Stumbling Towards Solar PV Incentives In Ireland

As a key stakeholder in the Irish Solar Industry, this week is a very interesting one indeed.

Today I travel to a number of meetings with many like-minded people within my industry, to see if we can form a strong, stable and exciting incentive to help us move past the label of Europe’s solar laggards.

Tomorrow I travel to Munich, to Intersolar 2018, where I can discuss with our peers in Europe, suppliers and engineers alike on the deemed successes of solar throughout the continent in the past and the products and strategies of the future.

To see where our industry sits at this moment in time we should see the successes achieved both by us and by our nearest neighbours – Northern Ireland. SEAI have done a great job spreading the word of sustainability throughout Ireland, with grants for almost every useful upgrading measure available. To this end, energy conservation and renewable production has almost become glamorous! You need look no further than Diarmuid Gavin on a Sunday afternoon on RTE to realise that triple glazing, insulation and heatpumps are the fashionable things to go for. When it comes to Solar Thermal, SEAI have truly done their part also. We have upgraded thousands of homes through the grant scheme, and thousands of others simply through the knock on effect of testimonials, advocating the effectiveness of established solar homes. Great products, services and savings are infectious, but sometimes need a push to get over the hump of inertia. In this context, Northern Ireland have taken an approach to incentivise Solar PV. From simply driving the road from Dundalk to Castleblayney, you can see the effects from one incentivised region to another.

For those not familiar with the N53, it turns into the A37 (NI) for 5.4 kilometres. As you drive this small stretch of road, you can see what a difference the PV incentive has made. You will see both social and private housing with systems installed, as well as numerous businesses from petrol stations to bars and shops. All reducing the electricity purchased from the grid, saving money and doing their bit for the environment. Then as you move further down the road onto the N53 again you can see domestic customers availing of solar thermal again in the Republic.

A small PV incentive, similar to that which homeowners can obtain for solar thermal in Ireland would put us in a position to catch up with our European counterparts in the renewable stakes. We already have the governing body in place, along with mechanisms to roll this out extremely efficiently. We have checks in place for trade specific qualifications and insurances to ensure the customer is using a properly vetted company. We already have the vehicles in place to do quality insurance inspections to ensure only high quality installers remain on this grant list. We even have an efficient way of trading carbon credits which could also subsidise installation costs in place. Leaving us with 2 roadblocks;

  1. The lack of an incentive in place for solar PV
  2. The lack of planning foresight for Solar PV, as we are still working from exemptions with solar thermal in mind

Change is difficult. Enacting mass change is harder again. Indecision, plodding progress and fear of change is what has us as Europe’s laggards. On a technology that has proven itself throughout European countries for over a decade now. This stumbling progress to date, has left us second from bottom on a list produced by Europe’s largest NGO coalition Climate Action Network (CAN) on Monday just past (18th June 2018) of countries and their progress toward their 2020 goals. However, the aforementioned structures and processes that we already have in place, allows me to look at the current solar landscape and our ability to move forward with solar PV with positivity.

Ciaran Marron
CEO


Solar Thermal In Spring

We’re nearing the end of February. The fact that almost 2 months have passed in 2017 is newsworthy enough, it’s mad to think that time has gone so fast. With the time of year in mind and spring in full swing, our customers will start to see the production of their solar panels really pick up with the hours of daylight increasing day by day. General temperatures are starting to pick up and although the peak summer months can deliver daily hot water, it is these transitional periods during spring and autumn when the Atlas solar thermal panels really show their efficiency.

Spring And Autumn

These transitional periods bring more hours of daylight, stronger solar radiation and overall better conditions for solar. Our Atlas solar panels, developed in Austria with the Irish climate in mind, are built to maximise their efficiency during these times. Couple this with the extremely well-insulated piping and the optimised Joule cylinders that we install with each installation and you can be confident that each piece of equipment used is part of a system aimed at squeezing every last bit of heat from the solar radiation available.

Seeing The Solar Savings

Recent news articles have shown the dramatic drop in wholesale electricity prices over the last number of years, leading to questions as to why these prices haven’t been reflected in the prices available to customers. It is important to note, that the price of solar energy as it is produced can’t go up or down on a daily, monthly or yearly basis. Why? Because it’s free!
Once the system is installed, the production of hot water over the lifetime of that system is absolutely zero. Zilch. We understand that the initial outlay is of course substantial, but most investments in your home are. The advantages to taking advantage of such an investment include the available grants, the tax-free nature of the savings you make and the reality that inflation can’t effect something that you get for free no matter what happens to consumer prices. We have no mystic macs here at Activ8, but we bet that generally speaking, just like has happened in the last 15-20 years, prices and the cost of heating your water will rise over time.

Our Grants page outlines the process through which you can check if your home is eligible for a grant and what you need to do in order to attain the grant. You’ll soon realise that we help with every step of the process and go as far as processing the grant post-installation but giving you the grant amount off the price of the system, up-front.

250 Years In The Making - Solar Thermal

Solar thermal experiments and "technology" advances have come a long way. How long? 250 years.

In 1767, Horace de Saussure, a noted Swiss naturalist, observed, “It is a known fact, and a fact that has probably been known for a long time, that a room, a carriage, or any other place is hotter when the rays of the sun pass through glass. To determine the effectiveness of trapping heat with glass covers, de Saussure built a rectangular box out of half-inch pine, insulated the inside, and had the top covered with glass, and had two smaller boxes placed inside. When exposed to the sun, the bottom box heated to 228 degrees F (109 degrees C) or 16 degrees F (9 degrees C) above the boiling point of water. de Saussure was unsure of how the sun heated the glass boxes. Today we can better explain what happened. Sunshine penetrated the glass covers. The black inner lining absorbed the sunlight and converted it into heat. Though clear glass allows the rays of the sun to easily enter through it, it prevents heat from doing the same. As the glass trapped the solar heat in the box, it heated up. Its inventor realised that someday the hot box might have important practical applications, as “it is quite small, inexpensive and easy to make.” Indeed, the hot box has become the prototype for the solar collectors that have provided sun-heated water to millions since 1892.

Tried and tested to say the least! Why not get in contact with us and see if you're grant eligible and how solar can help you at home and help you save money too.


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.


Activ8 Suppliers Recognised in EuPD Research as Top Solar Brands

There is a reason we work with specific partners and suppliers in the solar industry. We value quality, efficiency and performance above all else. That is also the reason why we chased ISO 9001 accreditation in 2015 with such purpose. Within Activ8 Group, everything is in our control, the way in which the products we use are produced, is subjectively, out of our control. But we choose our suppliers carefully.

Getting EUPD Research Recognition in the Solar Industry

That is why we were delighted to hear that their shared value of quality was recognised recently as part of the recent EUPD Research results for 2016 with our inverter partners, Solis (string) and Enphase (micro) both receiving Top Brand within the Solar PV category. To add to this, our solar pv panel supplier have had their Bloomberg Tier 1 panel quality recognised also, with an award for their modules within the Solar PV category also.

It is important to us, that our customers know they are receiving the very best of products installed on their properties, be them retail or commercial. We won’t always claim to be the cheapest solar panel installer here in Ireland, but we can safely say there are a number of things that our competitors cannot claim to possess that we do.

It is important to note that EuPD Research is the leading market intelligence company in the sustainable business sector and they pride themselves on delivering deep and diverse industry insight and in everything they do, they look to embody the principles of sustainability.

To be the best, you have to use the best and congratulations to our partners Suntech, Solis and Enphase on their recent recognition.


Australia Saves $1 Billion Per Year With Solar

Solar panels on suburban Australian home roof
** Note: Visible grain at 100%, best at smaller sizes

As far as the energy industry is concerned, Australia has proven that the efficient implementation of simple ideas can yield unprecedented and unbelievable results. Australia's embracing of alternative energy in the form of its nationwide solar PV panel project has taken the country by storm, saving it more than $1 billion per year on power bills. The Aussies have installed well over 23.2 million solar PV panels this year. When you think about it, that’s nearly one solar panel for every person in the country (at the last census, Australia was calculated as being home to 24 million people). While there can be no denying that Australia has invested heavily in solar, the $1 billion annual saving represents a significant return on investment, an average saving of $653 per household per year.

Recent years have seen a huge increase in the number of solar panel installations on Australian rooftops. Since the 2007-2008 financial year the country has saved approximately $4.4bn thanks to its solar energy investment. For the past three years the country has been saving an annual average of $1bn thanks to renewable solar energy which certainly justifies the nation’s many installations. The installation of rooftop solar panels has become the norm in Australia’s building industry as people and businesses wisen up to the fact that they had been missing a trick in not putting them up much sooner. In fact, Australians now spend almost as much money on solar panels as they do on coffee.

Solar Power to the People

Households and small business investors have invested more than $8 Billion in the installation of rooftop solar panels. This translates to a grand total of more than 1.5 million households and business units. In the recently concluded financial year, Australians invested $1.23bn on the installation of solar panels. The initiative to revolutionise renewable energy in Australia continues to be a resounding success because the most crucial portion of the population, it’s everyday working citizens, is committed to ensuring that it is successful. It is the hard earned cash from home owners and small business investors that has made the project a success.

Australia has set the pace for the global revolution of the use of renewable energy. Currently, the country's generation has hit 6.5TWh (terawatt-hours) from the already installed rooftop solar PV panels. Such large amounts of clean and renewable power is not only beneficial to the country's economy and revenue but it also brings about great environmental benefits. For example, the country's ongoing generation of clean solar energy helps prevent as much as 6.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere and causing irreparable damage every single year. This is of huge benefit to the Australian environment and its people as Australia is known to have some of the thinnest patches in the Ozone layer, which creates a lot of problems. The country's progress in implementing the use of alternative energy has been such a huge success because it has been spearheaded by a great many visionaries who have taken global energy goals and targets into their perspective, a very forward-thinking attitude toward carrying out business.

Future Australian politicians and other stakeholders need to ensure that the country maintains the current renewable energy trend to ensure that it continues to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy, as not doing so could negatively impact them at the voting booth. Approximately 5 million Australians have installed PV panels on their property, indicating a huge level of support for renewable energy initiatives among the populace. This represents a base of more than one in five voters, so politicians would be ignoring the popularity and usefulness of solar power at their own peril!

What can we learn from this in Ireland?

With Australia leading the way in terms of embracing clean and renewable forms of energy, we can learn a lot from them right here in Ireland. The impressive savings which Australian homeowners and businesses are making thanks to placing their trust in solar power is plain for all to see. With that in mind, it is high time the people of Ireland followed suit and took their share of the spoils!

Sure, there are plenty of Australian citizens that have taken to solar technologies because of their environmentally friendly approach to energy production, but that sort of adoption points directly towards the savings which we’ve outlined already. That reason alone has seen solar panels begin to appear on rooftops all over Ireland, but the number of people who have invested are still in the minority however. Depending on the size and energy needs of your building, massive savings can be made through the installation of solar panels on your home or business location. Whatever you do, don't delay. Now is the time to invest!


Activ8 Solar Energies Feature at Reception of NSAI ISO9001 Certification Event

Our General Manager Aidan Marron, along with our Installation Manager Stephen Duffy, attended the recent NSAI event where a number of companies were awarded their NSAI certificates. We were there to collect our ISO 9001 Accreditation for our Quality Management Systems. This event was used by the NSAI to showcase the direct correlation between companies who have received certification and their operating profit and growth.
We can only speak of our own experience. We would agree with the results of the study whilst also wanting to shed some light on how the process improvements involved in readying the company are what actually result in company growth and profit improvements.

We can only speak in relation to our own experience within the solar industry, but when it comes to an investment such as solar panels, we feel that customers will look towards our NSAI certification and no that they are dealing with a company that puts quality at the forefront of everything they do. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, our ISO9001 accreditation for Quality Management Systems is proof. Proof that whatever stage a customer is at, they are involved in a process that some 7000+ customers have gone through, allowing us to refine and perfect our own processes for a better customer experience as they purchase a solar system from us.

This certification is one that we are very proud of, given that we are the only dedicated solar installer in Ireland to achieve ISO9001. Something that sets us apart from competitors and gives our customers reassurance that their investment in solar panels with Activ8 Solar Energies, is a safe investment.