Archive for August, 2011

Caravans and Solar Panels update

Posted on August 30th, 2011 in Solar Power by JP No Comments

A few posts back I was talking about ‘should more caravans have solar panels‘ in the UK as many don’t seem to have solar panels when really it must be worth while spending a little to have them installed.

I’ve been in contact with various people from ‘Park Resorts’ with regards to having solar panels installed on the caravan I own.  It seems to have taken a while with some very slow replies and then being ‘fobbed’ off basically from head office but I’ve finally started finding out whether I can have / put solar panels on my caravan.

Head office were not much help basically telling me they don’t offer solar panels on new sales or even as a side line and I should speak to my actual park manager.  After sending the park manager a e-mail I finally had a reply which was positive so at least a step in the right direction.

Although no one at Park Resorts seem to have a clue about solar panels the park manager has shown some interest and offered some help on installing the solar panels if I were to do this myself.

When installing the panels I of course have a couple of options, on grid and off.  Having a solar setup that is off grid will be easy enough as I have already done this.  Installed the panels on the caravan, battery, inverter and jobs done (basically).

If I want to go on grid and take advantage of the FIT (Feed-in Tariff) then it will get a little more complicated.

First off the installation of the solar panels will need to be done correct including the correct equipment installed to feed the electric back in to the grid.  If / when this is complete then I would need to inform the electric supplier for the caravan park which is where it may get confusing.

I’m obviously not the only person on the caravan park that owns a caravan so I need have to ensure that everyone knows I would be using the FIT and because I don’t get the actual bill (Park Resorts is billed who then bill us) I would need a setup to know how much electric I’ve used and how much we have put back in.

With Help I’m sure it’s possible so it will be something I look in to a little more.  I’ve already contacted the electric company and my ‘friends’ at Sun Shine Solar as they do offer solar panel installation for caravans.

SunnyDale Caravan Park

SunnyDale Caravan Park

So if I installed solar panels on my caravan would I see a return?  Most people know that installing solar panels on a home roof will show some return but generally not cover the costs of what the house will use but with a caravan and a good setup on the roof I ‘think’ that a good return will be possible.

Looking at the maths you have to consider that electric use in the caravan will not be anywhere near as much as a home.  The electric is not always on and only friends / family use our caravan so it’s in use around 1 week a month on average.  You also have to consider that the park goes on shut down for a few months of the year as well which means no electric being used but the solar panels feeding in all the time during shut down.

The last thing to consider for myself is there are no obstructions or cover where my caravan is meaning that in theory no matter where the solar panels are placed on the roof we will get all the daylight / sunlight offered in any given day.

As always I’m still waiting for replies from various people to try and work out whether installing some solar panels on the caravan is going to be cost effective so another update will come in time.



Durham Council to install solar panels

Posted on August 28th, 2011 in Green News by JP No Comments
Durham City
Durham City

Durham Council are looking to make a large investment in Solar Panel this year bu spending £6 million on there solar scheme.

The Council are planning on installing the solar panels on 5 buildings they own in the Durham area.  They have already applied for planning permission which they should find out whether the bid is successful around September.

Like many local councils they are trying to reduce the the carbon emissions for the area and of course in the long term the solar panels will hopefully start giving the council a profit.

The £6 million loan will be paid back at a massive £466,000 a year but they are hoping (and I presume estimated) that with the feed in tariff they should make back £700,000 a year.  This means not only will the panels pay for themselves each month but it will also give the council a nice profit.

There is no doubt that a investment in the area of this much money and solar power will drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the Durham area.  Hopefully other councils will take advantage of the feed-in tariff before the government change the pricing and time structure to the current tariff.

Can I run my TV from Solar Power

Posted on August 26th, 2011 in Solar Power by JP No Comments


Since building the solar panel charging station I’ve tried a few devices to see whether or not I’ll be able to run them just by using the battery which is of course charged up via the 60w solar panel.

Today I looked around the living/sitting room and decided to try the TV, BT Vision box and a few other devices that you would normally find in the living room.

The video I’ve done does show that it is possible to run everything from the 1 battery but of course the more devices you run, the higher the watts used and the less battery life you get.

After completing the video I started editing it and decided to look up why I keep on getting random ‘buzzing’ sounds.  Today the TV when plugged in was generating a odd sound.  At first I did think it was the inverter but it was coming from the TV.  I did a quick search online and it ‘seems’ that the problem stems from the inverter.

The inverter I have is a 2000w “Modified” Sine Wave.  According to some websites (can’t always take sites as the whole truth) some electrical devices have a problem with the modified part of the inverter and they do say that if I was to use a “Pure” Sine Wave inverter I would in theory not have any strange buzzing sounds.

I may test this theory but the Pure Sine inverters are very expensive and this setup is all about saving money!

As a final thought for anyone who has watched this, if my Maths is wrong please feel free to tell me.  I’m by no means a expert when it comes to working out watts / volts / amps just going off what I’ve been told or read.

Solar Powered Laptop

Posted on August 25th, 2011 in Solar Power by JP No Comments
samsung solar panel netbook

samsung solar panel netbook

Samsung have released there solar panel netbook to various places around the world with the latest being in South Korea.  The netbook is also available in Europe, africa and the U.S

The Netbook basically has a PV (photovoltaic) solar Panel on it’s back cover (the side with the screen on) and when in sunlight charges the internal battery.

Depending on what you read, 2 hours in the sun will produce somewhere between 30 – 1 hour worth of power for the netbook but I would suspect the amount of time will vairy depending on what you are using the netbook for.

The Netbook will also charge up

The concept is a very good one which will allow for less charging time and thus less cost to the user.  I’ve not of course seen or tried one of these netbooks but one of my thoughts is whether this will actually charge up in day light of whether it actually needs direct sunlight.

If you read back on a post I made a while back regarding the ‘Powergorilla’ this portable charging device was hopeless unless the panels were in direct sunlight so I wonder if the solar panel on the samsung netbook would be the same.

Solar Energy – What can I run off it

Posted on August 22nd, 2011 in Solar Power by JP No Comments

I’ve had the solar energy solar panel charging station for a while now and it’s time to begin testing what I can or cannot run from this setup.  The battery is fully charging and everything is working just right however I did have some issues while charging the battery!

When I first got the battery there is a small spot which is meant to go green when the battery is fully charged but I’ve been having issues with this and it’s never (and still has not) gone fully green.  To make sure I’ve ended up buying3 different gadgets to test the battery level.

I’ve bought a multi-meter which works well and 2 LED displays which shows the level of the battery.  One of these though didn’t work and is now in the bin the other is working fine.

Apart from that small issue (which I also talk about in the video) I started some tests to see what I can run from the solar charging station.

So what next??

Looking back on the video it looks like there are going to be many devices within the house (more so the kitchen) that this setup will not run.  I have a couple of choices if I want to run a kettle / toaster which would be to either buy some which run on a much lower watts or increase the size of the inverter.

By far the cheaper of these would be to buy a new toaster and kettle but I’m trying to save as much money as possible not buy in more products.

I’m busy doing my maths to work out when else I can and can’t run so in the next video I’ll venture in to the sitting room and see how running a TV and a few other devices will work.

NPower have increased prices

Posted on August 16th, 2011 in Green News by JP No Comments

NPower have followed the pack and increased their gas and electric prices its been reported.  NPower are increasing their prices by 15.7% on gas and 7.2% on electric.

The owners of NPower are blaming the price increase on the fact they have to buy from the global wholesale market and the prices are in flux.

What is odd is NPower reported a increase in half year profits so why the increase for the customers?

Now that all the main companies have increase prices it means all most everyone will be paying a lot more each year towards their bills, so what can we do?

In truth there is very little we can all do other than finding ways to reduce our bills ourselves.  This will mean making sure houses have double glazing, insulation whether its in the roof or walls and doing other small things which I’ve been describing on this site.

Regardless on what we do it does mean we have to spend more in order to reduce bills in the long run which does seem unfair seeing as these companies are showing some very large profits.


Council homes to get solar panels

Posted on August 15th, 2011 in Solar Power by JP No Comments

North Tyneside council have agreed to installing 3000 council homes with solar panels by March 2012.

The council have teamed up with E.ON for this deal which will see fuel bills cut by around £120 a year for the tenants.

This installation will help many tenants with bills but of course it’s also going to help North Tyneside with cutting down the carbon foot print by an estimated 75,000 tons which is a great step in the right direction.

If other local authorities followed this it would be a good start are really reducing the carbon footprint for the UK.

Should more caravans have solar panels

Posted on August 12th, 2011 in Solar Power by JP No Comments

At the end of last year we bought a static caravan to used for family holidays because having a son who is just about to turn two we thought that staying within the UK and only having to travel 3 hours for a holiday would be a good idea.

When we bought the caravan we had the standard sales pitch and of course bought the caravan (we were always going to buy the caravan anyway!)

One thing that stood out last week when we were getting ready for another holiday is the fact on our site of what much be over 100 caravans there is not one with solar panels on them.

When looking to install fixed solar panels the best position is a South facing roof.  This allows for the solar panels to be in the direct sunlight for the longest (when we have the sun of course).  This is mainly because of the angle of the roof is quite steep.

With a caravan though most caravan roofs have a very small slope meaning that really, no matter which way it’s facing you should always get the most out of the solar panels.

When we bought the caravan there was never any talk about solar panels so I decided to e-mail Park Resorts to ask where they stand on the subject.

The response I got was that the caravan manufactures didn’t offer solar panels and that it was food for thought by Park Resorts.

This answer is ‘fair enough’ but I wanted to know a little more so I have sent another e-mail asking what Park Resorts would think if I wanted to put up my own solar panels on the caravan.

The reason for the e-mail is whether I wanted an ‘on grid’ solar setup or a stand along how or what would Park Resorts would do to help me with this.

I’ve not had a response back as of yet but I will post my findings.

I do think that if solar panels were offered in a deal when buying a caravan then if most caravans took this offer up it would basically cut out the electricity bill for everyone.  As most of the parks are not open all year round it would mean that when the parks were shut the solar panels could still generate electric while the resort was shut.

Of course it is not just about saving money but also helping the environment and surely it would save Park Resorts plenty of money!

New design in Wind Turbines

Posted on August 11th, 2011 in Wind Power by JP No Comments

The normal wind turbines we see on our land scape could be a thing of the past one day.  At the moment the normal wind turbines will only generate two watts of power per square metre of land.  The reason for this is the space in which the wind turbines need because of the large blades spinning around and to avoid turbulence from each other.

The new design in wind turbines which look like ‘upright spinning egg whisks’ use a lot less space because there are no large blades sticking out and the designers have also watched how schools of fish swim to avoid the turbulence.

The new design will not avoid all the turbulence but it will help power all the other wind turbines by using a funnelling effect.  The power generated by paired turbines could in theory be larger than wind turbines working on there own.

The new design if proven to be successful and implemented could mean much more power generated per square meter.  This means that owners could either use much less land, or use the same amount of land but generate more power.


Solar Energy Power Station Update 2

Posted on August 8th, 2011 in Money Saving, Solar Power by JP No Comments

It’s been a few days now since I built and installed the solar energy power station.  Everything is still working well but I do have some concerns.

It’s bothering me that I don’t know how much energy the solar panel is producing and I don’t like that the battery will not show how charged up it is.

The amount of power being passed from the 60w solar panel can be tested using a volt meter and I’ve managed to find a cheap one from EBay which will hopefully turn up in the next few days.

The battery I bought does have a ‘level’ indicator on it however its not very good at all.  They are a few batteries with indicators built in to them, if you come across one which is just a dot which will go green when fully charged I would avoid it.

To solve the ‘is my battery full or empty’ problem I have again, from EBay, I’ve bought a battery level indicator. It’s a simple device that I can attach to the battery which should give me a much clearer indication on how full (or empty) the battery is.  It will also allow me to see how much energy a larger device has used which will be useful information when conducting some tests.

On a very positive note however the solar charging station is giving power to the battery no matter what the weather.  Living in the North East of England we have has some really bad rain lately and it’s been over cast for a couple of days but when ever I look at the charge regulator it’s always charging the battery which is good news.

Charging Laptop via Solar Energy

Charging Laptop via Solar Energy


As you can see from this picture I’ve been testing the solar energy charging station with some common devices.  I’ve already tried charging the ‘atom’ laptop which (it was not a big surprise) worked very well.

I would guess the amount of electricity being drawn is now very big so this setup would have no problems in charging the laptop.

Regardless of the laptop you have this setup I have will charge it up, because I bought a rather large 2,000 w inverter anything that draws less than 2,000 w can be plugged in.  I don’t think there are many laptops which will want more than that!


Charging Samsung Galaxy Tab

Charging Samsung Galaxy Tab


The second device I tried to plug in was my Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

Again very little surprise that as soon as it was plugged in the device started to charge up.

I’ve charged the Tablet up once fully and there is no time difference between having it plugged in to the mains or to the solar charging station, the obvious difference is the solar charging station is, in a sense, costing me no money.

Although not great tests it is a sure way to see if the setup is working and providing me with electricity.






I’m now waiting for the few other smaller items to turn up and then i will try something a little bigger.  By trying something larger I will see if the solar charging station can cope with the load and how much it depletes the battery as knowing the limit on the battery will of course be very helpful for future use.