Buckland Low Carbon Network

The aim of the Buckland Low Carbon Network is provide a forum for to exchange ideas and experience amongst Buckland residents of practical ways of reducing our carbon emissions – hopefully to help inspire us all on practical and affordable steps we may consider to reduce our carbon emissions. If you are considering possible next steps, and would like to talk to someone in the community who has done it, we aim to be able to put you in touch. And we hope to run occasional events on specific topics to help inspire us all.

In February, we held our first meeting, which focused on the topic of renewable heating – particularly heat pumps. We had a useful briefing on the options, and drew on the experience of four households in Buckland who have installed air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps. (We’ d be happy to share information from this meeting with anyone who is interested, but was not able to make the meeting.)

On the second occasion we met we focused on Green Energy Suppliers. We considered questions what is a green energy supplier, does it really make any difference if you sign up with a green energy supplier, whether all green energy suppliers are the same, or whether some are greener than others?

The focus of our 3rd meeting, held on 22nd June, was domestic solar energy. We had an interesting and informative presentation from Will Clemson, who runs a Brockham-based solar energy business, with additional input from Jerry Hamilton, a Brockham resident who is responsible for Tesla UK’s home battery business.

Will explained that the main government subsidies for installing solar panels had now been discontinued, as the cost of solar panels has fallen to more commercially viable levels. He noted that this means that most people who are installing domestic solar panels now are motivated by a desire to use greener energy and/or to save money on their electricity bills. Recurring savings from solar panels now come mainly from savings on grid energy used, and partly from payment for surplus energy fed into the grid.

We heard that the best aspect for solar panels is south facing, at a 35 degree angle, with nothing shading the area. This makes most south facing pitch roofs a very good location, although it was noted that east or west facing pitch roofs are also possible, but would produce around 15% less power. Panels can also be installed in a garden or on other land where there is spare space.

It was noted that solar panels mounted on pitched roofs do not normally require planning consent (with some exceptions), and that the Local Planning Authority is gradually taking a more positive approach to planning consent for solar panels in the context of its policies to reduce carbon emissions across the District. There was some discussion on the appearance of solar panels, and it was noted that they now come in matt black as well as silver, or indeed as solar roofing tiles.

We had some discussion about how to get the best out of solar panels, and Will suggested three main ways to get the best benefits out of solar panels (and thereby reduce the payback period):

  • Where possible, run appliances at the times of day when panels are generating
  • When generating surplus energy from solar panels, divert it into heating hot water – in summer months, this can provide most of your hot water heating needs
  • Consider installing a home battery, that can store surplus solar energy when it is generated (in the morning and afternoon), so that you can use it when needed (mostly in the evenings). This can be particularly useful if you also have an electric car.

A number of members of the Network have solar panels (one or two also with a home battery), and offered to share their experiences with others in the community who might be considering installing solar energy.  

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 14th September and the topic is electric cars.

If you live in Buckland and are interested in joining our Network, would like to talk to someone in your local community about their experience please contact me.

Ken Caldwell
Buckland Resident and Network Convenor

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