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03.11.14 Energy generation: A view from the farm

3rd Nov 2014

Recently appointed FCCT director Andrew Rigg has just taken carbon saving a step further on his farm in Hampshire. An all-electric car, a Nissan Leaf Acenta has arrived in the yard.  With a supply of electricity from his 20kW ground-mounted solar panels, Andrew has not only zero emission driving, but also zero cost…..

The panels are performing well; with 10kW installed at the higher rate, and another 10kW installed in 2013 they are collectively giving a 14% return on investment from the feed in tariff. In addition to this the farm’s electricity bill has been cut by 30%. The farm is a net exporter of electricity.

Not all the solar electricity is being used on the farm. A significant amount is also being exported to the grid with no further benefit to the business. “We looked at all sorts of mad and not so mad ways of using this ‘free’ electricity” says Andrew, “and finally decided that an electric car was a good way to go. The actual financial saving from using your own electricity is not huge, but the satisfaction of this, and never visiting a petrol station again, is immense!”

The range of the Nissan Leaf is about 100 miles, so you have to do some careful planning. This is made easier by the fact that car uses GPS and the phone network to look after you and guide to available charging points on your journey. 

“It’s almost worryingly quiet, but otherwise much like driving an automatic, though in addition to having no clutch it has no gearbox either. If you switch out of ‘Eco Mode’ it has quite fast acceleration, though of course you run the battery down quicker.”

It’s pretty clear to Andrew that these cars are going to get very popular, but there is another dimension to this story.

Nissan are working on a system to use the battery in the car as storage that you can then use to power your house. A fully charged Nissan electric car battery can power the average house for two days. The technology is not quite available yet, but it is not far off. For Andrew this will be an opportunity to maximise the benefits from the solar panels, as he will be able to use his car to store electricity produced from the panels in the day, to power the house in the evening. This will further cut his electricity bill, and put an even bigger grin on his face!