Next spring will herald the launch of the long-awaited domestic Renewable Heat Incentive. However, despite the government’s apparent reluctance to support the renewable heat sector, solar thermal installers across the UK have still managed to go ahead with a number of impressive projects. 

Awarded to the most effective, innovative and responsive solar thermal installation in 2012 – two particular projects stood out from the crowd. The Solar Power Portal Award judges thought that the shortlisted projects showcased exceptional system design to perfectly marriage output with demand.  

Becket's Grove, Viridian Solar

A solar installation of great scale and ambition, this project involved installing solar thermal across 290 new-build homes with PV offered as an optional extra. The key challenge faced by Viridian Solar was how to integrate the two technologies in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The company settled on offering in-roof modules that were the same size – providing a unified look.  

Viridian Solar produced drawings for each and every house with thermal only, and a combination of thermal and PV so that prospective purchasers could envisage how the upgrade could look.

Sharps Farm, SunGift Energy

Not content with a 6kW wind turbine and 20kWp solar PV array, farm owner Joyce Whittaker wanted to produce hot water in a renewable manner.

Previously, the farm ran off a complicated heating system that incorporated two oil boilers and two heat pumps that provided heating for a dairy unit, swimming pool and hot water for the house. The setup led to high oil and electricity bills.

Deciding that solar thermal was the right route for her, Joyce faced a stumbling block: the barn roof was already covered in solar PV. SunGift Energy got round this problem by designing a state-of-the-art canopy system to accommodate the solar thermal installation.

SunGift Energy also added an advanced 1,500-litre water tank complete with special control unit which can intelligently transfer heat so that it goes to the areas of the farm that need it the most.

Estimated to produce 12,561kWth per year, the system was designed using specialist industry software to ensure that it can generate £1,004 per year in Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments and save approximately £1,500 per year in fuel savings.