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SunGift Solar update - June 2011

Learning from the best in the industry

It’s been a busy month, not only for SunGift Solar, but also for me, as I’ve been out and about across Europe: undergoing training at potential new supplier Italian Energy Resources SRL, and learning about the newest technical breakthroughs at InterSolar – the world’s largest PV exhibition (more about both trips below).

The big talking point this month is that the government’s review of the Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) has now been completed, and they’ve made it very clear that FiTs have been introduced to benefit individuals, householders, organisations, businesses and communities. As a result no changes have been made to tariffs for domestic installations (up to 50 kW), which means that if you’re a homeowner you’ll continue to earn up to 43.3 pence per kilowatt hour (around triple what you pay electricity providers to buy electricity from them) so there’s never been a better time to get renewables fitted to your property.

However, if you’re looking for a bigger installation – like our newest customer Darts Farm (see story below) – from 1 August 2011 the rates will be lowered considerably, so the window of opportunity to get the best rate is very narrow.

Finally, here at SunGift Solar things are continuing to go from strength to strength – so much so that we’ve not only installed some unique installations in the past month, but also we’ve taken on more excellent staff so that we can continue to give you the best possible service and technical expertise. We now boast a 30-strong team, so we’ll keep introducing you to new team members each month. You can find out about some of our newest installations and one of our new starters – Ashley – below.

Gabriel Wondrausch
Managing director

Raising our technical expertise at InterSolar exhibition
Discovering new and improved ways to make our systems perform better is one of our key priorities. So, earlier this month we took our biggest group ever to InterSolar in Munich – the world’s largest PV exhibition – because when you’re mixing with 2,200 of the world’s most ambitious solar companies, you get a real insight into what’s works well and what doesn’t.

And our guys certainly raised their level of technical expertise another notch. We attended seminars on thin film modules (the future generation of solar PV panels), researched the best crystalline panels on the market, discussed monitoring software, investigated solutions that could make shading a problem of the past, and discovered some new design software which could help us provide even better tailormade solutions.

That’s just a small selection of what we learnt, so to find out more about what we learnt read this detailed article by Jamie Burnham (pictured right), our lead system designer.

Darts Farm installation breaks new ground for SunGift
We have always been renowned for the quality of our domestic installations, and now we’re also gaining a reputation for larger, more prominent systems. So we’re very excited by our latest project at Darts Farm in Topsham, near Exeter, which is our biggest yet.

The shopping village, which is known for the quality of the local produce it sells, has commissioned us to fit around 85 kW of solar PV. We’re now pulling out all the stops to install the 320 roof-mounted PV panels and a 6 kW tracker system by the end of July, so that they can take advantage of a Feed-in Tariff rate that is 73 per cent higher than it will be after that date.

Find out more about our commercial installations and how we work closely with architects and developers

Gabriel's trip shows that integrating renewables is key to zero-carbon buildings
We’ve come a long way since Gabriel fitted his first solar thermal panels over five years ago, and we now install a full mix of technologies. It’s also one of our core beliefs that if you want to have a completely zero-carbon building, you must include an integrated renewable energy solution.

Italian company Energy Resources are experts in this field, so Gabriel visited them earlier this month so that we could learn from the best in the business and pass on this knowledge to SunGift customers. Visiting exemplar installations, Gabriel got a real insight into how Energy Resources not only heats and cools buildings using renewables, but also how it uses its architects to integrate PV modules into roofs, car ports and even rooftop gardens. Gabriel also visited a €35 million, 7.2 MW roof-mounted PV system (earning a huge €3.5 million per year in Feed-in Tariff payments!), and underwent intense training on thin-film PV and large-scale heat pumps.

Read the full blog of Gabriel’s trip.

SunGift team takes to the pitch for youth service
Next month a group of SunGift staff will be relying on their excellent teamwork for more than just installing renewables – as they take to the pitch for a 5-a-side football tournament in support of Devon Youth Service.

PV team leader Robbie, who is a volunteer for the youth service, will lead out the team, which includes star appearances from, Dickie (PV installer), Wayne (lead electrician), and Ashley (roofer). The team will be testing their skills against 25 other teams, and a crowd of SunGift staff will be there to cheer them on. Gabriel will no doubt be on the sidelines, ready to ensure that Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t turn up and poach any of our staff for his first team!

Good luck lads!

If you’d like to watch some of the SunGift team in action on the pitch on 17 July, click here for directions to the ‘100 Club’ tournament in Exeter.

Partnership with Mole Valley brings perfect solution for farmers
We weren’t surprised when a recent survey found that a huge 80 per cent of farms would like to have solar installed by 2013. After all, it’s a great way of diversifying, earning guaranteed extra income, making the best use of barn roofs or unused land, and boosting your farm’s ‘green’ credentials.

So, we were delighted when trusted co-operative Mole Valley Farmers chose us as one of their three preffered suppliers to provide their members with tailor-made renewables solutions. As part of our relationship with them we provide their farmers with anything from domestic-size 4 kW systems up to larger 50 kW systems – each one individually designed to make the most of the site’s natural resources.

When they're choosing suppliers, Mole Valley spends time researching the many products, services and companies, assessing the technology, analysing the returns and costs, and checking the viability of supply to ensure that their members and shareholders have reliable and trusted information. We’re pleased to say that we met their strict criteria.

To learn more about one of our Mole Valley installations, see the story below.

Or click here to find out more about Mole Valley’s approach to renewables

Barn-roof PV is perfect addition to farm’s renewables mix
When a Somerset farm owner decided to fit solar PV panels to her farm, she could have been fooled into thinking it was a straightforward job. But with the need for planning permission, a ‘specialist commission’ from Western Power, and a significant amount of asbestos to remove from the barn, she knew she’d need specialist help.

It wasn’t SunGift’s easiest job, but we like a challenge, and it helps us to come up with even more inventive and better solutions for our customers. The SunGift team like to get their teeth stuck into something different, and the 20 kW array allowed us to do just that. We began by sending out a site surveyor to look at her property, then we got the design team on board to sketch out a solution, before providing our happy customer with a computer-aided design (CAD) of the proposed scheme. After discussing the various options, she settled on 112 Sharp Nu185E1 panels, with two solar max inverters.

“Once I’d got in touch with SunGift and had my site survey, I instantly felt as though a burden had lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I already had a wind turbine and the heat pumps, so renewables are helping my farm become completely sustainable in terms of our energy needs. And with rising fuel prices that’s very welcome indeed.”

Find out more about SunGift Solar and how we can help you

SunGift’s custom designs for Roderick James Architects
One of the exciting things about our business is working with architects on new and interesting building projects. We’re particularly passionate about ‘whole house’ solutions, and quite often an architect will come to us asking for a custom-designed renewable energy system that will seamlessly integrate with their new-build designs.

One excellent project that we’ve just finished work on is a holiday cottage on Dartmoor that Roderick James architects asked for our input into. After showing us their initial plans and requirements, we provided them with a solution that included solar thermal, solar PV, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps.

See some of the versatile houses that Roderick James has designed

Find out more about our commercial installations and how we work closely with architects and developers

Ashley will perfectly place your PV panels
We're proud of our skilled staff here at SunGift, and new to the team this month is specialist roofer Ashley Commins, whose attention to detail is exceptional.

From slating to tiling, and using sheet and metal, what Ashley hasn’t learnt in his ten years of being a roofer is hardly worth knowing. At SunGift he’s part of the installation team, so his job is to install the roof hooks and rails, make sure your roof stays water-tight and secure, and check that your solar PV panels blend perfectly into your roof. That way it looks and works perfectly, and is maintenance free.

When he’s not 30 feet in the air, Ashley’s either doting on his four month old daughter, or playing football for his two teams – Wonford and the Phoenix Club. He’s not bad either – earlier this month he was part of the Wonford team that made the last 16 of the national Carlsberg Cup competition.

Find out more about our renewable energy services

Thanks for reading the second edition of SunGift News. And remember, if you have any ideas for future stories, or want to share your ‘installation inspiration’ with us, please let us know.

Best wishes

The SunGift Solar team