In Light of Scottish/UK Solar FIT, Don’t Forget Solar Thermal !!!


Dear Friends & Viewers/Visitors/Readers,

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During this month of September, right before covering the Solar Decathlon Europe 2012, we took a detour to visit my sister-in-law currently residing in the community of Forres of Scotland.   Forres is a town situated in the north of Scotland on the Moray coast, approximately 25 miles east of Inverness. Forres has been a winner of the Scotland in Bloom award on several occasions. There are many geographical and historical attractions nearby such as the River Findhorn, and there are many historical artifacts and monuments within the town itself.  I call it a community because of the people I’ve met while visiting;they struck me as very grounded individuals with keen sense for their community’s welfare.  Besides some lovely characters who are working to start  transition community projects (community gardening, food coop, community newsletter, classes, etc.), I’ve  also had the opportunity to learn from a group of helpful people working at AES Solar Systems, who have been manufacturing solar thermal (solar hot water heating systems) since 1979.  It was an eye-opening (and/or ear-opening) experience for me to find out the initial impact of Solar Feed-In-Tariff on their business.  Below, is the round table discussion by AES Solar Systems’ experts in the solar industry (especially in solar thermal or solar hot water heating system),  Campbell MacLennan, George Goudsmit, and Tristan Wolfe, and moderator Susan Sun Nunamaker:

It is important to keep in mind Tristan Wolfe’s comment regarding people getting into solar PV without having  considered the even more optimal purchase of solar thermal (solar hot water heating systems).   Perhaps consulting experts in the field prior to making any decision would be well advised.

In the process, I hope that my learned lessons/offered suggestions will be considered by countries that had not yet implemented solar FIT yet. Below, are such:

  1. The cost of Solar Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program would be best not coming from the government subsidies but  from the rate payers (consumers) in a tiered fashion, such that those of lowest tier (lowest power consumption and/or income) would not need to pay for the added cost due to solar FIT.   Rest of the electricity consumers would bear a slight increase in their annual bills proportionally thus allowing electricity utilities to buy renewable energy generated from green sources at above-market rates set by the government.
  2. It would be advisable to start the Solar FIT low, close to the avoided cost level, then gradually increase the feed-in rate according to the need. So to be able to approach the situation carefully and cautiously, and  reassess the situation (optimal Feed-In rate) at specific intervals  to avoid budget/financial difficulties.
  3. It seems feasible/optimal to introduce regulation to require solar thermal (solar hot water heating systems) when/where it is already a foregone conclusion that this would be an economically feasible approach in building design, with or without incentive program such as feed-in-tariff.  Perhaps it is time to start the discussion in considering implementing this as part of the building code.  DO NOT FORGET SOLAR THERMAL !!!  IT IS VERY FEASIBLE TO INSTALL SOLAR HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEMS EVEN BEFORE INSTALLING SOLAR PV !!!

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker,


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