Here’s a useful gadget for sizing your green energy investment.
Spending thousands on solar panels or sticking a wind turbine on your roof requires a serious leap of faith.
You can research how good an investment it should prove, but until most people splash out they will never know. So, it’s no wonder that green energy has gained a reputation for being the domain of those who can afford to have a conscience – or at least enough cash lying around to stump up for an installation lump sum.
But entrepreneur Graham Brant believes he has found a recipe that will turn the renewable energy sector on its head – by helping anyone from homeowners, to small businesses and even big companies tap into green energy, cut costs and save more money long-term – with a Power Predictor. (Buy it in the UK)
This amazing device is an anemometer for measuring wind, a pyranometer for measuring solar, an SD card data logger, and analysis software all wrapped into one affordable package. The Power Predictor measures both solar and wind energy at your site. It comes with a data logger and one year’s free access to an online account where your data will be analyzed. The report compares your data to major wind turbines and solar panels on the market today. It quantifies your potential payback period, annual energy generation, cost savings and effect on your carbon footprint.
The problem? Thousands of people invest in the wrong kind of renewable energy, be it solar or wind, even though many properties or buildings are completely unsuitable, according to Brant.
This means energy savings can vary substantially – many people end up paying over the odds because of inefficiencies. This can be avoided by picking a more suitable energy source for the site.
Enter the Power Predictor. Designed with governments, businesses and homeowners in mind, it measures the potential for renewable energy generation for a particular location, based on actual weather conditions.
This is important because, according to Brant, CEO of Power Predictor, whose designers have analysed MetOffice weather patterns, wind speed is on average 38 per cent lower than official figures state, while solar is 20 per cent lower.
Brant explains: ‘The project started after listening to blog and forum conversations between more than 15,000 people who were exchanging data on how to undertake small-scale renewable energy projects.
‘The single biggest theme that emerged was the need for a low cost but accurate device that would help project owners work out how much natural energy present at a site, the best technology would be to tap into this resource and at what cost.’
Brant adds that, until now, there has been a lack of reliable data for people to make effective decisions on renewable energy, which he believes is the key factor holding back renewable energy growth.
‘A common issue is that small scale renewable technologies, such as solar panels and wind turbines, are sold to people without a proper survey of the available natural energy sources,’ he says.
‘Micro climate effects mean that wind and solar energy at any location can vary widely from the weather data provided to those considering renewable energy. Savings made from avoiding an expensive mistake of buying the wrong thing to put in the wrong place can run into tens of thousands of pounds.’
‘POWER PREDICTOR SAVED MY BUSINESS £1,171 A YEAR’
Duncan Glendinning , who runs the Thoughtful Bread Company in Holcombe, Somerset, is committed to looking at long-term sustainable ways of reducing the impact of the business’ day-to-day operations on the environment.
He had some idea that turbulence from nearby buildings would affect the viability of a wind turbine at their location but the location of a renewable energy device was limited by what their landlord would allow.
He says: ‘Rather than hastily jump into a renewable energy investment and just assume that the location was suitable we decided to use the Power Predictor.
‘Being familiar with renewable energy, we knew that you could easily get it very wrong. And one location 100 metres away from another could be more effective.
‘That’s why we chose to use Power Predictor to analyse the difference. By doing so, we’ve adopted the most efficient renewable source of power for the business.
‘We placed our PP in the location that was a compromise between the ideal location and where the landlord would allow so that the solar and wind could be properly assessed. We also looked at positions in open fields adjacent to their unit so that we could have a comparative report of the two locations.
‘After gathering data from the sites we found we would be able to save 4,193 kg of CO2 every year and £1,171 a year.’
The wind industry has suffered greatly in the small turbine space from misguided installation and, as a result, an unhappy customer base.
Brant says: ‘The consumer is often persuaded not to undertake much pre-installation measurement because it’s too expensive. But you would not buy a house without a survey so why invest a large capital sum in a wind turbine without a survey?’
The premise behind the devise is simple. It determines what the best technologies and products are by property, cost, money and carbon saving potential and the length of time before a person or business can expect a return on their investment.
Dave Hampton, for example, almost learned the hard way about investing in a wind turbine in a low-wind area.
He placed his Power Predictor on his roof on his London home only to discover a typical wind turbine might never pay back his initial investment.
Instead, he is now looking to invest in a Solar PV panel, having already purchased a Solar Thermal System. This is predicted to reduce his energy bill by over £300 every year.
He said: ‘It avoids wasting your money on a piece of kit which is not right for you. It will help people invest their low carbon legacy wisely – not to blow it on something that looks grand but gives the least carbon bang to the buck!’
George Halliday, who owns Aston Farm in Exmoor National Park, also used the Power Predictor to find the best option for him – and ended up saving £7,000 a year by powering his entire farm with wind energy.
To reduce interference and turbulence from surrounding trees and buildings, Mr Halliday mounted the Power Predictor in a local field using his own, handmade, 10 metre mast. (For those not quite as ambitious with the DIY as George, a range of masts for the Power Predictor are available.)
Having recorded a month’s data, he found he could generate more than enough energy to cover his farm’s total energy demand. Mr Halliday now also hopes to sell his surplus electricity back to the grid, making his yearly cost savings ever greater.
Buy it in UK
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