A brief introduction to microgeneration, what it is and what it can do for you and the planet


An overview of different electricity and heat producing microgeneration technologies with links to further details on each


Before you look for ways to produce your own energy, it makes sense to minimise your energy needs.  An outline of some energy efficiency measures you can take.

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Solar PV systems produce electricity when solar radiation falls on the (usually roof-mounted) panels.  In the UK, each 1kW installed capacity generates around 800kWh annually.  This is worth 80 if used by the householder, but additional benefit is gained from subsidies such as ROCs which can be worth the same again.

Generates valuable low carbon electricity
Very expensive and long paybacks (40-120 years)
Very high energy (and carbon) used in manufacture

Not cost effective at current energy & product prices


Current PV systems comprise a series of panels consisting of silicon-based elements, and an inverter and power electronics which convert the DC power produced to useable 230 volt AC power for use in the home.  The PV panels are extremely expensive to produce both in economic and carbon terms and paybacks for both are poor.  However, a number of advanced, so-called "third generation" technologies are under development which may radically reduce the cost of PV and eventually make it competitive with conventional generation sources.

Solar PV is claimed to deliver "zero carbon" electricity.  Whilst it is true that, once installed, PV does generate electricity without any additional CO2emissions, the CO2 emitted during the manufacture of PV is substantial.  The CO2"payback" is estimated at between 3-9 years and the specific CO2emissions in a typical UK installation are around 0.25kgCO2/kWh electricity produced, more than fossil fuelled micro CHP and around half the current (2008) average UK generation mix.

Although the electricity produced is "free" once you have paid for the installation, if you consider the investment and divide by the amount of electricity produced during the typical (30 year) life of a system, the effective cost is around 20p/kWh ignoring interest charges (50p/kWh including interest); compared with current electricity costs of 10p/kWh this is not a good investment, but maybe better than buying a new Porsche if you want to impress the neighbours.


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Jeremy Harrison 2008  Last update 20th November 2008