Solar panels generate more than electricity

21 Feb

One of the interesting things about visiting an agricultural show is the sheer variety of stalls and attractions.  Along with the sheep shearing competitions, full-to-bursting beer tents (containing plethoric-faced, full-to-bursting young farmers), food halls, forestry displays, and animals, we also came across Their Royal Highnesses Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (sampling jelly beans) and The Prince of Wales (looking at sheep).  Naturally, Camilla recognised me immediately, smiled, waved and mouthed: “Do drop by next week – I’ll bake a cake.”  At least, I think that’s what she said.

If you’ve never been to The Great Yorkshire Show, do make the effort.  It’s worth it – there’s something for everyone – whether you’re in the market for a new tablecloth, an admirer of rare-breed pigs or rarer-breed members of the Royal Family it’s worth the £20 entry fee for the spectacle alone.

We had attended promising to help our friend Giles and his wife Kieran show their sheep – they swept the board with their Teeswaters  (note my equally prize-winning abdomen and my less-than-impressed ovine companion).

Meandering down a row of stalls we found ourselves in the renewable energy area and chatting to a company specialising in electricity-harvesting solar (PV) panels.

Having checked the location of our house (which faces exactly due-south) and examined the intricacies of the Government’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) payments, we asked them to drop by and give us a quote.  Thus it was that a few weeks down the line our house was duly fitted with twenty PV panels and we have since generated more electricity than mainland Scotland.

It’s pleasing to generate your own power.  Having an “electric roof” as my father-in-law refers to it appeals to my sense of thrift – I now set the dishwasher and washing machines to come on in the brighter parts of the day, for example.  There are two downsides: one is the fact that the static causes us to walk around the upstairs of the property with our hair standing on end (or in my case, what remains of my hair) and the other is the unexpected tourist attraction we have become.

Since moving to the house we have long noticed people slowing down for a closer look.  Some people are quite shy and speed up again when they see us looking back, whilst others are blatant and reach for the binoculars.  The master of our local fox hunt knows me from work and insists on slowing to a canter as he rides past and waving extravagantly so the remaining horses and riders join the party.  I stand in the bedroom and wave gracefully back – the whole event is like my own personal Trooping the Colour (eat your heart out, Camilla).

Since the panels, however, a new type of tourist has plagued us.  I have twice looked out to see cars actually parked outside the gates – their occupants engaged in rapt conversation pointing and gesticulating to the roof.  One of our Tesco delivery drivers actually asked how much the panels had cost – they’d been chatting about it at the depot apparently.  Last Saturday, I looked out to see a photographer (through a wet bedroom window).

So far, since September, 2011, we’ve generated around 700 units of power – which is not bad going considering that the days are short and the sun is weak at this time of year.  I wonder if the environmental friendliness of our panels is offset by the increased carbon footprint of the sightseers we’ve generated too?

It seems a shame that the Government is intent in reducing FiT payments for new PV systems – I would have thought that it would be in everyone’s interests to harness renewables where possible and to generally be a little more careful about our energy consumption – but what do I know?  I’m only a GP who’s soon to be responsible for the funding of the entire National Health Service.

If you do fancy being a little more green then I would recommend looking into solar power – it’s not really hair-raising upstairs and if you pick the right company, nor should the price be either.  There’s always the opportunity to branch out too – I’ve opened a Burger King franchise at the gates and my solar-grilled Whoppers are flying off the shelves – and all because of a trip to the Great Yorkshire Show.

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