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Solar panels shaded by trees
 Started by  Julian
 18 Oct 2009, 11:35 PM

This year we invested in solar panels which have been excellent. Now the sun is lower in the sky the panels are shaded for a period in the afternoon by tall trees belonging to a neighbour - a farmer. The trees are a mix; larch, leylandii, and ash. They are on a small parcel of land next to, but seperate from the farmer's field. He doesn't use the land and has 'offered' to sell it to us in the past - for 5,000 (it measures eight metres by four metres...). If we ask him if we can top the trees he will say no because he's just not very reasonable and wants us to buy the land. What would you do? Sneak up and quietly top the trees by hand? Pay the absurd price? Or is there another way?

I would go and talk to him -- probably the loss of potential heat is quite small and not of too much concern.
Thanks Tony (posted this then forgot where it was...). We did talk to him but he has signs where most people have eyes. I think there's truth in what you say - that the actual loss is not that great. It seems worse because the solar effect is reduced anyway slightly as its now winter. I'll monitor the situation. Cheers, julian
Sorry, Julian, I would have answered your question if I had understood it....
Are you talking about "Photo Voltaic panels" or about "Solar Thermal collectors" ?
These are two different things you know.
A slight shading of a cristalline PV panel assembly connected to the same inverter will severly distort all electricity harvest calculations. A TV antenna, a chimney and there will never be an energetic amortisation of the investment....
Trees in front of a thermal collector will also severly reduce the harvest. Depending on the type of collector the exposure to diffuse radiation allone will make the installation of such a system non-sense.
Esp. when thermal energy is most expensive/needed(in Wintertime) a thermal collector should work at it's best.
That is the reason why intelligent investors don't use the angled roof for installations of flat panel thermal collectors but the vertical wall.
Keep the roof for the PV installations. It's worth it.
Use the flat panel thermal collectors to insulate your south-facing walls. Making use three times of the investment:
1. protecting the wall, increasing it's life time and reducing the maintenance costs(plastering, painting, cladding etc.)
2. insulating the wall-reducing heating/cooling costs
3. providing the building with free energy when it is most needed-in winter time.
What has the installer of your "solar panels" calculated, guaranteed? Why was there no sustainability of investment calculation done, shading included? Go and get your money back from him/her.Your project seems to be faulty from the very beginning.
In a sustainable habitated building the free dangeling flat panel thermal collectors installed to Summer exposure make no sense, are a no-go. Only the optimising of an investment makes sense. Anything else is a waste of energy/resources/money.
Thanks Heinbloed for an interesting perspective. I should have made clear that I am talking about solar thermal collectors for hot water. I do appreciate that these are different to Photo voltaic panels.
You mention that "(in Wintertime) a thermal collector should work at it's best. That is the reason why intelligent investors don't use the angled roof for installations of flat panel thermal collectors but the vertical wall."
We are not in a position to move the collector from roof to walls. Even if we did the shading issue would not be improved. Clearly we are not "intelligent investors" but, given that limitation it would be interesting to hear if you have a view on the question I asked.
You finish by saying that, "In a sustainable habitated building the free dangeling flat panel thermal collectors installed to Summer exposure make no sense, are a no-go." Clearly "free dangeling...collectors" are not good. But its worth adding that yesterday this wasteful and failing system managed to heat 300 litres of water from around 18 degrees to just below 50 degrees. What a shocking waste of money.
Well,Julian, your question was: "what should we do?"
Since you're not in the position to change anything you can't do anything.
No one here knows if you should buy land. And no one will give a criminal advice like demaging private property, cutting the trees.
Have you considered an energy advisor who will do the numbers for you? Investment versus benefit?
Your harvest (300l increased by 32 Kelvin) of 11kWh is worth 1.10 Euros or about 80 pence.....if compared with direct electricity. When compared with gas or oil then about half of this.
With an investment of 5,000 pound you need about 6,250 of these harvests to get to the break-even point when comparing with electricity. Compared with gas or oil it will take about 13,000 harvest like this to get to the amortisation.Plus maintenance, capital costs and running costs(electricity for the control unit).
Allways provided you need ALL this energy, have no storage losses.....
Your system will never see a pay-back,an amortisation in financial terms. Nor in CO2 units, global warming potential.It was a waste of money, of resources.It caused more demage then good.
You have spend to much energy(=money!).
How much of the harvested energy did you actually use?
And how high was your total heating/ thermal energy demand yesterday? How high the coverage?
I've spend about 10,000.- on this experimental system:
It has reduced my thermal energy demand (DHW plus space heating)last year by about 40%, this year by about 50%, maybe more.
This safes me about 200.- of LPG per year, ammortisation in max.50 years.....
So where is the safing point in solar thermal energy? You really have to do the figures, the math.
Oh yes, the system provided a harvest from the collectors yesterday of about 66kWh, invested were ca. 0.7kWh for the circulation pump. About a quarter or half of this harvest was lost during transportation, storage. The rest heated my home for 24 hours and still supports DHW.
Today there were only about 6 kWh harvested, investment of 0.4 kWh for the circulation pump.The LPG boiler is back on since the afternoon, the forth time/night this winter.
Financial ammortisation? Forget it. It's a learning process,fun.
Maybe if LPG/energy prices triple or four fold.....
Hi Heinbloed
another interesting post. Thank heaven I didn't move the collectors since as you say,
"It was a waste of money, of resources.It caused more demage then good". How exactly does that happen?
You say that, "With an investment of 5,000 pound you need about 6,250 of these harvests to get to the break-even point when comparing with electricity. Compared with gas or oil it will take about 13,000 harvest like this to get to the amortisation." Why assume we are looking for payback. There's more to life than "amortisisation".
It would have been lovely to have built a truly ground breaking house like Tony's - or to have had a system like yours. but we can't all do that. It's simply not possible. The best we could afford was solar thermal - and it was agood deal less than 5,000. What that now means is we don't use electricity to heat water. And as you'll know in the UK much electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. As to the minutiae such as standing losses they're really very low on a new highly insulated cylinder. That's not to say there aren't losses - and the same applies to your system.
Personally I favour district/distant heating schemes but we're a long way from that in the UK. In the meantime a balanced argument on the pros and cons of solar thermal is always useful. And all of us doing what we can - after we have studied the options.
@ Julian:
"another interesting post. Thank heaven I didn't move the collectors since as you say,
"It was a waste of money, of resources.It caused more demage then good". How exactly does that happen? "
Again I propably don't understand your question, sorry.
The impact of human activity(making products, earning money, spending it) can be measured, calculated.You have to ask an eneergy advisor to do the specific calculations.
In principle every unit of money represents a unit of energy.We call it capital. In the old times capital meant 'heads', working people making profits for their owners.
Nowadays we are no slaves no more, most productive energy is derived from machines and not muscle power.
Spending 5,000 pounds on an industrial product means spending 5,000 pounds on industrial energy. Industrial energy is usually 'cheaper' then household energy. This means a ratio of up to 1:2, depending on the number of midle men.
So a 5,000 pound ST system has to harvest 10,000 worth of household energy to get to the break even point.
This means your installation needs about 13,000 days like the one you described, provided you use all of it. It is a myth that "modern cylinders" loose little energy. You have to check the total harvest versus the total usage of the entire system. Meassuring the usage at the tap.
As a rule of thumb about one third of the thermal energy is lost within 24 hours.Provided it is a modern installation, a modern cylinder and plumbing inside the house, the laws of physics made efficiently use of.Most plumbers are extremly incompetent.
So your system will take about 60-100 years for an long as we compare it with electricity prices. Compare it with butane/propane(bottled gas) used in a condensing boiler and you get to about 120-200 years....
Provided there is no other input like servicing, maintenance, repairs, replacements, electric energy usage for the station etc...
Not every day you will have a harvest like the one you've desribed, maybe only every 4th day.... And you might not be at home then.
No roof/ ST system lasts that long. Immagine you were using an energy conscious heating system installed 50-200 years ago.....
The next generation will certainly rip out our energy saving clutter as we're doing with the last generation's energetic 'progresses'.
They won't have the resources to look after century old toys.
No more green washing please. Numbers please.Facts.
Produuce less, earn less, spend less, own less.
This is the ONLY way to save energy.
And don't blame the messanger.
Interesting Heibloed. But you still seem to be saying that solar thermal is not worthwile financially. My position is that there is an immediate Co2 saving once the system is installed and used. That is worth more than just the money isn't it? Clearly there are the energies used in manufacture and installation. Are you really saying that these outweigh the Co2 reductions that solar thermal produces?
"As a rule of thumb about one third of the thermal energy is lost within 24 hours". As you say a rule of thumb. This bears no relation to my experience. The store might lose a few degrees from the top end temperatures (50-60 degree range) overnight. Nothing like one third. Unless you're suggesting the system is so poor and the sensors so innaccurate?
I don't do greenwash Heinbloed. But there are other points of view beside yours. You can have "facts" - but they're not the same as "rule of thumb".
(Edited - the losses from the store are a few degrees by my anecdotal and unscientific measurement. Nowhere near one third!)

Hi Julian!
We have to protect the base of humanity whilest on this planet.
Yes, all energy usage causes a demage. There is more then CO2 emissions. There is money in the hands of workers when we spend money on products which they manufacturer.
Have you done the calculation what demage is caused by making and spending money in an economical circulation,in an open market?
An energy advisor or an economist could do that for you.
Our planet has not the resources, the space to supply the humane population with the lifestandard of the average European. No matter how 'green' this is.
So our standard in Europe is not sustainable. No matter how greenwashed it is. Without sending troops on colonial missioons, without keeping the poor poor and always available for any job offered there wouldn't be an inch of tarmac on our roads. And not a single thermal solar collector on any roofs....
Are you really saying that a certain amount of thermal energy stored in a container will loose only less then 1% of the energy over night?
This would indeed be a miracle....
To get to the calculation:
You have a 300l tank, filled with 50 degrees warm water, the same temperature all the way through the tank, top to bottom.
And you have, without any further energetic input 49 dgrees Celsius all the way through the tank the next morning? At an exposure/temperature difference of 30 Kelvin (the room temperature).
That is simply impossible!
Have you contacted an energy advisor to get the laws of thermodynamics explained?
NO tank manufacturer claims anything as you do. It would be great advertising, but they would end up in the courts.
Imagine a house, heated to 20 degrees and exposed minus 10 degrees Celsius. Would it cool down by 1 degrees Celsius over night,without any further thermal inpput(the heating turned off)?
We talk about the same situation using this sample: 30 Kelvin difference. But the house has a much higher mass, storage capacity. And is certainly better insulated then your tank.....
With such a claim you're making you're throwing a dark shade of ignorance onto the plumbing trade, turning seriuos installers into magicans following witchcraft rules.
There wouldn't be any heating demand in any building on the entire world.Passive heating via the windows and the people would be enough.
A match would be enough to keep a steel kiln going once at temperature.
Check your figures. And try to understand that specialist's advice will do more than only presenting numbers. A good energy advisor will explain to you in an understandable way where the mistake in your calculations/assumptions are done.
When we talk about energy we do have to count the whole, make a wholesome calculation.As well when we talk about the economics, mankind's influence on whatever.
The water in the tank will move, warm water goes up, cold water drops. ALL the time, want it or not. And then there are the influences of thermal by-passes, the pipe connections working like cooling fins.
The water next to the surface of your tank gets cold. despite insulation. And therefore drops towards the bottom.
And since a vacuum is not created by this way warm water from the not-exposed center of the tank will replace it.
So the temperature meassured at the top of the tank stays stable as long as the falling/cooling water is replaced by warm water from the center.
But this doesn't mean that no energy is lost!
Only because you're not able (willing!) to count the losses they do not stop to occure.
The temperature you meassure on the top will stay more or less the same, you've vaguely mentioned " The store might lose a degree from the top end " but forgotten to meassure the rest of the tank's content?
Why that? Is that the same base of "logic" you're using to tell someone that the installation of a ST collector saves energy?
This is what our political leaders do, taking the flock for a ride.
If ST water heating was economical it would have spread like a wildfire since the technic was eveloped 50 years ago, no subsidies would be necessary.
Maybe this will point you into right direction.... understanding economics and thermodynamics.
We have to be open to learn. Opinions are of no use when we talk about the laws of physics or economics.The results can always be meassured/ counted.
Please tell us of a tank manufacturer doing the same claims as you do: A 300l thermal storage tank not loosing at least a third of it's stored energy within 24 hours.
Please! I'll buy ten of them and never heat m,y home again, using them as a seasonal thermal storage. Since there are hardly any losses it should work, shouldn't it (smiley)?
Facts and numbers can't proof that you're NOT cought up in a greenwash thinking. Not your fault, no one seems to have explained to you the laws of thermodynamics.
Or economics.
Thanks heaven (and capitalistic production methods despising progress concerning humanism) we have the internet, this forum.
So we're able to learn as long as we're willing to do so.
Sincerly expecting your answer
concerning adresses of tank manufacturers who are claiming there are nearly no losses.
Less interesting post this time and the slightly patronising tone (which I am sure is unintentional) doesn't help get your message across. Maybe it's worth remembering the OP and the forum heading. If you have any ideas as to how resolve the question I raised originally (which I accept - you say - you didn't understand) I will await them with interest.
Sneak up in the dark and chop the buggers down
, then burn them for heat
If any one questions your motives tell me
" its all for the good of the country "
sorry couldn't resist
James that's brilliant. It hadn't even entered my head to burn them for heat. Outstanding. Thanks! I'm away with chainsaw tonight after dark...

I presume heinbloed point is the money may be better invested elsewhere to achieve your goal , though I'm sure your well aware of all that
My guess is solar thermal saving 75-150 of gas per year
all depend what you spent fitting it.
a friend bought 10x30tube collectors for 150ish a piece a while back , that what we need to make it work.
standing heatloss for a 300litre santon dual coil unvented cylinder
2.72kWh/24h ,
992.8 kWh/365/d
Only one question I have asked so far: The adresses of the tank manufacturers who claim their tanks are losing as much energy as you claim they're doing .
About the Op's question:
Nothing comes from nothing. The OP wasted capital with the installation that he has purchased.
Nothing he can do about it.
A booklet for a few Euros explaining the energtic costs and benefits of thermal solar systems would have been a first, a better investment.
As jamesingram said: it's all for the good of the country.
Every educated plumber is a gain for society.
heinbloed sorry I'm confused, who's the Op ?
If I could fit a system to my house for say 1000 then economicially it make sense,approximately 10 years pay back, 20 year life expectancy of system, so OK
I'm sure Julians more concerned about energy returns.
energy in production/installation verses energy produced over lifetime ( plus negative impacted of alternative heat source reduced ) and also LCA life cycle assessment , other negative verse positive environmental factors.
Most people in the "green" world believe solar thermal give a net positive payback in environmental terms, surely they can't all be self deluded
I've never seen any real data to prove this either way so I can't say for sure
interesting pictures how bigs that store ?

@ jamesingram:
Confusion about the OP: You have to ask Julian, he used this term in his post from November 20th,1:43pm .
I quote: " ..... Maybe it's worth remembering the OP and the forum heading....."
We shouldn't lough.
About the waste of energy and resources caused by the installation of solar thermal systems:
The greenwash people are usually happy with what they do. It doesn't matter to them that numbers and facts do not ad up.
Why is that so?
Because the crown of thorns does not pierce them hard enough. They're not aware that there is real life threatening caused by their behaviour.
Solar thermal installations CAN save energy, CAN be economical. But there is no guarantee that such an installation WILL actually safe energy, safe money.
The very fast majority of all ST installations DO safe energy, DO safe money.
But not the systems we're told to buy by our industry, by our politicians.
The break-even point MUST be calculated. And most installers, most clients, most politicians are simply not competent enough to do that. They're not trained to do something like an economical calculation (see the discussion above) They prefer the privateering as a rule of life. Cut the trees, they block the sun....
The most efficient stand alone, not fascade integrated ST collector for sale in the EU with an Estif seal (solar keymark)is the water pipe collector from SUNSHORE. This is official, tested, calculated and certified by ST specialists who have much more experince then Joe Average.Real heating engineers(University degree) are confirming this.
To calculate the efficiency of an investment in a ST system we have to put monetarian investment versus USED harvest.
A large harvest which isn't used is a waste. A smaller investment will guarantee a better return. Compare the situation with an oversized boiler central heating boiler.
Any other decision in choosing a collector must stand to this efficiency. And none does.
Imagine you get a ST collector offered with a gold plated rim, would you buy it? Why not? Because it costs extra money and doesn't deliver extra thermal energy? You got me.
All other flat panel, heat pipe, direct copper pipe in vacuum etc... do not match the efficiency of this system.
That is the reason why the fast majority of ST collectors installed on global scale are using this system.
Baerbel Epp ( a crack in the ST industry) explains the situation here:
90% of ALL ST collectors installed in China are of the water pipe type.
No clutter, no copper, no heatpipes, no temperature sensors. Plain investment, plain harvest.
The Chinese have no choice but to invest efficiently. there is no subsidy for the purchase/installment of ST collectors. So the system has to pay for itself. And no one in China would take up a mortgage to buy a ST collector. This is absurd in capitalistic/economical terms. Private consumption should never be financed with debts.
The data base ESTIF, the solar keymark system, tells us exactly what harvest we can expect at what radiation intensity.
The water pipe collector has the highest harvest at low radiation exposure.That's fact.
And it is the cheapest to purchase,Pound Sterling per used kWh.
Because it delivers warm water all year round. Well, at most days, there are limits of course.
Any investment, purchase does demage to the enviroment, as any economical activity.
The more we spend the more we kill.
Don't blame the messanger !
So instead of looking for a low demand, a low satisfaction demand that is,most people try to increase their satisfaction by consuming more resources. But this of course also increases the energy demand,the destruction they cause.
Diogenes was not allowed to live in the city, he had a bad influence on the youth by teaching the truth.
A SUNSHORE water pipe collector costs around 500,- and will harvest per year over 870 kWh/m2(calculated with TSOL PRO RELEASE4.3) At an exposure of 1000 Watt/m2 it harvest 2070 Watts +-2.8%.
At the same exposure rate it will harvest (tm-ta)(K)=10
2024 Watts.
If the exposure is reduced to 400 Watts per m2 (on a cloudy day)and Tm-TaK is 10 it still delivers 783 Watts.
No other system beats that.
Therefore any other collector system is a waster when compared to the water pipe.
And investing in wasters is greenwashing.
Check the Estif home page, click onto the solar keymark symbol and choose the collectors you want to compare with each other.
The Estif home page offers a calculator where you can put in your choosen colector and see how it compares to others.
Once you have found your favorit you compare the prices offered to you by your dealer. Always look at the investment/harvest ration. Then only one system will perform best. And this is the water pipe system. No other. Simple, cheap, glycol free and therefore maintenance free
ALL consumers who are not comparing price with service and claim to do something green are wearing pink glasses.They simply can't shop. See for example the 5,000 investment bespoken here in the thread. One has to kill the neighbours trees to make green washing.For a few KWh of thermal energy, and no idea how much this will inctrease the harvest.Lets kill it and see if we can eat it.Tsss....
Learn to compare, learn to shop. Learn how to read test reports. A booklet for 10 will be always the first investment before spending 1,000s, be it a washing machine or a car, a collector or a computer.
Otherwise you have to rely on salesmen talk.
Excuse my grammatics and my openes.I'm living in the real world, a friendly nodding to those who threat my planet to to stubborn ignorance is the only thing I'm not willing to give.
About the tank: It's an oiltank, 6,000l capacity, filled with 5,700 liters of water. No glycol, no pressure. Insulated with 35cm EPS at the sides, ca.50 cm at the top.
I'm losing half the energy over two days (no tapping, no adding) when tank is loaded to an average of 50 dgrees Celsius.
Hence my surprise when some DIY plumber turns up and tells me that he loses only 2 % or something like. The larger the Volume/content ratio is the less is lost. The toy tanks with 200-300l volume are a joke when it comes to efficent thermal storage.
Hi james
Took your advice and went out with chainsaw in the dark...a few minutes work and they're gone...and luckily one fell right on top of my shoddy UK built dangeling solar collector thingy....smashed 'em to blazes and good riddance to their hideous planet destroying potential. How I was duped! Naturally I will burn the logs in the most wasteful manner I can conceive of tomorrow. In the meantime...a nice carving on the tree stumps..."heinbloed woz 'ere".
excellent work Julian
When you burn the wood make sure you open all your windows to let out all the harmfull toxins
By the way , have you made a offer to farmer Giles
I once was after a similiar bit of land and Mr farmer said
40,000 , so I said 2,000 and his next offer was 8,000
we agreed on 4,000 , then I pulled out later for other reasons , anyway you could make him a silly offer
you might get lucky he may be in need a bit of cash , though farmers do have a reputation for being buggers in particular area , if he want 5000 tell him you want 2 acres ( or 1 if your in the SE) and you'll put it to better use than he can, building affordable quality housing with growing space for those force to live in urban ghettos

Just found this little bit of info on embodied energy of solar thermal
"The solar collector accounts for 5% (75 kWh/m) of total PEI (Primary production energy input); the primary energy saved every year by the collector amounts to 19 kWh/(ma). Measures taken in the passive house to efficiently use electric energy require by comparison only about 2 kWh/m additional PEI, but save 60 kWh/(ma) primary energy year by year [10]."
written by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, Passive House Institut, 1997
Dr. Feist is/was paid by the heatpump industry, that's no secret.
What was published 1997(!) was based on numbers gathered 1995. At this time thermal collectors where 5 times the price (energy input!) as what they're nowadays.Despite the inflation seen since then.
How can a plain flat panel thermal collector, costing barely 50 pounds/m2 nowadays, have an input on the primary energy demand on a building project of 5% ?
In 1995 collectors were welded / soldered by hand.With an expected life time of not more then 10 years. And maintenance costs of the price of the collector in three to five years. (There were only handfull competent companies able to do so, travel costs had to be included in the maintenance costs. And Germany is huge.)
The PHI did advise against the usage of collectors at the time. Nowadays they strongly recommend their usage, see the PHPP 2007, chapter 25. Because they save on summer's energy demand.
But the PHPP - still strongly influenced by the HP industry- is not looking at the possibility of using thermal solar power as a heating space source.
The Solar house institute-formerly a loose association of home builders- is now preparing the solarhouse planning packet(SHPP). This will be available next year. And will show that the solar house is by far beating the PH in terms primary energy demand, in monetarian terms.
Toy installations of a few m2 are of course a waste of energy, everyone will be able to get the SHPP and calculate the demage caused by undersizing the heating system.
This is already recognised by various independant sources, but since there was no calculation tool available and architects and engineers-esp. the British ones- a for those who are not capeable to economical action(logic thinking that is!), who are to fearful of mathematics, it did not take off. Although some hundred Solar Houses have been build already in Europe, see mine.
The EU as well as the German gouverment are now financing the development of the planning tool, the computer programm.
The PHI is still bussy to propagate the idea of the heatpumps....the winners of the past are the loosers of the future.
With the new building regulations this will be a thing of the past. HPs simply consume too much primary energy.
The first PH were always equipped with direct electric heating, no heatpumps. And most PH build nowadays are still so. Because it is cheaper, consumes less primary energy over the life cycle compared to a heatpump.
The asessment of the total primary energy consumption of a product is still not tought on British universities as far as I know. One would have to employ a foreign company to get a proper answer like how much energy is demanded in a full life cycle of a collector. Feist did that 20 years ago.... How can we expect Joe Average to think globaly when the elite is to stupid to do so. This is the bitter consequence of an education system which leaves 20% of all adults as illiterates after finishing school. Efficiency in the education system? Then how to adhere to the principal of energy efficiency in life? No way, not wanted....
Not for school we learn but for life.....but in these schools we don't learn how to learn. But how to march, to wear a uniform, to salute...
The poor children are needed as canon food. And that's how they're treated. Not loved,a burden, the hate implanted into their harts.Ideal to be send on a killing spree.
The colonies were populated by the buggers, with surplus humane capital from the prisons, poor houses, army camps.
And the Nato is now fighting for the security of supplies, they need these mental criples, the canonfood.
So education like asessing the impact of humane action is certainly not wanted for the broader masses.
As Marx said: the destination of the working class is determined by it's availability. "But"-he said- "my dear friend Engels, this we won't tell them. How would we start a revolution when they stop breeding?"
I know this not might not be suitable for all the people who post, but the Energy Saving Trust in Scotland offer everyone in Scotland free support for renewable enquiries and installation.
Not only can you access grants and interest free loans but you can get a home visit which will hopefully address any technical queries you may have.
Feel free to visit, call 0800 512 012 or email me on and I can point you in the right direction.
Hope this helps.

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