Thame Solar Streets – the inside story

It’s been great to see new Solar Panel (PV) installations appearing in Thame, in spite of pandemic restrictions and the wintry weather. These smart, all-black solar panels are generating clean and renewable energy, reducing electricity bills for the home owners, and paying for themselves even more quickly in lockdown (more of that in a moment).

Who is doing the work?

If you saw us when we had a stall in the market place, we (Thame Green Living volunteers) were working with a PV marketing company called The Green Group. They partner with a PV installation company called IDDEA. IDDEA started a Solar Streets programme in 2019 in Frome, Wiltshire and have expanded their business, recently opening a depot in High Wycombe. The staff installing panels in Thame are from the new depot and also support the Solar Streets projects being rolled out in St Albans, Marlow and Henley.

Do installations have to be in the same street?

No, not at all. The aim is to cluster the installations in say a 5 mile radius, to gain installation efficiencies – for example minimising wasted ‘back to the depot’ trips between jobs.

What about Thame’s Conservation Area?

A recent piece of good news is confirmation from South Oxfordshire District Council that solar panels can be installed in Thame’s Conservation Area. The only restriction is against PV panels mounted on a wall that faces the street. There are further restrictions for Listed Buildings, which are unlikely to get permission for panels.

Do panels stop working on cloudy days?

No, they keep producing useful energy. On a cloudy day, they typically generate 10-25% of their output compared with a clear day. A light snow covering is not a problem and snow tends to slide off because the panels trap some of the sun’s warmth. However, we have to acknowledge they don’t work at all in moonlight!

What about cold days?

Actually the panels work marginally better on cold days. In general, for each degree above 25 degC (the standard test condition), panels will become one percent less efficient. For each degree below 25 degC, they become one percent more efficient.

Can the panels link with my home and electric car?

There are now some great automatic controls available that will ensure your solar power is directed to your hot water tank, or to charging your electric car. A further option is to install a battery along with your panels and store the clean energy you generate for use at another time, say when it’s dark. If your panels produce more energy than your home can use at any one moment, the excess power flows back into the grid. So it isn’t wasted, but you only get paid a modest amount for those ‘exported’ units. It makes better economic sense to try and use the free solar energy in your home, so avoiding buying electricity at full price from the grid.

How long does it take to pay back the cost of the panels?

There’s lots of detail about this on our website, and a range of answers because it depends on many factors including how much solar power is used in your home and how much you export to the grid. Helpful calculations are shown in the video at https://solarstreets.co.uk/Thame .

For example, a typical installation costing £4,000 will pay back its cost in 16 years (it has a 25 year life) if the house owners are out all day; in 14 years if they are out half of the day, and 11 years if they are in all day. This will of course be influenced by the trend towards greater home-working, where more power will be consumed during the day and the payback will be shortened still further. For some people the pay back period is only one consideration – more importantly could be the carbon emissions saved (about 1.1 tonnes of CO2 each year).

Interested to know more? You may find the website videos helpful. Also, why not ask for a no-obligation free survey and get estimates tailored to you. Alternatively, ask us a question through our enquiry form.

Leave a Comment