Frequently Asked Questions

    Solar PV

  • The solar array are assets which generate their own income. In the unlikely situation that CleanEarth went into liquidation the assets would pass onto the new party and the landowner would continue to be entitled to income under the lease.

  • At the present time there is no reason to believe that the fire risks associated with solar panels are greater than those associated with any other electrical equipment. However, as with all electrical equipment it is important that these systems are correctly designed, consist of properly tested components, are competently installed and are regularly maintained.

    In the daytime panels cause a risk to firefighters as live cables can become exposed if damaged through the heat. This does not mean crews will not extinguish the fire – they will just risk assess it slightly differently and attack the fire from a defensive point (not commit crews into the risk area i.e. the loft space.). A roof fire is generally extinguished using this method anyway, whether it has panels or not.

    If the fire is in a compartment, a bedroom or kitchen etc. the fire brigade will still commit a crew into the property to prevent life loss and reduce the fire spreading.

    Fire crews will treat fires at properties with solar panels as a risk just like every other hazard produced from an incident.

  • Solar panels are made up of solar cells, like the ones you see on calculators, called photovoltaic (PV) cells. The cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. Groups of cells connected electrically are packaged into a frame known as a solar panel, which can then be grouped into larger solar arrays.

    When light strikes the cell, a certain portion of it is absorbed within the semiconductor material. The energy of the absorbed light is transferred to the semiconductor and knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely.

    PV cells also all have one or more electric fields which force electrons, freed by the light absorption, to flow in a certain direction. This flow of electrons forms a current, and by placing metal contacts on the top and bottom of the PV cell, we can draw that current off for external use. This current, together with the cell’s voltage (which is a result of its built-in electric field or fields), defines the power (or wattage) that the solar cell can produce.

  • Solar panels weigh around 10kg per m2 when installed (each module weighs about 20kg). Almost all modern buildings will be able to support this load. We check every building we install and we have never had a load bearing issue. All modern buildings have an excess load bearing capacity of 100kg per m2 – solar panels are only 10% of this roof capacity.

  • All buildings are different as there are variations in roof fabric, structure, pitch and orientation. These factors affect the installation costs as well as the efficiency of the array. We undertake a simple desktop evaluation to analyse initial suitability, which is then followed with a more thorough onsite feasibility and structural survey by one of our engineers. We will contact the local grid operator (DNO) on your behalf to ensure that we are able to export any energy you don’t use to the grid.

  • Your geographic location and the pitch and orientation of your building will dictate how much power the solar panels will produce. We use standardised Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) data to produce a 20 year forecast and where possible, if we have your data, match this with your actual consumption figures. We will make a recommendation on the size of the array, looking to maximise return on investment. By using solar electricity, companies can fix the price of a large part of their energy usage for 20 years giving fuel price security and increasing competitiveness.

  • We forecast your return on investment (ROI) based on three calculations:

    • The Feed in Tariff (FiT) – the 20 year subsidy you get paid by Ofgem for every kWh produced
    • The export tariff – which you get paid for every kWh you do not use that gets exported to the grid
    • Your energy saving – the savings you make by using free solar energy generated by your panels instead of importing electricity from the grid.

    Our commercial customers are seeing ROI of between 16-23% on their solar panel installations.

  • Most roof mounted commercial installations under 1MWh are regarded as permitted development, which do not usually need planning permission. We have an in house planning team to address any site specific planning issues.

  • Modern solar PV systems are extremely robust. All our modules come with a 10 year product and 25 year third party performance guarantee. Our inverters have a standard 5 year warranty that can be extended to 20 years. All our work comes with a 5 year workmanship guarantee.

  • Once installed, solar PV systems are relatively low maintenance, due to the British weather we rarely find regular cleaning necessary. We do however offer an Operations & Maintenance contract which allows us to constantly, remotely monitor your array, allowing our technicians to adjust parameters for maximum performance. If any component is under performing we can take action swiftly, eliminating any risk of lengthy down time.

  • Yes, however, listed building consent will need to be obtained.

    It depends also on the listing status. Grade I will be more difficult to obtain than Grade II and Grade II more difficult than Grade III. It also depends on the location of the solar array. If the array is on the front roof aspect of a Grade I listed property it is unlikely to be granted consent. If it is on an outbuilding remote from the property but feeding into the electricity supply, or perhaps a ground mounted array away from the building, then consent is much more likely.

    We have installed two PV systems for listed buildings – one is a ground mount for a Grade II listed building (the array was installed in a secluded paddock) and the other on an agricultural building for Grade I listed Trewithen House.

  • As a customer there are key financial savings from installing solar panels. Importantly, the more power renewable energy companies can generate themselves, the less the UK has to produce using carbon polluting fossil fuel power stations. The less we need imported oil, coal and gas, the less reliant we are on the world market, and the less new power stations we need to build.

    With the supply chain coming under more and more scrutiny, companies able to show their environmental commitments will undoubtedly be able to add value to their brand.

    An amendment to The Energy Act 2011 will mean it will become unlawful from April 2018 for landlords to let premises that fail to meet minimum energy efficiency standards (an EPC rating of E). Currently it is estimated that around 20% of non-domestic buildings could fail to meet this standard. Therefore we highly recommended that commercial landlords take the opportunity to explore the possibility of solar energy for their building.

  • Wind

  • Foundations may not have to be as deep as you might think. Each foundation has a unique design; this looks in detail at the ground conditions and the specifics of the soil characteristics. A typical foundation will have a depth of around 2m and diameter of 13m.

     

  • No – Cleanearth have experience installing turbines in a range of environments, from peat bogs to backfilled quarries. Our foundation design will take into account any characteristics of the ground that may make for a challenging install and these will be designed out during the initial process.

  • Access is critical when evaluating a site and there are three main issues to consider; weight, width and length.

    Weight – an assessment will be made of all structures on the access route and their weight bearing capacity.

    Width – a road width of 4m is required as a minimum. Hedges and walls may need to be looked at to allow access for the wider components.

    Length – turbines are comprised of a number of long components, and as such access can be made difficult by tight corners. Our team will make an assessment of any challenging corners on the route and work to find a feasible solution.

    Gradient- the weight of certain components means that certain gradients can become difficult. Generally speaking, gradients greater than 12% will require extra towing vehicles.

    Before we consider bringing a turbine to site we have to adhere to a number criteria regarding access, and we  may have to conduct a highways survey  as part of the planning application. Before the install takes place, the manufacturer and crane team will inspect the site to ensure no issues on delivery day.

  • Land designations vary in significance; an AONB sits under a national designation, the same as national parks. We would not consider a site with an AONB as it is highly protected.

    SSSI national designation can vary, for example an SSSI for flora or fauna will have little impact but one designated for birds will not be possible to use. Each SSSI has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis – we do have experience with projects in close proximity to SSSI designations.

    All designations below SSSI, such as Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV), are local designations and although they hold relevance in planning, would still be considered.

  • Yes we manage all aspects of the planning process, including any resistance against developments locally. We have a thorough method to ensure every step of the process is executed properly; we hold two public consultations before the planning stage and site visits for parish councils, councillors, objectors and supporters. We respond to all objections and objectors in writing and can meet with them to discuss their objection and any mitigation we can offer.

    The planning application will be under the Cleanearth’s name – the land owner is simply leasing the land.

  • Modern turbines are direct drive; they spin directly in to a generator, therefore there is no gear box and a lot less noise. Direct Drive turbines also carry benefits with regards to maintenance, with less moving parts there is less potential for fault.

  • We connect to a District Network Operator (DNO), normally at 11 kV or 33kV. You don’t need 3 phase as we / you will usually be up grading the supply.

  • Grid connection and planning for wind farms of three turbines or more will take a minimum of three years to get planning permission, therefore we focus on individual turbines.

  • In the UK we focus on three blades turbines, mainly due to planning, as the efficiency is actually very similar. The main issue with two blade turbines is if you have several close to each other they can spin out of sync and look un-natural.

  • All turbines are owned within an SPV (special purpose vehicle) this is separate legal entity to Cleanearth management.  The turbine therefore spins and creates an income which is fed directly into an account. You as the land owner are paid GROSS, i.e. you are the first to get paid before any other funds come out the account. Even if Cleanearth no longer owned the turbine, the landowner’s revenue stream is unaffected.

  • Each site will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. There may be an opportunity to negotiate an extension to the lease term or CleanEarth will remove the turbine (up to 1 metre underground) and return the site to reasonable condition for the landowner.

  • As with most companies, CleanEarth is funded by a combination of private investors and bank finance.