on the roof of their premises in early 2016.

Solar panels on Andy's Bar & Restaurant roof
A dreary installation day in February did nothing to curb the enthusiasm of staff and their energy efficiency and environmental efforts.

Energy efficiency through solar and more

The family began their energy efficiency drive after the Monaghan premises was destroyed in a fire. With support from the SEAI and the cross-border Sustainable Together through Environmental Management (STEM) project. The Redmond family began their work by installing better insulation, it was at this point, that they contacted us here in Activ8 Solar Energies in regards to installing a solar thermal energy system to help reduce their heating bills and increase efficiency in this part of their business.

Their solar thermal energy system was installed on the roof of the premises after our standard technical survey that matched system specification with business need while factoring in the relevant conditions and circumstances. The system consists of 9 Atlas Solar Thermal Collectors, a system substantially larger than our standard domestic system. We pride ourselves on fitting the relevant system for our customers needs and the accuracy to which we can do this.

This was followed by other internal efficiencies, which included replacing glass doors on fridges with more energy efficient efficient doors, showing the extent to which Seán Redmond and his team were willing to go to ensure they continued their efforts to make Andy's Bar & Restaurant a more energy efficient, environmentally friendly business. Too many people look toward the government and its agencies for complete project leadership in this area. This case study is an outstanding example of how a business can improve business efficiency, reduce costs through an environmentally driven efficiency project. It really is a win-win situation.


What Apples €13 Billion Could Do For Irish Homeowners, Even Clear 30 Years of Water Charges!

In the wake of the European Commissions recent ruling of €13 billion tax payments owed to the Irish government, we decided we would put that figure into context that we here at Activ8 Energies and the citizens of Ireland would understand. Heating and powering your home can cost a lot of money, not quite in the billions though, so let’s see how the magnitude of such a sum compares to expenses within Irish homes. In the interest of balance, we won’t even mention solar.

The average cost of heating and electricity bills here in Ireland comes to €2,300 per year per household. If we took the €13 billion and gave everyone a dig out with their heating and electricity bills, we could pay for every single house in Ireland, for nearly 3 and a half years.

Let’s go one better, water charges. What if the European Commission and the Irish government decided to take the €13 billion and put it against the current household charges for water? We take the €160 & €260 charges and take €210 as an average per home for water? It would cover the water charges for the next 30 years at the current rate. 30 years! We could revisit the topic again in 2046. Thanks Apple.

Or we could look at making every home in Ireland more sustainable and efficient. With €13 billion, we could provide every home in Ireland with a high quality solar panel system and an upgrade on their current boiler. While we’re on the topic of sustainability, this figure would allow the government to give 1/3 of the countries households a new Nissan Leaf pushing Ireland in front as the world’s leading electric vehicle adopter per head of population without a doubt. We would become an even greater little country.
The figure is big, €13 billion. But we haven’t actually come across many outlets writing the number as it is. It almost makes more of an impact doesn’t it?

€13,000,000,000
What if the government took this €13bn and decided to supplement existing programmes and schemes? We can only look at our own industry and provide context that way, if we were to apply this figure to the SEAI grants, something we process on a daily basis, it would singlehandedly multiply the amount of grants issued by the SEAI from 2009-2016 by 67.

*Based off CSO figures in 2015.


Using Recent UK Renewable Developments as an Irish Solar Case Study

Using the UK as a Case Study for Irish Renewables

Although we may not agree with everything that is done across the Irish Sea, we have to admire the UK's commitment to renewable energy production. Through our sister company, Solar NI, we have been able to play a small part in the recently released figures that showed renewable energy accounting for more energy production than coal, for the first time in history.

The UK are no different to ourselves, in relation to clean energy production targets in 2020 and follow up targets in 2030 arising from the COP21 agreement in Paris of last year. What is different, is the highly incentivised subsidy support in the UK driving technologies such as solar into the mainstream in the past 10 years through numerous government driven schemes. Combine these subsidies with the reduced cost of solar pv and you have an astoundingly competitive electricity and energy production option, in your own home. For free!

With renewables playing such an important role in 2015, out-performing coal in the process, recent news surrounding the future cost of solar and wind in comparison to nuclear has had a direct impact on the development of the Hinkley Plant in the UK. A recent delay on its go ahead has shown that the predictions for renewables combined with their present efficiency has really started to impact the decision making processes at the very top. An unpublished government report in the UK has calculated how large-scale solar pv and wind power will be considerably cheaper to produce than nuclear by the time the aforementioned Hinkley plant is up and running. Figures revealed in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) in the UK are forecasting large-scale solar power to cost between £50 and £75/MWh by 2025. Nuclear power on the other hand is expected to cost between £85 and £125/MWh by the same date. The UK government has already agreed a guaranteed purchase price of £92.50/MWh with developers of the Hinkley plant for the nuclear power produced.

This is an important development for us here in Ireland, as we look to our counterparts here in Europe for evidence of successful energy strategies. It is also important because of the electricity we import from the UK through the East West Interconnector that ultimately comes from these exact energy sources we have already discussed. In an ideal world, we would become self-sufficient through our own renewable energy infrastructure here in Ireland. The scope for which, with large-scale solar pv cheapening over time, is hopefully starting to prick a few ears at the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resourcesin Dublin. We can at least take confidence from the success of solar farms in the UK, with the proliferation of such starting to gather pace here in Ireland, a small push from the government in relation to this could really give our own national grid a real shot in the arm. But we wait and see.

On a smaller scale, Part L regulations and the renewable energy aspect of such, has seen a lot of new housing developments take advantage of solar pv to bolster their green credentials while adding value to each property also.

All solar developments in the UK should be closely watched by the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources as it provides us with a solid case study in relation to how we should really start to engage with large-scale renewable energy projects with a view to both our 2020 and 2030 targets. We here at Activ8 Solar Energies can speak from experience when we say that the Irish people have been pushing it on a smaller scale for well over a decade. Our 7,000 installations to date prove such.


New Name For Department Sees Climate Change Importance Grow in Government

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Denis Naughten said the department would be known as the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the transfer of functions from the previous Department of Environment, Community and Local Government was completed. Mr Naughten said the transfer of the environment function allowed the synergies between climate and sustainable energy policy to be fully realised.
“It brings a coherence across the various policy areas involved, and will ensure that Ireland addresses the challenges in ways that are technically feasible, cost-effective and fair in terms of Ireland’s contribution to the overall EU ambition.’’

Mr Naughten said the Government would continue to strive to protect Ireland’s energy supply, generation, security, affordability and sustainability, and to ensure Ireland complied with international energy and climate-change policies. The Minister was replying to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, the very man that opened the Activ8 Solar Energies headquarters in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan all of 7 years ago. Eamon Ryan has said including “environment’’ in the title would allow Mr Naughten in his ministerial duties to “grab the power and grow the department, to strengthen and empower it within Government’’.

We tend to agree with Mr. Ryan to the extent that not only should the word “environment” be included in the title of the department, it should be intertwined throughout each department, rather than isolated on its own. However, this move will allow Minister Naughten to approach other departments in his ministerial position with a view to discussing the impact renewable energy may have on their day-to-day operations and where improvements can be made. This can only be seen as a positive step in relation to the growth of the solar power industry in Ireland. Although steps have already been realised in this regard, with state bodies including solar pv on new builds of all descriptions, from schools to council buildings, it is important that we keep pushing the potential of solar pv for electricity generation in Ireland given our generous annual solar yield and ability to produce substantial amounts of solar electricity from solar pv systems across the country, with the highest yields experienced in the sunny South East.

Although solar isn’t the only show in town, it is important to note the ministers hesitations in relation to wind turbines. The Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources said he accepted a significant number of people had objections to wind turbines, with a view to further consultation on the technology and infrastructure. "There is an issue in relation to wind turbines, there is absolutely no doubt about that," he said. "We also have the potential rollout of solar power as well, in relation to electricity generation," he added. The latter part of this statement bodes well for solar growth in Ireland.


Solar PV In Focus - Recent Installation Points The Way Forward

We recently featured in a piece covering the installation of an Activ8 Solar PV System on the roof of St. Clare’s Abbey Primary & Nursery School in Co. Down, one of our latest Solar PV installations. Gary Connolly, from our PV department discussed the challenges that presented themselves during the initial construction of this project. With extensive PV experience, we were able to change the design to suit this exact installation, opting for a GSE ‘In Roof’ integrated roof-mounting system, which fits into the roof rather than sitting up above it.
It is less obtrusive and more aesthetically pleasing.

Our experience has allowed us to work with many different types of structures and roofing compositions. The challenging aspect of our St. Clare’s installation was the Kingspan slate and tile support system. This meant that all regular mounting systems compromised the weather-tightness of the roof.
This level of weather-tightness could only secured through this installation. Gary and our team were delighted with the solution as it looked extremely well on roof and naturally complimented the architectural styling of the building.

Another aspect of the installation that was very important to us, as it is with all of our PV installations, is the ability to monitor the system going forward. We worked with the MGA Communications crew to integrate the monitoring of the system into the onsite BMS.

This project is another feather in the cap of our PV Department here at Activ8 Solar Energies as it adds to the vast array of PV work we have completed to date. As part of this installation we used a Solis 3 phase inverter, boasting a highly efficient yield curve, 2 MPPT Trackers and a 10-year warranty - which is five more than the industry standard. Not to mention our main solar PV panel of choice, the Suntech 270w black mono solar panels, the best in the business with their Bloomberg Tier 1 rating. We’ve worked on projects as big as 100kWh systems on cinemas, right down to Part L compliant 1 kWp systems on new-build housing developments throughout Ireland.

It is important to us that each and every job is approached in the same manner. With this in mind, we see a lot of new-build solar PV opportunities arising with the heavily publicised housing shortage in Ireland at the moment. With the growth of the economy and high demand for quality housing, we feel that solar PV in Ireland presents a great opportunity for developers looking towards Part L compliance in their upcoming developments.

We are the only ISO accredited dedicated solar installer in Ireland at present and with extensive experience of over 7,000 installations across the island itself, we are in an excellent position to consult, design and install solar on new developments.
To read our featured piece on St. Clares Primary School, click here.


Solar PV - Have The Irish Government Missed The Point?

Solar Energy Generation & Job Creation

We have seen the new budget announced recently, with a plethora of giveaways, incentives and promises of job creation. As a company, we work both north and south of the boarder. Through Activ8 Solar Energies we have created a sustainable business model in the solar thermal industry, with thousands of installs and continued business growth throughout the downturn. We have seen other companies come and go in the tough economical climate of the recession. In Northern Ireland we work as Solar NI, installing solar PV (electric solar) systems, where we have been gaining traction in a new territory while helping to create 16 new jobs in Newry, Co. Down within 1 year of commencing trading.

Our Neighbours in Northern Ireland

Through an incentive which has been in place for a number of years now in Northern Ireland, home owners are incentivised for the units of green energy produced on a yearly basis. Guaranteed for 20 years, this along with a small payment from the electricity companies for any energy sold to the grid, makes PV a very good seller. It pays for itself completely within 5-8 years and is guaranteed for 20, leaving it a no-brainer in terms of a long term sustainability measures for a home owner. An average home owner can expect to save anywhere from €600 to €800 on energy costs. A small grant similar to that of solar thermal could see a considerable growth of the Solar PV industry.

Take Northern Ireland for example, where the current solar industry directly employs 750 people from a population that is only a quarter the size of the Republic of Ireland's. Employment would be created by SMEs and spread widely across the country. The spread of these jobs to match regional demand could serve as a welcome boost to the rural areas of the country. These areas have been the hardest hit by the recession, especially in comparison to urban centres such as Dublin and, to a lesser extent, Cork. Employment and prosperity opportunities in these areas would offer the demographic who are leaving the country in large numbers an incentive and opportunity to stay in their home towns and help rebuild communities which have been decimated by the recent recession. So, in real terms, you could expect to see up on 3,000 jobs directly contributed to the Solar PV trades created by a solar PV incentive or grant, never mind the increased consumer spend and VAT intake for the government's coffers.

The Solar Power of Ireland

When you also tale into consideration that the Republic of Ireland has higher average solar yields than our Northern Irish counterparts, it makes even more sense to invest in Solar PV. Let us compare ourselves to our perceived sunnier continental friends; would it surprise you to know that south of a line from Dublin to Kenmare, Ireland’s potential for solar electricity generation is as good as that of Germany’s?

The Irish Examiner, last year, discussed these compelling statistics. It explained how Germany has installed tens of thousands of megawatts of solar, currently generating over 6% of its electricity with plans to go to 20%, whereas we have yet to install even 1 megawatt. This at a time when we need to increase the amount of renewable electricity we produce, reduce our CO2 emissions and decrease our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

So for now, solar thermal is the only show in town, with a reasonable pick up from the general population due to the current grants which are available. Solar thermal represents a strong return on investment along with a considerably improved standard of living for those who currently use kettles (i.e. virtually every Irish person!) and electric showers for their hot water needs during the 6-8 months in the year where you don’t actually need your central heating. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we currently employ approximately 80 staff and have seen our way through the poor economic times on the back of quality product, service and back up that has seen us gather many happy customers.

But we feel we could raise our country wide employment to double that with a simple, cost neutral incentive by the government. In our opinion, they may have missed a trick.