Businesses join the rush to solar as energy prices are set to soar

An award-winning renewable energy company has seen enquiries from businesses soar across North Wales and Merseyside – the area which already has the highest electricity bills in the UK.

Vale of Clwyd-based Hafod Renewables, which installs a range of bespoke green energy systems across North and Mid Wales and the border counties, has been inundated with calls.

Businesses with high energy costs from dairy farms to bakeries and manufacturing companies have been alarmed at reports of 50 per cent increases in charges which could add up to thousands of pounds as fossil fuel generated power prices have rocketed – with further increases predicted for later in the year.

Hafod Managing Director David Jones said: “These increased charges are going to hit everyone including homeowners but at least there is a cap on domestic charges even though it’s going to go up.

“For businesses there’s no cap so they are going to be subject to the full force of these price increases and that could mean charges going up by hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

“What can work for them though is that they have large premises with big roof areas which makes them particularly suitable for solar power and the potential savings are so great payback times are being cut to as little as four years.

“I think many businesses have been concerned that switching to solar would mean a lengthy shutdown while a new energy system is fitted but that’s just not the case.

“We’ve fitted solar systems in bakeries and on dairy farms and the bread has still been baked and the cows have still been milked so it is a seamless transition, just a flick of a switch.”

Meanwhile the Federation of Small Businesses has warned that its members are expected to feel the brunt of crippling energy costs in the coming weeks as firms begin to strike new fixed-term deals amid record high energy market prices.

David said: “With current low interest rates and with an estimated return on investment of 25 per cent we would expect that a solar pv system would pay for itself in four years.

“In fact some clients who opt to purchase solar through asset finance have found that they can meet their regular payments and still save up to £100 a month on top that with a new solar system which with battery back-up can provide power 24/7.”

Domestic customers may be insulated from the worst effects of the increased charges by the price cap but they still face much bigger bills.

A total of 40 energy suppliers went bust last year due to spiralling wholesale gas costs, and Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert has warned that the energy price cap will see another rise of 51% in April, adding a further £600 to domestic gas and electricity bills.

Hafod Renewables have also seen a spike in orders from homeowners with North Wales and Merseyside already the area with the highest electricity prices in the country at £810 annually, £100 a year more than in Northern Ireland and £65 more than in the neighbouring North West.

Hafod, founded in 2010 by David, a graduate in renewable energy systems, and his late father, Richard, have carried out 200 installations in the last 12 months with solar power and battery systems attracting most interest currently.

A battery system means power can be stored until it is needed which is usually in the evenings although with the move to more home working since the pandemic that is changing too.

Hafod, three times named as Wales’s top renewable energy installer at the Energy Efficiency Awards, has been approved by Tesla, one of the biggest names in green technology, to supply and fit their Powerwall wall-mounted batteries which cost from £3,000.

The batteries which are approximately five feet high, three feet wide and just eight inches deep, weigh just over 200 pounds and can be fitted to an exterior wall and linked to roof-mounted solar panels.

David said: “The big advantage of these batteries is that the electricity generated by solar power during the daytime can now be stored and used in the evening when you need it.

“Previously that electricity would have been sold straight to the National Grid which has become a less attractive option as the Government has cut the feed-in tariffs which were paid.

“But for a homeowner being able to use the electricity generated by solar panels later in the evening can mean massive savings.”

He estimates that from November to the end of February, when days are shortest, a conventional south-facing solar system with a battery would still generate part of a home’s required power while for the remaining eight months it would virtually power the home completely and even be able to sell any excess to the grid.

Hafod, which now employs 14, up from nine pre-pandemic, moved to larger premises at Tremeirchion from Denbigh two years ago, and has also opened a depot in Porthmadog for its Gwynedd-based team.

Their new headquarters is entirely powered by renewable energy, with solar panels and air-source systems, and has a zero-carbon footprint along with electrical-charging points for vehicles – they plan to switch their vans to electric when that becomes practical.

Domestic systems currently make up the bulk of Hafod’s work but their track record includes renewable energy systems for over 100 farms, a builders’ merchant, holiday cottages, a bakery, an ice-cream business and a heritage railway.

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