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Energy

Information on the technologies installed in your home to improve energy-efficiency.

 

What are solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and how does the system work?
Solar photovoltaic panels capture daylight and the inverter converts that daylight into electricity for our residents to supplement the electricity they pay for in the conventional way. Any unused electricity the system generates simply feeds back into the grid. As the systems (except for those with a Moixa Maslow battery storage unit) do not store the electricity, it is effectively “use it or lose it” each day.

Approximately 50% of Colchester Borough Council’s housing stock benefits from solar PV. The panels on the roof are divided into arrays, between 8 (2kW) and 16 (4kW) panels per array, and one array to one property. These are connected to an inverter, either installed in the loft space or in a cupboard close to the property’s fuse board and sit alongside a generation meter. We ask that residents do not touch this equipment, as it remains the property of the PV installer.

How can solar photovoltaic (PV) panels help me save money?
Anyone using electricity in the same way as prior to the installation will notice financial savings. Less hours of winter sunlight means that these may be negligible because of less free electricity being generated, with the full benefit being realised in the summer months. Any increase in bills will be a result of personal increased usage. Solar PV does not equate to free electricity 24/7, and as such voluntary increased usage of appliances will mean an increase in the bills and would not be caused by the PV.

Colchester Borough Homes suggests best practice to realise savings but cannot guarantee how much anyone may save as we each consume energy differently. It is strongly recommended that electrical usage is spread or staggered throughout the day, using one appliance at a time where practical.

Residents who have concerns regarding their electricity bills and who have looked at their usage should contact their supplier to ensure that they are on the correct tariff. All PV systems were registered at the time of installation, so all energy companies will hold records to show that the property benefits from PV so should be able to find the best plan for each person’s requirements or be able to discuss billing in greater detail.

I have noticed flashing lights on the inverter – is this normal and do I need to report it?
It is important to realise that flashing lights (sometimes red) on PV inverters and generation meters simply indicates electricity being generated and is therefore completely normal. Additionally, the sequence of lights will differ from property to property, even between two neighbouring homes.

The frequency of the flashing relates to the amount of sunlight outside. It is entirely possible that it will flash a lot on a cloudless winter day but nowhere near as much the following day if it is raining or overcast. The systems send half-hourly signals to an online portal, meaning that those responsible for monitoring the system are aware of a fault almost immediately and will often contact residents directly to arrange an appointment to inspect the system, if necessary. There is no need to monitor the lights on the inverter or the smaller generation meter.

There appears to be a banging or rattling noise during high winds – is this normal?
Generally, mild rattling in the wind is normal. The panels are designed with a certain degree of flex to allow them to lift slightly for air to flow beneath, resulting in a noise on windier days. Noise may also be heard when wind catches the aluminium wind breakers at the back of the arrays.

Where it is felt that the noise has become a loud bang please contact Customer Services for the issue to be referred to the relevant investors’ maintenance contractor.

Who owns the system and does anybody else benefit financially from the installation?
Each solar installation on Colchester Borough Council’s homes are owned by one of four private investors, with a 20-year legal agreement in place between the Council and the investors to lease the roof space on which the panels sit (typically half of the roof). The investors are responsible for maintenance of their equipment and any queries should be directed to Colchester Borough Homes to then be forwarded on. The investors receive quarterly Feed-in Tariff payments from the government.
Birds nesting or resting on rooftops, next to or beneath PV panels
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generate a mild amount of heat and therefore can be attractive to birds due certain periods of the year. In a small number of instances birds may nest beneath the PV.
 
Birds on rooftops can lead to an increase in birds’ mess and general detritus falling to the ground below, and can be a concern to residents. In many cases this is indicative of blocked guttering and should lead to Repairs inspecting/clearing them as necessary.
 
It is important to note that:
 
Wild birds, including pigeons, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Section 1, relating to protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs, states:
 
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally –
(a) kills, injures or takes any wild bird;
(b) takes, damages or destroys the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built; or
(c) takes or destroys an egg of any wild bird, he shall be guilty of an offence.
 
As such, this Act severely limits the actions Colchester Borough Homes, or any other party, may take. Furthermore, nothing can be done to prevent birds landing on other parts of the roof.
 
Where a resident has concerns, please carefully consider the present situation and determine if there is a nest or if the birds just rest on the roof (there is enough clearance between the roof and any array that a nest would be visible from ground level). Where there is no nest, please click here to complete a request for Colchester Borough Homes’ Repairs department to inspect and clear any debris from the gutters. Where there is a nest, please click here to record the details and ensure that you contact Colchester Borough Homes again if the present situation changes.