Generating energy

Having done as much as possible to reduce the energy demand of the property, consider
renewable energy.

Solar Water Heating
and Photo Voltaic (PV) micro-generation are currently the most practical for our area. The location, orientation, shape and construction of each property will determine what is possible.

The continued rapid increase in all fuel costs is making all domestic renewable energy installations more cost effective.

Also see...

Generating energy

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Renewable Energy

Solar water heating

Generally the first option, designed to provide 'free' hot water amounting to 50-60% of annual requirement. A roof slope facing more or less south is required for the panel, plus a dual coil hot water storage cylinder of good capacity. This is pre-heated by hot water from the solar panel. Solar water systems are currently considerably more cost effective than PV.

Photovoltaic panels

As with Solar Water Heating, Photovoltaic (PV) Panels  also require to face the sun, usually via a south-facing roof slope. The power generated is fed into the house electrical supply, reducing meter readings pro rata. The electricity supplier is a key player, and various contracts are available to recognise the contribution of the micro generation.

Many people are concerned at the visual impact that solar panels may have on their property and the attractiveness of our area. The article by Vas Papastavrou in the January Newsletter showed that it is sometimes possible to locate panels where they are virtually invisible. A significant number of houses have valley gutters, and 'hidden' roof slopes. Panels on side and rear roofs will also have little impact. Due south is the most efficient aspect, but south east and south west are feasible. Panels can also be laid almost horizontal on flat roofs, though shadowing by other buildings, chimneys and trees should be avoided.

In fact, our roofs have been subject to many changes over the last 50 years. Original natural slates have been replaced with tiles, often concrete ones. Many, often over large, rooflights and dormers have been added. Chimneys have been removed or decorated with aerials. Overall these changes cannot be said to have improved the appearance of our area.

Solar panels can often be no more obtrusive than Velux rooflights. And at least they demonstrate the owner’s commitment to reducing their carbon footprint - a green badge of honour as we move into a very changed environment?

A terrace with solar panels ‘added’ to south facing hidden roof slopes

Planning control

The Government has just issued new planning regulations for Renewable Energy installations on houses. These provide for different levels of controls for 'ordinary' areas and for Conservation Areas/Listed Buildings. Here is a brief plain English interpretation of the clauses most relevant to our area.

  • There is a general rule that no solar panels and equipment may project above the roof ridge, or more than 200mm (8") from a roof or wall surface.

  • For Houses (not blocks of flats) in non Conservation Areas, no planning application is required for the above installations, regardless of which way they face.

  • For Houses in Conservation Areas (some 80% of RCAS area) planning consent is not needed for panels that face away from the street. But consent is needed for those facing front and side streets. This means that planning officers will have to decide whether a particular proposal is visually acceptable. Listed buildings will continue to require planning consent for any alteration, including solar panels etc.

RCAS advise...

We understand that Bristol City Council are drafting a Advice leaflet covering this new planning issue and RCAS hopes to be consulted over this. However, residents should always contact Planning 0117 922 3097 to check what if any consent is required.

We believe that a standard can be set for Conservation Areas that permits solar panels of reasonable size, visible from the street, where it is not possible to site them more discreetly. This is bound to offend some people but we suggest that attitudes will change as the virtues of retro-fitting of buildings with solar equipment is recognised. Anyway, compared with other global warming consequences that are predicted seeing solar panels will be small beer?