Cllr Kevin Pressland: Put solar panels on rooftops not Kent farmland

Solar panels

Green Councillor Kevin Pressland is a passionate campaigner for nature and the natural environment.  His understanding of the threats faced by the natural world is based on expertise gained from a 40-year career in horticulture, garden design and sustainable land management:

As the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has highlighted, solar panels should be on roofs not on the countryside. It is surely absurd that we have an allocation of over 17140 houses required by 2031 in Thanet but only a miniscule percentage of builds so far have any form of solar or air source heat pumps.

This does not strike me that the climate change and ecological disaster is being considered seriously enough by government. They’re missing a real trick. The other major parties are not highlighting or showing commitment to this either. Why? France has committed to have solar on all car park roofs nationally, producing the same amount of energy that three nuclear power plants can per annum.

The Isle of Thanet News highlighted that Thanet Earth salad producers solar roof array of 2,740 photovoltaic panels has finished construction; they have now increased their independence from energy utility suppliers. We should be surely doing the same for all new builds domestic and commercial in Thanet and across Kent?

There is likely to be an application for a solar park in Thanet in 2024 and another is in the consultation stage between Ash and Sandwich that would cover 206 acres of countryside though this is in Dover District.

Surely solar photovoltaics on houses and commercial enterprises should be the preferred option as it has a multiplicity of benefits as the recent CPRE report highlights https://www.cpre.org.uk/about-us/cpre-media/rooftops-can-provide-over-half-our-solar-energy-targets-report-shows-copy/  .

The advantages include reducing energy bills for house owners and businesses long term, little or no energy loss through voltage drop, reducing the need for so many solar parks, safeguarding valuable countryside and farmland. Solar parks like other forms of industrial energy production have to attach to the national grid system where it’s not uncommon for voltage drop losses (energy losses) on average around 6.4%.

Oil and gas taxes and energy utility taxes (a percentage of these) should pay for solar photovoltaics on all new build’s (domestic houses, commercial enterprises and house extensions on the appropriate aspect roofs) so the costs of installations on properties are not incurred by the builder, house or commercial property purchaser.

It would be great to see Thanet District Council put photovoltaics, air source heat pumps on all their housing for social rent which they are intending to build or purchase in the 4-year administration period, and that would be great news.

The UK government was voted in to surely do the best for the citizens of the country. Why has this then not been enacted by the government or does the interests of energy utility companies trump the public, countryside and farmland best interest? I am sure you and I would love to know the answer to that. Sadly, I believe the other big political parties would behave in a similar manner. I urge them to reconsider their approach.

We have to find ways to reduce carbon emissions but we have both a Climate Change and ecological crisis and we should be producing more of our own food requirement in the UK these are all intrinsically linked not separate issues. If we fail to realise this, we are in severe danger of creating even more negative implications rather than creating a more holistic approach.

There is a different approach that enshrines the concept of Systems Thinking as nature works cyclically and we need to endeavour to develop economies and societies based on this approach, it’s worth getting an understanding of this concept https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/videos/explaining-the-circular-economy-rethink-progress?gad_source=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8KWA6aP5hAMVCJSDBx3lsgOxEAAYASAAEgJ6hPD_BwE,

18 Comments

  1. I tried to get solar panels on the roof of my house ,but was told the roof has to point in the right direction,mine to do .I was also told many houses do not have the right type of roof. So the answer is never easy

    • Interesting point, do both sides of your roof point the wrong way? If one is North, the other would be south. We have eastern facing panels which provide well. These broad coastal skies are good providers of solar; unless you’re really shaded, it might be worth a second opinion.

  2. For years I have been saying that there should be legislation obligating all new builds – residential or commercial – to have solar panels. For me this is far more important that trying to force us all to buy electric cars which is not feasible for those who live in flats or have on-street parking.

  3. How many schools in Thanet have installed solar panels on their roof’s. Many could produce electricity to run the school and sell the excess back to the grid. The income received could produce the extra’s that the or all schools need. The school pupils are expected to attend school 190 days per annum. Teachers 195 days. This means that 170 days maximum of electricity could be produced and sent to the grid. A nice earner for the school funds. ?

    Some schools might even teach children how to invest this income for a better return and educate the children to manage funds. ?

    A lay person trying to teach a teacher or at least the head. ?

  4. This is absolutely correct but do the government collect on utilities if so the reluctance to go the correct route for these solar panels brings them revenue whereas directly on your roof will only benefit the households or businesses bad government haven’t even considered it I’ve no doubt

  5. Every new build should have solar panels. All the relevant criteria could be met from day one of design.
    If the green land has to be taken, then let it be used to it’s maximum benefit to the community, not the builders.

  6. Well said Cllr Pressland. Every newbuild should have solar panels, heat pump and rain water harvesting at the bare minimum. At build time these cost peanuts. So much more expensive to retrofit after the build. But the fossil fuel companies don’t want us to stop buying their environmentally deadly products and they have huge amounts of money to bribe politicians to further their commercial aims.

  7. It just makes sense for all new builds to be required to max out the solar panel systems on homes and commercial buildings. The DNO (District Network Operator) in each area (UK Power Networks here), however, should do more than ensure that their new cabling and transformer networks will be designed to permit that to happen without bottlenecks on new estates. Unfortunately, existing DNO infrastructure is often not up to the job of coping with widespread adoption of solar panels by existing home owners and businesses in properties built years ago, so in such neighbourhoods the early birds are getting benefits that the network isn’t capable of providing to everyone who applies for permission to export more than about 5 kwh per property. The problem doesn’t arise where a household or business consumes or stores solar energy produced, for immediate or later use entirely within the property concerned. The problem arises when more surplus energy produced by that household or business is exported than the existing cables and local transformers can cope with to enable the National Grid to meet demand elsewhere. Sometimes the lack of capacity is due to cabling that isn’t up to that task but more commonly the problem lies with the nearest substation or transformer. There’s far less spare capacity or resilience than might be supposed! The DNO might simply refuse to permit a householder to generate more than 5 or perhaps 8 kwh of electricity at any one time, even at a time when there is peak demand (e.g., between the hours of 5 – 6:30 pm.) a time some electricity suppliers are happy to pay a premium for power exported to them during such periods. It bears emphasis that the problem here is not the capacity of the cabling within the property to handle so much “juice”: long before that would be problematical, it is the DNO’s cabling under the road or a transformer housed in a cabinet outside and around the corner that is more likely to be overloaded. What is UK Power Networks doing to address that problem? Clearly NOT ENOUGH, and, where possible, they actually discourage or prevent households from generating “too much”. So much for their green credentials.

  8. Dr Pritchard, that just makes no sense. An average solar array on a house produces at most 4-5 Kwh, so around 20amps continuous. The incoming rating on most houses is 60 – 100 amps, so even if every house in a neighbourhood was maxing out on solar generation and not using any of it, it would be much less than half the amperage that the supply cables were designed to handle. This isn’t a power delivery issue, it’s a billing issue. If you disagree, explain to me how my 100amp household delivery cabling and the network to which it is connected cannot cope with a 20amp reverse delivery.

    • Phil Shotton, you are correct about what the average solar array on a house produces, if you’re looking at systems designed years ago (mine has produced 4.7 to 4.9 Kwh per year for the past ten years), but what was a state of the art 16-panel system when it was installed would produce half what a current same roof slope would produce today. One neighbour currently has 29 panels, many of them newly added, all with battery storage and with DNO support: that does really well. Another A further neighbour with a recent installation has 20 panels. There is another 4 kw system on my road that was also installed the same day mine was. But if I maxed out what additional panels I could support, on substantial outbuildings, even if only up to the level of my most productive neighbour, the amount of electricity that could export during about half the year would exceed the total amount our road’s cabling and nearest transformer could handle. I wouldn’t be permitted to do that: permission was sought from the DNO and refused on those grounds. Not even a new three phase connection for our outbuildings would get round that problem, we were told. No other neighbours, together or separately, would be able to max out what they could produce and export beyond their own consumption on their rooftops for the same reason, because the way the system works: its first-come, first served. Ideally, it should be possible to do what has been done in other parts of the country where neighbours clubbing together would get huge discounts by a joint buying scheme that would install individual systems each of say 8 – 12 kwh each, covering perhaps half or more of all the properties on a road. Between May and early September, however, what they’d export would greatly exceed what their local transformer would be capable of handling. Such schemes would, however, if supported widely, would do a lot to address needs that are met at present by a combination of gas-fired power stations and purchases from imports from our continental neighbours, especially from those that produce significant amounts of hydro-electrical generation, some of which involve pumping water uphill at night on cheap rate electricity so that they can release it from reservoirs during the day to meet peak demands.

  9. Additionally, it must be said, rainwater recovery systems and water-permeable hard surfaces would go such a long way to sorting out the problems Southern Water claim to have, when they release sewage into our seas during times of heavy rainfall, one wonders why this has not been mandated or, indeed, lobbied for by the water companies themselves. Again, like solar panels and heat pumps, so much cheaper to fit at point of build, than retro fit. But there we go. Wrong people calling the shots, as ever, and a government in thrall to its donor big businesses. Sad times, when facing a climate emergency.

  10. In Broken Britain organisations do their own according to their own self interests.
    It makes sense for most houses to be well insulated, fitted with grey water systems and permeable surfaces but it suits everyone to persist in the old ways.Building houses to such a low standard only makes sense from narrow financial interests of the developers.
    Keeping everyone on the fossil fuel treadmill suits only the energy companies.Everything is too difficult,too complicated,but nevermind, everyone in govt and in business is working tirelessly,on a 24/7 basis, so that’s alright.

  11. Build cheap and sell expensive has rules the housing market for many years. Solar panels should be fitted on all new homes as it so much cheaper to fit while building the house. Flats should be fitted with them on the roof and maybe the sides.. However to do this would mean our MPs making a decision for once. Legislation is required and we all know how long that would be.

  12. So what are TDC doing to permit solar panels, double glazing and modern low carbon heating systems to be installed on properties in conservation areas ?

    From what I see, it’s very much “computer says no”. Some innovative policy here would be very welcome.

  13. Good call Kev. In fact the new Winter Gardens (don’t bother refurbing the existing one) should have solar panels on its roof, easing the financial burden on local CT payers.

  14. We bought our first array of 14 panels, 10 years ago for around £8000.Now that array will cost around £5000 and will have higher performance.Because of the high cost of electricity a 4/5 year payback is looking more like 3/4 year, and batteries are now cheaper and more effective.PV cell tech is improving all the time unlike nuclear or gas turbines.

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