Rural Energy Partnership
The aim of this project is to significantly reduce the amount of fossil fuel required to provide adequate electricity to the farm and the domestic dwellings at the settlement on West Falkland by a utilising a sustainable technology not yet adopted by other farms.
When Harps Farm was purchased in 2014 there was only a diesel generator supplying electricity to the settlement. Where the demand for electricity by the farm and from a young family are constant, it was uneconomic to work off a diesel generator running 24 hours a day. A hybrid system was installed in 2015 to reduce the hours the generator operates, but adding a renewable source will further reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.
1 x 15kW diesel generator, installed in 2000
2 x 6kW MPP Solar Inverters, installed in 2015
500Ah battery bank, installed in 2015
The current system uses on average 3,000 litres of diesel a year costing £1,500 (Diesel price £0.50 per litre). It is estimated that the generator runs between 800 - 1,000 hours per year.
4 kW of Solar Photovoltaic Panels installed facing north at an angle of 22° is estimated to provide 3200kWh per year of electricity. It is predicted this will reduce the running time of the generator by 250 hours a year, saving around £500 per annum.
After the award of the Rural Energy Partnership Development grant the design began. The first thing that was to be decided was to install a roof mounted system or ground mounted system. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, the main ones being that a ground mounted system will generate more electricity but the mounting system costs will be higher, whereas the business could spend the same amount on upgrading an existing building and install the array on the roof out of the way of vehicles and animals but will generate less. The difference between the output was around 400kWh per year (around £50 extra fuel saving a year) but the difference in the investment was around £2,000 more for a ground mounted system.
The decision was made to install the array on the roof of an new building at the settlement. We contacted the Falkland Islands Government Building Advisor to find out it any permits were required for the installation. The building advisor was very helpful and informed us that the array would not require planning permission but would require a building permit. The form was very easy and quick to complete and was submitted along with a drawing of the building and map of the settlement. Very quickly we received the approved building permit.
With all permissions in place the array was ordered in April 2015 through the local supplier Southern Imports.
While the system was being shipped from the UK, It was thought good to contact a local electrician to get the electrical systems of the buildings connected to the generation system checked for safety. A proportion of the expense for this work on the domestic property can be covered under the Domestic Electricity Safety Check and Improvement Grant Scheme, this scheme is managed by FIDC and is open to all domestic properties owners across the Falkland Islands to improve the electrical safety.
The installation started on the 11th October 2016 after the new building had been erected. The installation by the farm owners (with a good knowledge of electrical installation) took around 6 days as the array was commissioned on Saturday 17th October 2016. The total cost of the installation was £3,170, if the system generates as predicted the payback will be 6.4 years.
1. The array output from the installation on the 17th October 2016 until 31st January 2017.
The solar array has covered 100% of the expect demand of the business. The array was never expected to cover the high power demand from shearing and welding. Over the above period the business has required the diesel generator to be operating for an estimated 40 hours. The business before the array was installed would normally operate the diesel generator for around 3 hours a day to cover the demand. The diesel generator required over 3 litres of fuel per hour to operate but as the installation of the solar array has reduced the operating time of the diesel generator by 280hour, 840 litres of diesel have not been burnt; a saving of £420 (diesel price at £0.50 per litre) over a three month period.
2. Period - 1st February 2017 until 31st May 2017
The array has continued to work without any issue. There has been a number of overcast/foggy days in a row at Harp farm over this period, but the array has still covered over 80% of the business’s energy demand over this period. The installation of the solar array has reduced the expected operating time of the diesel generator by almost 500 hours, meaning 1400 litres of fuel have not been used, saving £700 (diesel price at £0.50 per litre).
3. Period - 1st June 2017 until 30th September 2017
The array has continued to work without a fault over the winter but the number of daylight hours available has required the generator to run more hours in this period than it has in the previous 6 months. Although the number of daylight hours has been limited, the array has still covered over 60% of the business’s energy demand over this period. The installation of the solar array has reduced the expected operating time of the diesel generator by around 340 hours, meaning 1000 litres of fuel have not been used, saving £500 (diesel price at £0.50 per litre).
4. Period - 1st October 2017 until 14th December 2017
The array has continued to work without a fault throughout spring and summer. Over the period the use of the generator was only required when high energy demand tasks performed on the farm, for example shearing, pressing and welding. The array has covered over 80% of the business’s energy demand over this period. The installation of the solar array has reduced the expected operating time of the diesel generator by around 250 hours, meaning 475 litres of fuel have not been used, saving £237 (diesel price at £0.50 per litre).
5. Period - 15th December 2017 –27th March 2018
The array has continued to work without a fault over the summer as the business owner reports. The business installed a 3kW wind turbine on the early March 2018 and this means that the wind and solar should cover the majority of the energy requirements per year. Before the Wind Turbine was installed the diesel generator was only required when high energy demand tasks such as shearing, pressing and welding were being performed on the farm. The array has covered over 98% of the business’s energy demand over this period. The installation of the solar array has reduced the expected operating time of the diesel generator by around 400 hours, meaning 1,200 litres of fuel has not been used, saving £600 (diesel price at £0.50 per litre).
Annual Update - Harps Farm, West Falkland
The aim of the installation at Harps Farm, West Falkland, is to demonstrate that a small/medium size solar array would be ideal for a farm business with a single domestic house, and give adequate electricity for most of the business and domestic tasks on site without requiring a diesel generator to operate.
The 4kW solar array was commissioned at Harps Farm on the 17th October 2016 and has worked without fault for just over a year to 14th December 2017 (423 days). The Solar array has covered 81% of the electricity demand of the property, has helped to save an estimated 1,370 of operational hours of the diesel generator, representing 4,650 litres of diesel which equates to £2,325 (diesel price at £0.50 per litre). When planning the installation of the 4kW array it was estimated that the array would save around £500 per year in diesel cost and have a payback of 6.4 years. The array has currently performed at 400% better than expected, mainly because the solar data available for the Falkland Islands is very conservative. If the array continues to perform as it has in the first year of generation, the payback is estimated to be 1.58 years.
Mr Kevin Marsh, the farm owner, reckons that “the Solar array has been one of the most successful assets we have added to our remote farming business. It has exceeded our expectations both in efficiency, producing ample power for most of our business electricity demands - and reliability, with absolutely no structural or technical issues a year on. Although in the depths of winter short daylight hours limit in arrays input, for nine months of the year sufficient to excessive power is produced. The array requires minimal maintenance making it ideal for us, freeing up time and expenses to be utilised elsewhere in the business. We couldn’t recommend a similar system enough.”
This project has demonstrated that a small to medium solar array connected to a small farm businesses off-grid system in the Falkland Islands is an ideal addition to the electricity generation system.
FIDC is committed to helping reduce the costs of running and make a business more sustainable. Our Energy Advisor is available to visit and make detailed recommendations on how this can be achieved. This case study highlights the real gains from following our guidance.