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Your home can be powered by solar around the clock



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Storage powers the night with light

In the midst of Brexit and Pokemania, it’s easy to overlook a shift taking place in global energy networks that has far reaching benefits for us all. Solar can now economically provide the majority of a homeowners’ electricity demand thanks to improvements in the performance, lifetime and cost; lithium batteries are 90% cheaper than they were in 1990 and can last longer than 10 years. Welcome to the store-age!

Storage technology has developed so much that in 2015, over a third (41%) of all solar systems installed by German homeowners were tied with battery storage. As noted by analysts at Greentech Media “The future of Germany’s energy storage market is bright, and the solar market will surely benefit as storage prices decline.” The UK will follow Germany’s lead.

Storage cuts the electricity bill

Solar with storage can dramatically reduce a homeowner’s dependence on their supplier for their electricity. We all know that solar panels on your roof generate clean energy; however until recently there has not been a way to guarantee that homeowners can use that energy. A range of new storage devices mean this is no longer the case – a storage device in the home makes the clean energy available whenever you need it- no more timing the washing machine to run during daylight hours.

Most importantly for homeowners, storage means they can consume more of the solar energy generated by their panels. The experience of the UK’s first Tesla Powerwall customer illustrates this well.

After installing the much-hyped battery, the homeowner used a whopping 80% of the electricity generated by the panels on their roof during the last week of April 2016. Previously, the same family – who are not usually at home in the day so demand most electricity in the evening and on weekends – used around 20% of all the solar electricity their panels generated . (This varies from one home to the next depending on a variety of factors such as the size of the storage device).

This diagram shows the sweet spot of the perfect solar and storage marriage. Combining solar and storage reduces the amount of electricity required from a supply company, which translates to hefty savings



So why is a storage revolution happening now? There are two main reasons: solar and storage prices have hit a tipping point and storage device lifetimes are much longer, so they don’t need replacing as often. Your mobile phone battery might be good for 2 years. The latest good quality lithium batteries for use with solar panels are now warrantied for 10 years.

It’s widely known that the cost of solar PV has fallen dramatically. In fact, earlier this year Oxford University researchers asserted that costs are dropping so fast that solar will continue to decline at 10% per year. This means an average sized 3kWp system costs as little as £5000.

Storage prices have also plummeted by 90% since 1990, and consequently there are now a plethora of new storage devices to choose from. Since the launch of Tesla’s Powerwall last year, a range of storage devices for homes have hit the market from companies like LG, Enphase, Sonnen, SunAmp and Powervault. Consumers have choice, and professional installers select the right product for each householders needs.

Tesla is also not the only vehicle manufacturer in the market to launch a battery device for homeowners; Mercedes, BMW and Nissan are launching batteries for the home which can be charged during the day by solar panels on the roof, ready to offload to an electric vehicle in the evening. With this choice, it’s getting easier for homeowners to find a device that’s right for them.

What’s right for your home?

You could consider:

• What’s my budget?

• If I look at when I use electricity, could I use more of the solar power from my solar roof system if I get an energy storage device?

• How important is it for me to become energy independent i.e. less reliant on my electricity supplier?

Storage in 2016

Analysts IHS predict that the global energy storage market will double this year as homes, businesses and utilities adopt energy storage. “Energy storage is set to grow as fast as solar photovoltaic energy has in recent years,” according to Marianne Boust, an IHS principal analyst.

If these predictions ring true, you could find yourself shopping for a storage system much sooner than you thought.


By Dr Andrew Crossland and Sarah Allison at Solarcentury



Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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