05:09 EST, 9 December 2013
06:34 EST, 9 December 2013
Spending thousands of pounds on solar panels for your home, sticking a wind turbine on your roof, or even deciding to try and power your entire business with green energy requires a serious leap of faith.
You can research how good an investment it should prove, but until most people splash out they will never know. So, it’s no wonder that green energy has gained a reputation for itself as being the domain of the financially comfortable and those who can afford to have a conscience – or at least enough cash lying around to stump up for an installation lump sum.
But entrepreneur Graham Brant believes he has found a recipe that will turn the renewable energy sector on its head – by helping anyone from homeowners, to small businesses and even big companies tap into green energy, cut costs and save more money long-term – with his Power Predictor.
Green: Duncan Glendinning, who runs the Thoughtful Bread Company, saved more than £1,000 a year on bills thanks to the Power Predictor
The problem? Thousands of people
invest in the wrong kind of renewable energy, be it solar or wind, even
though many properties or buildings are completely unsuitable, according
energy savings can vary substantially – many people end up paying over
the odds because of inefficiencies. This can be avoided by picking a
more suitable energy source for the site.
Enter the Power Predictor. Designed with governments, businesses and
homeowners in mind, it measures the potential for renewable energy generation
for a particular location, based on actual weather conditions.
This is important because, according to Brant, CEO of Power Predictor, whose designers have analysed MetOffice weather patterns,
wind speed is on average 38 per cent lower than official figures state, while solar is 20 per cent
Brant explains: ‘The project started after listening to blog and forum conversations between more than 15,000 people who were exchanging data on how to undertake small-scale renewable energy projects.
‘The single biggest theme that emerged was the need for a low cost but accurate device that would help project owners work out how much natural energy present at a site, the best technology would be to tap into this resource and at what cost.’
Brant adds that, until now, there has been a lack of reliable data for people to make effective decisions on renewable energy, which he believes is the key factor holding back renewable energy growth.
‘A common issue is that
small scale renewable technologies, such as solar panels and wind
turbines, are sold to people without a proper survey of the available
natural energy sources,’ he says.
climate effects mean that wind and solar energy at any location
can vary widely from the weather data provided to those considering
renewable energy. Savings made from avoiding an expensive mistake of
buying the wrong thing to put in the wrong place can run into tens of
thousands of pounds.’
‘POWER PREDICTOR SAVED MY BUSINESS £1,171 A YEAR’
Savings: (left to right) Duncan Glendinning, Andrew Holloway, Tim Rowlands, Nicola Rains, Dom Field. Of the Thoughtful Bread Company
Duncan Glendinning , who runs the Thoughtful Bread
Company in Holcombe, Somerset, is committed to looking at long-term
sustainable ways of reducing the impact of the business’ day-to-day
operations on the environment.
He had some idea that turbulence from
nearby buildings would affect the viability of a wind turbine at their
location but the location of a renewable energy device was limited by
what their landlord would allow.
He says: ‘Rather than hastily jump
into a renewable energy investment and just assume that the location was
suitable we decided to use the Power Predictor.
‘Being familiar with renewable energy, we knew that you could easily get it very wrong. And one location 100 metres away from another could be more effective.
‘That’s why we chose to use Power Predictor to analyse the difference. By doing so, we’ve adopted the most efficient renewable source of power for the business.
‘We placed our PP in the location that
was a compromise between the ideal location and where the landlord
would allow so that the solar and wind could be properly assessed. We
also looked at positions in open fields adjacent to their unit so that
we could have a comparative report of the two locations.
‘After gathering data from the sites we found we would be able to save 4,193 kg of CO2 every year and £1,171 a year.’
wind industry has suffered greatly in the small turbine space from
misguided installation and, as a result, an unhappy customer base.
Brant says: ‘The consumer
is often persuaded not to undertake much pre-installation measurement
because it’s too expensive. But you
would not buy a house without a survey so why invest a large capital sum
in a wind turbine without a survey?’
The premise behind the devise is simple.
It determines what the best technologies and products are by property,
cost, money and carbon saving potential and the length of time before a
person or business can expect a return on their investment.
Dave Hampton, for example, almost learned the hard way about investing in a wind turbine in a low-wind area.
SELL EXCESS ENERGY TO SAVE EVEN MORE MONEY
A uSwitch spokesperson says: ‘The Feed-in Tariff scheme – also known as FiTs or the Clean Energy Cashback scheme – means that people who generate their own green or renewable energy will be paid for doing so.
‘To qualify for the Feed-in Tariff figures quoted below, your house needs an Energy Performance Certificate rating of D or higher.
If you have a lower EPC rating, or your system produces more than 4Kw, you’ll be on a slightly different rate – visit the DECC website for more information.’
How the Feed-in Tariff works
- You install solar panels or a wind turbine and start generating your own renewable energy.
- You use the ‘free’ electricity you generate in your home, get paid for every unit you generate and buy any extra energy you need from your energy supplier.
- You sell any extra electricity you’re producing to the National Grid.
The amount you get paid for the electricity you generate will depend on what energy source you’re using.
He placed his Power Predictor on his roof on his London home only to discover a typical wind turbine might never pay back his initial investment.
Instead, he is now looking to invest in a Solar PV
panel, having already purchased a Solar Thermal System. This is
predicted to reduce his energy bill by over £300 every year.
He said: ‘It avoids wasting your money on a piece of kit which is not right for you. It will help people invest their low carbon legacy wisely – not to blow it on something that looks grand but gives the least carbon bang to the buck!’
George Halliday, who owns Aston Farm in Exmoor National Park, also used the Power Predictor to find the best option for him – and ended up saving £7,000 a year by powering his entire farm with wind energy.
To reduce interference and turbulence from surrounding trees and buildings, Mr Halliday mounted the Power Predictor in a local field using his own, handmade, 10 metre mast. (For those not quite as ambitious with the DIY as George, a range of masts for the Power Predictor are available.)
Having recorded a month’s data, he found he could generate more than enough energy to cover his farm’s total energy demand. Mr Halliday now also hopes to sell his surplus electricity back to the grid, making his yearly cost savings ever greater.
Predictions: The device enables the user to accurately determine the best kind of renewable energy to use
So how does it work? There are three parts to the product; an accurate sensor unit that measures wind speed, wind direction, solar radiation and temperature.
Then a battery operated data logger, which records the sensor data, as well as a web application which uploads the recorded data and processes this to present the recorded data so that an informed decision can be made by the land or building owner.
The hope is that, eventually, Power Predictors
will help build up a database of free microclimates and site suitability for
renewable energy sources across the UK, and eventually the world.
It costs £249 before VAT, although discounts apply when 10 or more units are bought by businesses or governments.
Brant plans to sell the devices to local authorities so that households can borrow them to work out whether green energy is right for them – and how much money they could save.
Already Brant has sold more than 15,000 units in 120 countries world-wide, thanks to part-funding by an angel investor. To further develop the product he hopes to raise £250,000 on CrowdMission, a crowdfunding website for businesses that promote social good.
Karen Darby, of CrowdMission, says: ‘We work with businesses that can make money and make a difference, and Power Predictor is a perfect example of this. Because the banks and investment market are in such a shambolic state, businesses like Graham’s can really struggle to access the funding they require.’
COULD YOU SAVE MONEY ON YOUR ENERGY BILLS BY SWITCHING?
You don’t need to shell out for entirely new energy equipment to save on bills.
simplest, and often best, way to slash your energy costs is to use an online
service that can compare all the best tariffs on offer for you.
option is This is Money’s fuel bills switching service, powered by Energy
have chosen Energy Helpline as our partner because they are a
long-standing, well respected firm with evidence to show that they can
get our readers the best deal.
service shows you the tariffs available and how much you could save by
switching to each one, it allows you to choose what suits you and can
rank suppliers by customer service and price.
is quick and easy and can be done online. All you need to do is put
your postcode into the box to the right and follow the simple steps. The
service is free to use and in a few minutes can tell you whether you
can save hundreds of pounds.
There’s no need to fill out any paperwork or sign a new contract – it does the hard work for you.
For more information on how to get the best deal, read our energy switching guide.
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Bedford, United Kingdom,
1 hour ago
Wow, spectacular notice taken with regard to Health and Safety in the main picture. Two men on the roof with absolutely no protection against falling off. A neighbour recently had solar panels installed and I couldn`t believe the amount of scaffolding installed to give the installers total and proper protection. They did the job correctly.
1 hour ago
Just went onto the money raising website for Power Predictor and they value their fledgling company at £2 million – which is just not fair value. The product I recognise is made out of already available inexpensive plastic mouldings so a tiny bit of technology and POW . . . they’re in the money. So this is not for me – – and I’m out.
Leave me out,
Bucks, United Kingdom,
2 hours ago
A free solar panel company came to me and said you can have free power and get cash back with the government subsidy cost 13k or you can have it for free and we will take the feed in, hmmmm cost to them 6k ? so what are they making.
Leave me out,
Bucks, United Kingdom,
2 hours ago
The main problem with these green policies are the subsidies, if I asked you to give me £500 a year indexed linked for 25 years for free what would your response be, so why are we giving the leaches a free hand out.
Dunfermline, United Kingdom,
3 hours ago
I am a former renewable energy consultant with the appropriate engineering qualifications who has previously owned a small wind turbine and collated extensive data.
I can categorically advise that micro wind turbines attached to or located nearby any buildings do not work effectively due to turbulence and there are extensive studies available online to confirm this. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme now requires clear vistas for a considerable distance in order for any kind of reasonable production to be estimated. This may all explain why Windsave went bust after being heavily promoted through a DIY chain.
Solar voltaics are a different story as these have often produced more than official predictions. However, it is necessary to ensure they face the correct direction and avoid overshading. This last point may seem obvious but a house nearby where I live has an array facing due North on a 35 degree roof…
Manchester, United Kingdom,
5 hours ago
One of my relatives bought solar panels and spent time telling me about all the profits he would making as a result of his £11k investment………strange, but 2 years in and he doesn’t mention them anymore!
York, United Kingdom,
3 hours ago
3 hours ago
Colchester, United Kingdom,
5 hours ago
The two main problems with green solutions still remain. One is the cost of the technology and the number of years before the savings made equate to the cost of installation. You have to be really sure you will be planning to stay in your property long enough to reap the benefits of the investment you have made. Secondly is the variability of both solar energy and wind and the fact that often they can fail to generate meaningful quantities of energy when demand is at its greatest i.e. the winter (shorter periods of daylight, more cloud, large high pressure systems settled over the country leading to cold frosty days and no wind.) When that happens, traditional forms of energy production have to be relied upon to fill the gap. To my mind the future of green energy is with tidal power. It is both predictable and reliable and the tides come and go at different times around our coast meaning some part will generate at all times, day or night, winter or summer.
Belgravia, United Kingdom,
3 hours ago
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