What can you do if you can’t get solar on your roof? You may be renting your home, shaded by large trees or buildings, have listed-building status or maybe your roof structure isn’t right. But if you want to benefit from solar, all is not lost. We’re here with a few ways you can connect to greener, cheaper energy without putting solar panels on your roof.
1. Get a green tariff
Starting with the most obvious, and least expensive, alternative to rooftop solar. If you can’t get solar on your roof, you can still do a lot to ensure that you are charging your car with green energy. Like finding the best EV tariff for your use, and then doing your bit to maximise your use of green energy. You can set charge times from your electric car itself or use your home charger or third-party app to avoid the dirty energy peak. Read our top tips to save money on charging, as anything that saves you money usually means less carbon emitted for your charging.
2. Buy a share in a wind farm
This is easy to do, thanks to a green energy company called Ripple. You pay Ripple a one-off sum (or 12 monthly instalments) to own a share in a wind turbine, alongside thousands of other members.
Using Ripple’s online calculator, you decide how much of your home’s annual electricity you want to be powered by your wind farm. You can choose to own as much or as little as you like. The more you own, the more low-cost green electricity you can use, but you can join from as little as £25. Once the farm is up and running, your share of the electricity generated is taken off your monthly electricity bill. You can use electricity whenever you like, not just when it’s windy.
Your energy is still supplied to your home via the grid, so it isn’t free. You need to pay all the usual grid charges and supply costs associated with your tariff, but you get savings on the electricity proportion of the bill. Savings are based on the difference between the low and stable operating cost of the wind farm and the volatile market price of electricity. Savings also depend on what price you pay for electricity, but at current prices you could save 15p per kWh.
Until the energy crisis, payback had been estimated at around 14 years. Now, based on predictions of what is likely to happen to the price of electricity in the next few years, you could have paid off your investment in six years. When electricity prices are high, like right now, members savings are high too – in the first few months of operation, Ripple members saved £60,000 off their energy bills.
✔ As a Ripple member you really are part of building something green
✔ If you have a lump sum now, you’ll make savings for years to come
✘ Your savings may depend on wind generation (but arguably future electricity prices are the bigger uncertainty)
Cost: £2,500 (average)
Energy: 107,500kWh (running costs payable*)
3. Get solar in your garden
If you can’t use your roof, you could still install solar on your property. The Solivus Arc is a striking ground-mounted 3-D solar sculpture that will generate solar all day in the right location. You can even take it with you if you move home.
While the panels are only half as efficient as regular solar panels, the materials that make up Solivus give it exceptional eco credentials. It uses organic, thin-film solar and contains no rare earth materials, so it’s fully recyclable at the end of its life. Compared to a standard solar panel it has a tiny carbon footprint, ‘paying back’ the carbon emitted in manufacturing after months rather than years.
Solivus point out that the Arc could generate enough energy to power an EV for 5,000 miles a year for at least 20 years. This depends on your location and how efficient your EV is, as well as whether your car is at home to use the energy generated. It’s warranted for 20 years.
Generating an average of 1,000 kWh a year in the UK, the £3,500 cost would be the “equivalent of 21p per kWh locked-in for the next 20 years,” Solivus CEO Jo Parker-Swift told the BBC.
Orders are being taken, and production will start at the end of 2022.
✔ A sculptural statement in your garden and definitely a talking point
✔ Most listed buildings will allow solar in the gardens
✔ Super-green credentials from a lifecycle carbon point of view
✘ You’ve still got to be home to use the energy, so no good if you (and your EV) are typically away from home during the day
✘ Still expensive per kWh compared to rooftop solar
4. Self-assembly solar car port kit
Solar carports don’t just mean you charge your EV on sunshine, but they provide the extra benefit of shade for your EV. Making sure the car doesn’t overheat makes charging it more efficient. If your car is typically at home during the day, a carport could pay for itself in 5-10 years at current predicted energy prices, depending on your location, orientation and how you use energy. You also get the benefit of collecting rain water for your veggie patch.
DIY self-assembly EV carport, with room for one car at around 3m wide and 6.4m deep, would give you a 4kWp system. That’s around the size of a typical rooftop installation. Just pair it with a home charger that has solar integration to ensure that your car is using all the sunshine it can.
Carports usually offer a bit more flexibility that a roof, as you can tilt panels either forwards, or sideways to catch the sun. But if your drive is in mid-day shade, you can also install these structures against the sunny side of your house, or as a BBQ shelter in your South-facing garden. Ideally the location of the carport will be close to the main property (and distribution board) in order to reduce cabling costs.
Installation of a car port is simple – it’s a DIY job for many or a quick job for a local builder – you’ll of course need a qualified electrician to complete the connection to your house supply and register the solar with your local DNO.
✔ Easy to install, and competitive with rooftop solar
✔ Weather protection for your car
✔ More flexibility on orientation than your home
✘ Not everyone can fit a car port on their drive
Cost: £10-12,000 plus building costs
We’re preparing a simple, complete car port kit suitable for DIY self-assembly at your home. We want this to be a cost-effective way to get started with solar, ideal for anyone with an EV around to charge during the day. The aim is to sell a complete kit, with clear instructions, that can be put together by you (or a local builder) and connected up to your home by a competent, qualified electrician. If you’d like to get on our mailing list to find out more, please leave us your details below:
Register your interest in our car port kit