Heat pumps are next big thing for energy sector

AN expanding renewable energy company says the Government’s decision to cut subsidies for solar power will have major repercussions and it now expects heat pumps to be the next big growth area for the green energy sector.

AN expanding renewable energy company says the Government’s decision to cut subsidies for solar power will have major repercussions and it now expects heat pumps to be the next big growth area for the green energy sector.

More than half of Revolution Power’s business now comes from air source heat pump installations and the business has recently fitted the two biggest in the UK, both in the North East.

Wayne Richardson, who founded the Newton Aycliffe-based business six years ago, said: “We have just installed the biggest air source heat pump in the country for Mitsubishi at Prudhoe Child and Mental Health Unit.

“We’ve also done the second biggest at Newbiggin Maritime Centre. We didn’t know that we had but Mitsubishi confirmed it.”

He believes interest in the technology – which works like a fridge but in reverse to create hot air – will boom after the Government radically reduced the incentives for solar-generated power.

“But I fear for the explosion [in interest] – heat pumps have to be carefully calculated and to do them properly, you need to know what you’re doing,” said Richardson.

“We’ve all heard the horror stories of the ones that don’t work. I’ve put many a heat pump right.”

The Revolution team includes a chartered physicist and construction experts working in the heat pump division. Richardson said: “It’s going to be big.

“I think that pumps are going to grow, but it needs to be from people who know what they’re doing.”

Revolution has just moved into bigger premises to house its expanding staff. The company, which was started in Richardson’s garage six years ago, now employs 17 people and has four apprentices.

He said: “Somebody took a chance on me. I’m apprentice-trained. I was an apprentice electrician and I worked for a family company and did pretty much everything.

“Apprentices are good and rewarding, but they can be challenging. I don’t think kids today are much different to kids of yesteryear. I would recommend it to anyone.”

Around a third of the firm’s workforce concentrate on solar panels and Richardson says his planned rate of growth has been hit by the Government’s decision to reduce the Feed In Tariff (FITs) incentives available to people who invest in this technology.

“We do very large projects so it will slow our expansion down,” he said.

“The level of enquiries has gone down dramatically. People don’t trust anything the Government says now. But we don’t just do solar PV.”

Fit system must change to protect solar industry

SUSTAINABLE solar industries will not be possible without changes to the Feed In Tariff system proposed by the Government, a North East energy conference heard yesterday.

Emma Hughes, editor of online resource Solar Power Portal made the statement at the Solar Flair conference at the Radisson Blue hotel, Durham.

She was speaking about the Government’s controversial plans to reduce the Feed In Tariff by up to 50% next April for installations made after the December 12 cut-off point. Hughes told delegates there was a hope that the tariff incentive would be redundant in a few years and the Government was right to push ahead with their plans.

She said: “The Government has realised that they need to act now in order to sustain the industry to prevent a boom and bust scenario. If no action is taken, government will find itself in a position where it has to cut off the Feed In Tariff system before we reach grid parity.

“While the new rates will be a significant reduction, the people we are speaking to in the industry are saying the changes are needed.”

It is hoped the tariff system will encourage households to become more energy efficient.

The third annual Solar Flair event was attended by many other big names in the industry including Dr Stephen Taylor from the European Space Agency, who gave an insight into the cutting edge solar power being used in the space programme.

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