Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to help the environment and decrease your carbon footprint by installing Solar PV Panels.

In these carbon-conscious times we've been thinking good and hard about our energy usage. Even though we're in Scotland where a high proportion of electricity comes from hydro schemes, we felt it would be a very sensible environmental decision to put solar panels on to our roof, as this will help our overall usage of electricity and furthermore contribute to the national grid.

Three weeks ago the scaffolders arrived and in a day had erected this multi-coloured framework mainly around the western side of the building to allow the electricians to install the solar panels on the roof. They did pick a very wet day to put the scaffolding up as you can see from the sheen of rain on the tarmac.

This is the view on the roof looking North, with the brew kettle chimney stack in the upper right of the picture. So now you know what a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panel looks like. For a more detailed guide on Solar PV click here.

Here is Michael the electrician, hiding behind the platform on the cherrypicker, commissioning the inverters - the 2 black and blue panels fixed to the wall above the malt intake hopper. Inverters turn the Direct Current (like in a torch battery) into Alternating Current as in your 2-phase 240v domestic supply, though at the brewery we have the added complication of having a 3-phase 415v supply, which is much more efficient at running our types of big pumps and refrigeration equipment. The power from the PV panels comes down through the roof along the black cables into the seven black and grey isolator switchboxes then into the inverters, from where it goes into our distribution board. We had to switch off all the electricity into the brewery for a few hours for the connecting up of the PV power to our distribution board (all the grey/white panels on the right of the photo)  which did involve a 'Throw the Switch, Igor' moment, when the main power line was cut off. And much more excitingly, when the power was switched back on again!
'Throw the switch, Igor!'
The cardboard recycling lorry, which comes by us on Thursday had a bumper load as every component came in a little box. In fact we recycled all of the wrapping, cardboard and pallets that the installation came with, to help with the holistic green approach we've taken with this project.

One thing I was very pleased with, despite the fact that the commissioning of the PV panels took place on a cold dank rainy day, was that the system managed to generate 4 kW in about half an hour after it was switched on before the dusk made it too dark for any power generation.
Our new sun-o-meter

Every day we're hoping for sun and its light, as that's what makes this work to harness the sun's energy to help our environment for the present and for the future, as I want people to be able to enjoy our (now greener) beer far into the future as well.


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