Which is the best renewable technology?……

Without doubt this is one of the questions I get asked most often, whether it is from a potential customer, friends or conversations I have day to day in business. That or ‘Which is the most cost effective renewable technology?’  It’s a bit like asking what is the best vehicle in the world. If you want to go very fast you’d have to say a Bugatti Veyron, if you want to transport 20 tons of bricks it would be an articulated lorry, and if you wanted to have the least environmental impact you’d say an electric car, powered by solar PV!  You get the picture. It’s all about what you want to achieve.

With any client the first thing I do is try to find out what is the biggest issue or cost to their business. Is it generating heat, hot water or electricity? Then of course it is about their property or site. Which technology does it lend itself to, and importantly, what does it NOT lend itself to.  I think this is the critical advantage we can offer over a majority of renewable energy companies, we aren’t limited to any one renewable technology, or tied to any one manufacturer. This allows us to be independent in thought and recommendations.

So, which technology is the best, they all are, depending on site and circumstance! And some technologies work particularly well together, such as heat pumps and solar PV, or Wind Turbines.

Having just looked at the pipeline of projects I am working on presently it is apparent though which technologies are most versatile and offer the best return on investment. About 80% of that pipeline is either solar PV or Biomass boilers, and about an equal measure of both.  Why?


Both solar PV and biomass are very versatile. If you want to generate electricity a majority of sites would be able to accommodate a solar array, either building or ground mounted. It is an easy to deploy/install technology, as long as the system is designed and specified correctly (right panel/inverter selection, shading addressed etc) you will get a very good return and performance from your array.

If it is heat you require biomass can be used for most circumstances, from heating chicken sheds and greenhouses, to bed and breakfasts and offices, or to produce hot water for food

Biomass Boiler

Biomass Boiler at our HO

production. Biomass is far more clean than most people think, and is very scale-able, from a domestic home, to a district heating scheme. Access and storage are the key, but there is usually a suitable site.

Return on investment

Solar PV still benefits from the Feed in Tariff. Most people are aware that the level of tariff has reduced in the last couple of years, but so have product costs, and the returns now are as good as they have ever been. Typically 12-17% ROI on a south facing roof. Of course as energy prices continue to increase so too does your return on investment.

However, without a doubt with the commercial Renewable Heat Incentive in place biomass has the quickest payback and greatest ROI. Typically 25-40%. It sounds too good to be true, but the numbers are easy to quantify, and this is the technology we’re most often asked about for this very reason. You get paid to generate heat!

Of course there is no point installing biomass if what you really need is electricity, or installing solar pv if you need heat. And maybe on your site a heat pump, wind turbine or solar hot water are the best option, with the best returns? That is why you need to speak to people who can help you make an informed choice, because if you speak to someone who only sells Solar panels, guess what they’ll tell you you need!!!

So what is the best renewable technology? It all depends on what you want to achieve….

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How to fund energy efficiency projects – Seminar

How to fund energy efficiency projects

With energy costs rising at twice the rate of inflation….As a business in any sector this seriously affects your bottom line. The more energy intense your business, the more it will be affected. This seminar is geared to show you how you can fund energy efficiency projects with no upfront capital costs, and where savings and tariff incomes usually exceed finance costs. What is more the tax man will help fund it too. We’ll show you how.The Seminar will show you….

  • Case studies– How installing energy-efficient lighting or a renewable energy system, such as Biomass or solar PV, can reduce running costs substantially, and give you a long term guaranteed income.
  • Funding– How Carbon Trust/Siemens Energy Efficient Financing can help enable your project to proceed without initial Capex spend, AND where your energy savings are greater than your finance costs. No Capex, no increases in monthly costs!
  • Tax Benefits– Energy Efficient Lighting and many renewable energy systems are eligible for Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA), giving a 100% write off in the current tax year. However you fund your project there are tax benefits too.

The Speakers 

dh m awards.jpgDavid Hunt is Head of Commercial at Renewable Solutions. He also sits on the Low Carbon Economy Board for the Liverpool City Region LEP, and is Vice-Chair of Onsite Renewables for the Renewable Energy Association (REA)


Mike Agar is an account manager for the Energy Efficient Financing Scheme (EEF), a partnership between the Carbon Trust and Siemens Financial Services. The EEF scheme offers financing to all types of organisations to reduce their energy bills.


Andrew Moss is a Chartered Accountant and has spent all of his career working closely with owner-managers and entrepreneurs, ensuring their business meets the aims and objectives set, and, with an experienced team, minimises tax liabilities through planning opportunities available.

To Register for this event please RSVP to commercial@renewablesolutionsuk.com

Event details

Tuesday 11th June 2013


8.30am – 9.30am Seminar/Q&A

9.30am-10am coffee/ networking

Event Location

Partnership for Learning Building
South Road, Liverpool.
L24 9PZ
(Jaguar Halewood site) Directions

About Us

Renewable Solutions are an MCS and GreenDeal certified installer of a range of renewable and energy efficiency systems. We design, install, commission and maintain systems including solar pv, biomass, wind turbines, heat pumps and solar hot water.

DSG   Chartered Accountants. Everything we do is designed to meet your needs. Whether this is growing your business, protecting your family wealth or tax planning and compliance, we are there to help you achieve your goals whilst taking the compliance burden away, so you can concentrate on what you do best.

Carbon Trust and Siemens Financial Services is a joint partnership to provide UK businesses with green equipment finance worth up to £550 million over the next 3 years.

renewable solutions logo.jpg

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carbon trust logo-2012.jpeg

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Funding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects

Banks say noAt times it may seem like a catch 22. You want to reduce your energy costs, you know there are plenty of ways to save and make money from renewable technologies and other energy efficiency products, but you have no capex to spend.

Fortunately, whilst banks are reluctant to lend money, despite what they may say, there are organisations out there with dedicated pots of money, purely to fund such projects.

Here are three simple ways to access the funds to implement your project, without upfront costs.

Lease Purchase

The Carbon Trust/Siemens Finance have a £550m pot of funds to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for businesses of all sizes and shapes. Finance can be taken as lease purchase, lease or loan. The key to accessing the fund is that the new equipment helps your business reduce your carbon footprint.  Funding is available up to 5 years for projects such as LED lighting (which typically have a 2-3 year payback anyway) and up to 7 years for solar pv, wind or biomass, again which would normally pay for themselves in that time. Funding is straight forward and decisions made quickly. Renewable Solutions are able to access this fund and to process your application in full. The Carbon Trust will provide an independent verification of your systems predicted performance.

Low Interest Loan

There are still well-known lenders out there willing to lend to businesses, in particular for renewable energy projects which have guaranteed income via feed-in-tariffs, such as solar PV and Wind Turbines, or the Renewable Heat Incentive, such as biomass boilers and heat pumps. One of our funding partners will lend at low rates,  typically 3-4%, with no deposit required. The loan is to your business and is not directly linked to your tariff income. Decisions are quick and they will lend to most types of business, especially rural/agricultural businesses.

ESC0/Free funded model

For businesses with a high energy demand there are funds that will pay for, insure and maintain a renewable energy project for you. For example a large solar array, or a biomass boiler. In return you sign up for a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) to buy the electricity or heat generated by your system for 20 years. The purchase price will be well under the market rate you now pay for your energy, and often linked to RPI rather than energy costs, which are double the rate of inflation. Clearly the site does need to be good, and there needs to be the visibility of continuity of consumption on the site.  But you could save substantial sums on your energy bills without any capital outlay or loan repayments.

Of course there are also tax breaks, as you can read in my previous blog ‘Get the Tax Man to pay for some of your renewable energy project‘.

Don’t let funding stop you from making an investment for the good of your business. There has never been a better policy background, funding opportunity or tax breaks. Don’t just take my word for it, ask the Carbon Trust, or an accountant…..


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It’s fair to say I love my job, and I love the industry I’m in. As much as the majority of systems that we are installing presently are solar PV and Biomass boilers, I particularly love our wind turbine projects. Due to wildly varying interpretations of planning law nationally, sadly far fewer get installed than we’d like.  So when they do it’s a great feeling, none more so than when your client is the RSPCA. I’ve always had a soft spot for the RSPCA since we got our first pets from their Southall rescue centre as children.

Animal welfare is obviously at the heart of all they do, and keeping pets safe, comfortableRSPCA and warm is costly. Of course as a charity money is always tight so choosing to invest money for long term benefit makes sense, but also needs careful thought.  We asked Rita Hinton, branch secretary at Brent Knoll centre to write some words about the process, and of course for some feedback about how we did.  This is what she wrote…

Our RSPCA Animal Centre at Brent Knoll is on a large site, with high annual energy bills. These have been rising to worrying levels over the recent years and we decided to look into ways of offsetting some of the cost whilst making us a little less reliant on our Utility provider.

The welfare of the animals in our care is of prime importance and if the temperature drops below a certain level, the heating automatically switches on and is a massive cost to us.

Our electricity bill can be as much as £10,000 a year (roughly £27 a day) and it is anticipated the turbine will produce half the electricity we use, as well as produce an income via the Feed in Tariff.

Having researched the market for suitably qualified experts, we contracted Renewable Solutions UK Ltd to carry out a site assessment to establish our options. It transpired that we had a good annual wind-speed and our open and rural location lent itself to a wind turbine.

This was certainly a first for us, and we were initially a little daunted. We need not have been. Renewable Solutions carried out the design and planning in-house and were very proactive in dealing with the local Planning authority idiosyncrasies.

When planning was approved the Company worked swiftly and efficiently to arrange a schedule for the installation. This was during an incredibly poor period of weather, which threw floods, snow, and sub-zero temperatures at us. The Company worked with a local recommended contractor to excavate for the base and then senior management oversaw the pouring of concrete and fixing of the lower tower section.

The Company then assembled the turbine and a crane was bought in to lift it onto the base section. The Company’s electrician ran an underground cable to connect to the grid and the turbine was left spinning on the day they finished…..very exciting!

Everything ran smoothly without fuss or inconvenience. The Centre operated as usual throughout and the Company were very careful to arrange their work to limit the impact on staff and animals.

We have nothing but praise for Renewable Solutions. The level of service they have provided, together with their expertise, has been superb. We are certainly wind turbine novices and they made a very pleasant experience of something that would otherwise have been very daunting.

Over the next few months we will be letting other Centres know about our installation in the hope that similar projects can be completed. I would thoroughly recommend the Company – they have delivered for us exactly what they promised. 

Glowing recommendations are always warmly received, especially when I can go home and tell my cat Rafa all about it! He’s more of a lover of sunshine than wind mind!

For information about the work of the RSPCA click here.

For more information on Wind Turbines click here.


The Wind Turbine at Brent Knoll


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Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher and Climate Change Activist!

There is blanket coverage this week about Margaret Thatcher wherever you look. The papers, TV news, Radio, Twitter, Linked In and just about anywhere you care to imagine. Perhaps rightly so, love her or hate her she made an indelible mark on our country and our society, none more so than my generation.

But whilst those MPs from the Conservative Party are waxing lyrical about all of her Green Maggie‘achievements’, and the Daily Mail, Telegraph et al trumpet the same eulogies one thing seems to slip under their radar. Margaret Thatcher was the first global politician to speak out and warn about the dangers of anthropological climate change.

I doubt you’ll hear Lord Lawson, Owen Patterson or George Osborne, or many in the Tory party talking about her great foresight into Climate Change. I doubt it will make the front pages of the Daily Mail or Telegraph this week. They won’t be sharing her significant speech to the UN in 1990 on the issue. So, those of us in the ‘green’ movement, whatever our political allegiances, have an opportunity to do so. Perhaps, just perhaps we can convince a few of the many with ‘Thatcherite’ tendencies to take a fresh look at climate change, its dangers and what we can do to mitigate and adapt. Not least of which in regard to our shambolic energy policy.

If you haven’t heard the speech in question you can watch snippets of it here , or you can read the full transcript here.  I was amazed when I read this in full. Few climate change activists could articulate the situation so well, or so succinctly. How I would love the Daily Mail to print this on their front page the day of Mrs Thatchers funeral.

“For two centuries, since the Age of the Enlightenment, we assumed that whatever the advance of science, whatever the economic development, whatever the increase in human numbers, the world would go on much the same. That was progress. And that was what we wanted.

Now we know that this is no longer true.

We have become more and more aware of the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.

In recent years, we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.

We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavours have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.” – Margaret Thatcher.

This was 1990 remember, twenty-three years ago. Long before Al Gore or anyone else in global politics took up the cause.

The sad thing of course, and again something that won’t be on the front-pages this week, is that Thatcher was stabbed in the back by her own party (et tu Brutus). Sad for me in the sense that she never recovered from that, and shrank away from the front line, and never fought the climate change skeptics in her party, of whom there are many. But then she was the Iron Lady no? Not after her Caesar moment she wasn’t.

Now I’m not talking about her policies or legacy (personally I think she did much good for our country, and much to the detriment of our society), but you have to agree, whatever your political persuasion, she was a great leader, a great speaker, articulate, resolute, passionate and determined to win her arguments at all costs.  How we could do with someone like that leading the charge against the climate skeptics now!

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Get the Tax Man to pay for some of your Renewables Project!

Yes it’s true, if you are a business you can get the tax man to pay for about 20% of your renewable energy project! What do you mean you don’t believe me?

Love the Tax Man

Love the Tax Man

Like our friends here, we all like to give the tax man some stick, it’s all we can do after the great ‘Fagan’ has his way with our income. Whether it’s our own pockets or our businesses that he/she has pick pocketed. But it is true, the tax man is your friend on this one.

Our government has signed up to some pretty hefty carbon reduction commitments which are enshrined in legislation, and are legally binding. Because of this the government has set a number of incentives in place to encourage you and I, and our businesses, to reduce our carbon emissions in order for the country to achieve these carbon reduction targets.

Some of these schemes are fairly well known, such as the ‘Feed-in-Tariff (FIT), which rewards you handsomely for installing equipment like solar photovoltaics or wind turbines. These incentives are available for domestic and commercial installations. The other big one at present is the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ (RHI). This is currently in place for commercial installations, and will be live for domestic installation in Spring of 2014, according to DECC. If you want more information on those just ask.

However, lesser known, and for businesses only, there are currently two ways to get the tax man to pay for a percentage of your renewable energy investment. Firstly, for a wide range of energy efficiency products you can claim ‘Enhanced Capital Allowances’ (ECA). This allows you to write off 100% of the project cost against the current years corporation tax. So in layman’s terms, if your corporation tax is at 20%, then you will be able to claim back 20% of your project costs at the end of the tax year. There are benefits even if you are not in profit as a business. ECAs though can only be claimed against a specific list of products on the ‘Energy Technology List’ (ETL). This includes many types of products including solar hot water systems, biomass boilers and energy efficient lighting. Check the list for full details. Bizarrely though solar photovoltaics and wind turbines are not on this list.

But, good news! For a two year window, starting 1st Jan 2013, the government have revised some existing legislation that will benefit companies wanting to install solar photovoltaics and wind turbines, among other things. Essentially, in order to stimulate the economy, by encouraging businesses to invest in capital projects, they have raised the amount of capital investment a company can make and still claim 100% of the project cost against the current years corporation tax. Previously this was just £25,000. So effectively, given an average corporation tax rate of 20%, you can claim 20% of your annual capital investments (up to a total of £250,000) against the current years corporation tax. Full details from HMRC.

Best of all, as I understand it, you can claim for any project that qualifies for ECAs on top of the £250,000 limit mentioned above. Now I’m not an accountant, although I know many, so please do check the details with your own accountant.

With the benefit of ‘Feed-in-Tariffs’ and the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ investments in renewable technologies already typically provide in excess of 10% return on investment BEFORE claiming the c20% project cost back from the tax man. Which begs the question, when the returns are that good, and the cost of energy so increasingly expensive, why haven’t you invested yet?

If you have a responsibility for  cost, energy or carbon reduction in your business, and you are based in the North West, you may want to attend a forthcoming ‘Energy Efficient Finance’ seminar on 11th June. Contact commercial@renewablesolutionsuk.com for full details or to register your interest.


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Calling all wind objectors…..I just don’t get it!

I’m looking for a conversation, not a fight! I really am baffled by the kind of planning objections we have to deal with in the small/medium wind sector. There are hundreds of

6kw Wind Turbine

6kw Wind Turbine

turbines in the 5kw to 20kw range stuck in planning appeals in the UK. Here is a typical one we are facing in Lancashire ( http://www.lep.co.uk/news/environment/wind-plans-for-farm-1-5532409 ). I can understand, to an extent, objections about large-scale wind turbines in large numbers, but these are not ‘monsters’ we’re talking about they are typically on a 15-20 meter tower, as seen here. Most applications are for single turbines on rural land, usually farm land. So why object?

A lot of the rants in the Daily Mail, Telegraph and other anti-renewables press centre around either the inefficiency of wind or its perceived unreliability, or the level of subsidy for turbines. Well, these are arguments easily rebuffed really. Sellafield was just last week shut down due to bad weather! Centralised power stations are tremendously inefficient, with significant losses and inefficiencies in both energy production, and in transmission across the creaking national grid. As is shown in the Sankey diagram below, only about one-third of energy put into a fossil fuel power station arrives as electricity to end users.

30% efficient power stations

30% efficient power stations

So what about efficiency? When you are paying for fuel to go into a power station to get 30% useful output, that is inefficient. But wind is free (and renewable), so if the wind doesn’t blow for a couple of days and the turbine doesn’t spin, is that inefficient? What has been wasted? What has been the cost?

But here is the rub, there is a big difference between utility-scale wind farms, and the small-scale microgeneration turbines that we install. There is little similarity between the two (and I can argue in favour of both). Microgeneration turbines provide power to be used on site. To contribute to the electrical use on a farm or large house typically. Reducing load required from the grid, giving the owner cheaper power, a sense of doing the right thing, and yes, an income. That’s the other thing, subsidy. Yes, there is a ‘feed in tariff’ or subsidy to encourage uptake of the technology, but really, subsidy for renewables as a whole pales into insignificance compared to subsidy for fossil fuels, let alone nuclear. Just this week the IMF reported a $1.9 trillion (yes TRILLION) level of subsidy for fossil fuels globally.

I know this post is somewhat disjointed, but that reflects my frustration I guess. Whenever we put in a wind turbine application, all and every objection seems to be thrown at it. There is no willingness to see the difference between a wind farm of dozens of 150 metre turbines, and a single 15m turbine, in the middle of a farm, to help a hard pressed farmer make his business more sustainable.

So please, engage, no abuse, but I’d really welcome your thoughts about this, for or against.


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