Lihou Island photovoltaic panels reduce diesel fuel costs

February 9th, 2012 by Lihou Charitable Trust

Lihou Island off the west coast of Guernsey has no connection to the electricity mains supply.  The house on Lihou Island has relied on a diesel generator to provide electricity until Jon Heaume donated 14 photovoltaic panels, and inverters and batteries, to the Lihou Charitable Trust. These were installed in the courtyard of Lihou house by Andy Linehan.

Lihou Island photovoltaic panels photographed on 11 January 2012. The panels were donated by Jon Heaume and installed by Andy Linehan & Son (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

On sunny days during September 2011 the PV panels generated too much electricity for the batteries to store. This problem was overcome by creating a ‘dump load’ – heating an element – when the panels generate electricity while the batteries are almost full.

The photovoltaic panels do not generate enough electricity for the building’s needs during dark winter days although on sunny winter days they can generate up to 11 kWh of electricity.

The electricity from the PV panels automatically starts the diesel generator when the batteries are low so that the batteries are not damaged. This has the added benefit of starting-up the generator from time to time to keep it in good working order.

Are the photovoltaic panels worth having during the winter?

The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’.  The PV panels charge the batteries, which power the house. Through the inverters they can turn on the generator to charge the batteries when necessary. The generator turns off when the batteries are fully charged. This reduces the running cost of the generator.

The photovoltaic system, with its inverters and batteries, has reduced the use of the diesel generator by 75% during the winter months and by 95% during the summer.

We may look to expand the renewable energy system. We may install more PV panels or may even consider wind power as a source of renewable energy.

If we did consider wind power as an option to power the house on Lihou Island, we would only be looking at a small turbine or a vertical axis turbine that looks like a corkscrew.

Whatever we do will have to be approved by the planning department of the Environment Department, and would be done with consultation and input from Carl Foulds of Direct Architectural Solutions who does the Lihou Charitable Trust planning work for free.


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