Posted on 17th September 2020

The switch to solar, is now a better time than ever?

James Page, Head Engineer at Joju Solar, with a past in broadcasting and telecoms, shares just how easy it is to make the switch to solar

We talked to James Page, who has a background in the broadcast and telecoms industries, and now works at Joju Solar, providers of renewable energy sources.

James Page previously worked at the BBC as an electrical engineer, in an era where carbon emissions weren’t a hot topic and Television Centre engineers joked that it had the world’s least efficient electrical system.

“Megawatts in and two thousandth of a Watt out: one on a wire marked BBC1 and the other BBC2. One thing that was never mentioned in those days was carbon emissions. A stark indication of the speed at which the climate is changing, along with our necessary response. Perhaps I read the wrong newspapers but I had then not even heard of the issue. Now, for twenty years I have thought about it daily.”

After a stint in telecoms and being made redundant from Nokia, James eventually joined a solar company:

“PV (electricity generating) panels were hugely expensive then (and inefficient in comparison to solar hot water heating systems) but subsidised with grants, replaced in 2010 by feed-in-tariffs.
Every sector of the economy needs to cut emissions. Within a year we were approached by ‘Animals on blue.’  A rural film studio then using a 100kW diesel generator, hot lights, and air conditioning. All have been replaced by solar panels and LEDs.  Renewable energy won’t be enough to save the planet: we will need to increase efficiency – and reduce consumption – fast.”

“A south facing roof is good but certainly not essential. Indeed a flat roof can be used to best advantage with panels pitched at 10 degrees facing east and west, rather than south, which requires gaps between rows to prevent shading. An east-west array will not only accommodate more panels – more than offsetting the sub-optimal orientation – but also increase the generation in the evening, when electricity is now most expensive. And of course a lot of the light is reflected from clouds making orientation immaterial.

Our first East West system (at Toynbee Hall Studios) now suffers shading from rampant development in the city, and as this graph above illustrates, a cloudy day (the blue line) may generate more electricity than a sunny, partially shaded one (the red line.)  Planning law in this area is still evolving but last year a High Court judge ruled that the blocking of light reaching nearby solar panels is a material factor for authorities considering planning applications.”

Despite the expense of these panels at the time, they have been efficient in the long run:

“Those panels will have paid for themselves by now. In fact most installations are financed through third party funding. If you have a suitable roof and use enough electricity someone else will gladly pay for the panels (and look after the project management) and provide you with cheap electricity in return. Lack of money is now a good reason to ‘go green’, not an excuse not too. Schools, concert halls, and anyone else with an idle roof, financially  impacted by Covid, should consider it.

Today solar panels are so cheap that they need no subsidy, which has finally stopped. Even so, the return on investment is still 12-15% for most buildings, provided you will be using most of the electricity. Unused electricity ‘exported’ to the grid and sold on the open market only attracts about 5p/kWh. Best plan is to create a ‘microgrid’ with your neighbours.”

What can possibly go wrong?

“Most arrays never need cleaning. More important is that they are monitored remotely and intelligently so that any reduction in performance is spotted early.

One thing that has changed in recent years is the wit of pigeons, in the South East at least, who now like living under panels on pitched roofs. Protective mesh is therefore recommended. Very occasionally (I can think of four instances) panels are mysteriously smashed. In some countries this would be from hailstones. Here it is said to be birds dropping stones. Or perhaps ice from aircraft?”

What is the right time to get panels?

“The efficiency will creep up from the current 20% over the next ten years, but the climate won’t wait. It may be now or never.”

Find out more about Joju Solar and the services they offer at their website or email James at