Into the light
Is it time for Jersey to embrace solar power? HLG Associates offers an expert view
There is a quiet revolution taking place. No noise, no fuss, no question the cause is a worthy one. Solar energy is coming out of the shade and into the light.
This progressive movement is partly due to technology, or at least its price. A luxury consideration just a few years back, improving production techniques along with economies of scale now make solar panels a far more affordable prospect.
Then there’s the future price of traditional energy. While legacy power and fuel companies may make every effort to keep charges down, over time energy costs can only really go in the opposite direction.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, is the green factor. Concern over climate change has moved from alternative to mainstream - even onto the streets. Pragmatic politicians – well many of them at least – have seen the light and embraced radical environmental policies. Set against such a backdrop, the future of fossil fuels looks very dim indeed.
So, the forces of revolution are quietly powerful. While there may still be a few barricades in Jersey, they will surely be swept away by a popular rising.
What are the options for anyone ready to embrace the cause? Or at least understand its creed?
You could do it yourself. DIY solar kits exist for anyone prepared to invest the time and energy. Buy the materials, mount the panels, flick the switch.
You could engage one of the solar panel installation companies now springing up to meet interest and demand. Plunge in, pay the money, get the job done.
Or you could ask an independent expert for advice. Not the most radical choice, admittedly, but one you may come to appreciate pays dividends in the longer term.
‘While the premise of solar energy is relatively straightforward, the practice of actually installing can be quite complex,’ advances Jerry Willis of Jersey-based building consultants HLG Associates. ‘There are lots of variables involved, from potential planning permissions, to panel siting, to power tariffs. None intended as barriers to choosing solar energy, but if missed may well affect the potential benefits. Getting independent expert advice up front minimises this risk and maximises the prospect of a bright reward.’
Jerry recently joined HLG to help provide this advice. The move follows over 30-years working in the Channel Islands’ electricity generation and supply industry. It’s a time during which he saw solar energy make the slow and sometimes difficult transition from distinctly niche power source to something on the cusp of major adoption. And Jersey, he argues, should be a location where solar energy is a primary rather than potential consideration.
‘We enjoy the most sun of anywhere in the British Isles, and while not Mediterranean by any means, Jersey is well placed to offer residents and businesses the benefits of solar energy. An independent expert can work with them to make the right choices from the beginning, helping assure maximum benefits in the end. This is especially true for businesses considering their future power options.’
For Jerry, a typical client engagement starts with a low-cost initial survey to determine the viability of solar energy for any location. What is the present or planned power consumption for example? Are the panels best roof or ground mounted? Can the electricity generated be used solely on site or is there an option to export into the local grid and therefore recoup some of the capital outlay?
‘Once viability is proven, our engagement can stop there,’ Jerry concludes, ‘or continue through a supplier tender process, liaison with planning and electricity company and installation project management. It’s a client choice. What we want is to see solar energy come into the light in Jersey – by supporting a quiet rather than costly revolution.’