Saturday, September 30, 2006


This is Sharp's first solar module manufacturing plant in Europe, opened in 2004 and based in Wrexham, North Wales. The facility assembles monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar modules for residential and commercial installations. Sharp claim to be the global leader in solar cell production, with more than 45 years' experience in the industry. With installations as diverse as satellites, commercial, public and residential buildings, over a quarter of solar modules installed worldwide are manufactured by Sharp. In 2005, Sharp’s annual production capacity increased to 428 megawatts. With a current market share of 26 per cent, Sharp has been the worldwide leader in production of solar cells for six years. [Information from company press release: Sharp Electronics (UK) Ltd]

Micropower generation by home owners is set to take off in a major way - and the High Street is gearing up for it.

One month ago, Curry's became the first major retailer on the British high street to offer a range of solar panels to the home customer. The panels, produced by Sharp Electronics – who claim to be the world’s leading solar panel manufacturer - are now on sale in just three Currys stores (West Thurrock, Fulham and Croydon) but are also available on-line. Currys is Britain’s biggest electrical retailer with a network of more than 550 stores nationwide.

According to the Sharp press release: ‘After a detailed in-store consultation with a trained adviser, customers with suitable houses will be offered a home assessment free of charge. Should the house be capable of supporting the technology – and most are – installation of the solar panels on the property roof takes just one or two days and requires a minimum of equipment to be installed, usually in the roof space.’

They claim the cost for an installation of nine solar panels (enough to cover approximately half of a household’s electricity requirements on an average three bedroom house) is approximately £9,000. ‘Customers opting for solar power can expect to reduce their electricity bill by up to 50% and could cut down their home’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to two tons per year. Panels come with a performance warranty of 25 years, and minimum maintenance is required by the customer.’

Sharp claim that customers who install their panels can expect a potential increase to the value of their property and poaint out that grants are available through the Low Carbon Buildings Programme. and

Then, on 28th September, the DIY chain B&Q announced that, from October, they will be selling wind turbines and solar panels in every one of their 320 UK stores.

According to The Guardian, the turbines will cost £1,498 - a price that includes a home survey, help with applying for planning permission and installation. Its staff will also help customers apply for grants from the Energy Saving Trust - which can cover 30% of the cost of the turbine.

The turbine are 1.75m wide and 2m tall and will generate 1kw of electricity directly into a ring main. They may not suit every home. Home owners will also get advice as to whether their property is structurally suitable and/or whether it is located in an area too sheltered from the wind to make wind power economical.

Unlike the Curry's solar panels - designed to generate electricity - the one's sold by B&Q will heat water using daylight, providing enough for half the average family's needs. They are priced as follows: Single unit (£1,798); two-panel unit (£1,498); three-panel unit (£2,498).

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