Independently of the latest climate change news, at the weekend Robin and I went looking to see if there was anything affordable in the way of renewable energy microgeneration that we could have installed in our house. Hot water solar panels aren’t really very practical because we want hot water the most in winter, first thing in the morning before the sun’s up yet. In the summer in the middle of the day we might get lots, but it would just go to waste. We don’t have any streams or similar that could be used for water wheels.
Photovoltaic solar panels are more promising, but still very expensive for what they give and rather inefficient, even considering the 30% support grant we’d be eligible for. The most attractive option looked to be a roof-mounted wind turbine for £1500 including installation. Attractive, that is, until we looked up the wind speed charts and found that the average wind speed in our area is only just high enough to get the dratted thing turning at all.
So for the moment it looks like we’re going to continue buying our electricity through the grid. I see that one of the recommendations of the Stark report is that new-build homes should all have some sort of microgeneration. I think that’s rather weak, especially as I don’t think we should be building more new houses anyway. The trouble is that even with the support grant mentioned above (which is not much publicised), the up-front expense of such things is very off-putting for individuals buying them for their own houses; the savings on the bills are not yet high enough to offset it quickly. If the price was lower more people might be willing to buy them; if more were produced the manufacturing costs might go down, which would in turn affect the price. Maybe the Government should mandate installation of microgeneration devices on all houses, or offer some additional incentive such as reduction on council tax, to get some sort of critical mass going to the point where the price drops.