A place for Viv and her team to impart their latest thoughts and findings on a range of electrical and sustainability issues and offer advice on energy saving, installation and products.

Solar PV Installation

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At the beginning of the month, Hackney Energy launched a ‘share offer’, giving local people the opportunity to invest in Hackney’s first ever community energy project, centred around the Banister House Estate. The fundraising target was set at £142,000 and we’re delighted to say earlier this week, when the offer closed, Hackney Energy not only reached that figure, but exceeded it

Reaching the share offer target is a wonderful boost, not just for renewable energy, but the local community and residents of the Banister House Estate, who will benefit. In the coming months, Athena Electrical will be installing 102kWp of solar electric (photovoltaic) panels on 14 housing blocks on the estate. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the enthusiastic young people who live there, and who over the last year have been learning about the co-operative model, solar technology and energy efficiency. They’ll also be gaining paid work experience whilst helping Viv and the Athena Electrical team in the installation process. 

The whole project has been made possible and supported by Repowering London who have already set up and continue to run similar community energy projects in south London, and Hackney Council. A special mention should also be made to the 116 local people who have supported the generation of solar power in Hackney and taken a small, but important step to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, by investing in Banister House Solar. 

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In our last blog post, we mentioned that a report produced by Baroness Jenny Jones in the summer of 2014 entitled ‘London is ready for a brighter future’, highlighted that only one household in 260 in London has installed solar PV. 

There are a number of reasons why solar PV adoption has been so slow in the capital, but a UK wide, YouGov survey, commissioned by Rexel (a distributor of energy products and services) would suggest that one of the major stumbling blocks is simply a lack of understanding of the financial support that is available for the installation of solar and generation of renewable energy.

The online survey with a sample size of 2,026 adults began by asking simple questions regarding concerns over energy price rises, cost of household bills and what actions they would take to help reduce energy bills. 

Leading on to more specific questions regarding solar it was obvious that many people think that they would be unable to afford the up-front and installation costs for solar PV. 

The most startling responses from the sample selection came when they were asked about the Feed-In Tariff (FiT) scheme, the government financial incentive for encouraging the uptake of household solar energy generation. An incredible 61% said they had absolutely no understanding of the FiT scheme what-so-ever, with a further 29% admitting they only had ‘some understanding’ of how the scheme works. Only 10% felt they fully understood the benefits of Feed-In Tariffs.

The overwhelming majority of those who took part in the survey felt that solar will play a part in the future of the UK’s energy generation. The main problem seems to be that they couldn’t understand how, as householders, they could be an integral part in that future. It seems loud and clear to us at Athena Electrical that a huge amount of people in the UK have absolutely no idea that when it comes to installing solar and generating their own renewable energy they have government support and financial incentives available to them. If this is achieved, then perhaps we can realise the ‘brighter future’ that Baroness Jones has predicted for London. 

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Believe it or not, London is actually one of the sunniest places in the UK. Despite this, the capital has the lowest uptake of solar PV across mainland Britain.

It was for this reason that in July 2014, Green Party Assembly member, Baroness Jenny Jones produced a report called ‘London is ready for a brighter future’, a sentiment we agree with. The report highlighted that only one London household in 260 has installed solar compared to one in 32 in the south West of England. Even the north east of England and Scotland, (two areas with the lowest solar exposure) have installed more solar PV per house than in London.

There are of course a number of reasons why more rural areas of the country have adopted a renewable energy future quicker than London, but at Athena Electrical, we firmly believe that many property owners in north London are being left behind as the growing trend is to look to renewables to secure our energy future. 

Baroness Jenny Jones’s report also noted that London has the potential to supply a fifth of its electricity from solar PV, which like other areas of the country would allow homeowners to ease away from the current grip of the Big 6 energy companies. There has also been a recent surge across the UK in community energy projects, helping people to invest in local solar power, earn a good return and help their local community whilst combating climate change.

In the capital, Repowering London have been spearheading this movement and last year helped Hackney residents to set up their first solar energy co-operative. We are delighted to have been involved in this renewable energy revolution, and it has been wonderful to give local young people the opportunity to learn about the co-operative business model and gain practical skills.

Having this grass roots involvement in local energy generation has really convinced us that there is no reason why residents in north London can’t help the capital to join the rest of the country in adopting renewable energy and making solar energy generation a reality. 

As Baroness Jenny Jones said, London is ready for a brighter future … are you? 

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March 8th is International Women’s Day - a day set aside to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women throughout the world, the seed of which was sown by the Suffragettes in the early 1900’s. 

This month Athena Electrical, an independent, women owned company, is celebrating 20 years of working in the electrical contracting and renewable energy sector.

According to the campaigning organisation ‘Jobs for the Girls’, whose aim is to encourage women in to the electrical contracting industry, ‘only one in every thousand electrical contractors is female’; an astonishing and saddening statistic.  

Although women represent 50% of the workforce, and despite recent attempts by the construction industry to encourage women into the trades, we are still massively under-represented in most trade professions. 

Viv has been working as an electrician for more than 30 years and after setting up Athena electrical in 1994 has provided employment, training and encouragement to enthusiastic and skilled female electricians.

This week, three of Athena’s team were up on a roof, enjoying the break in the rain and working hard to install a 3kWp Solar PV system on a property in Clapton.

This weekend we will be checking out our local events because although International Women’s Day is a worldwide celebration through concerts, talks, exhibitions and much more, we like to emphasise events happening locally. You can search for events in your area through the IWD website, but to whet your appetite, here are a few London based goings on around our own area of north and east London. In many cases, events are not just confined to the 8th March, but are running through the whole month. 

Saturday 8th March – The London Arte Chamber Orchestra will be performing a special concert celebrating IWD at St Mellitus church in Finsbury Park.

Monday 10th March – ‘The Female Showreel’ at Rich Mix on Bethnal Green Road. Female panelists will be discussing gender issues in the media, such as Page 3, prejudice against women and lots more.  

If none of those events take your fancy, then there’ll sure to be something that will, so why not attend an event and help support International Women’s Day 2014.

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We are delighted to have been involved with an inspiring project that is about to open in Clapton, east London. On November 7th 2013, the UK’s first solar powered luxury, mixed use public toilets will be unveiled on Brooksby’s Walk, just off Chatsworth Road. Athena Electrical have supplied and installed a 3.84kWp solar panel configuration on top of the public convenience, which will not only supply renewable energy to the toilets, but to the café/bar/restaurant which will also be making its home in the building.

The whole pioneering project has been spearheaded by the ‘Clapton Improvement Society’, a growing band of locals intent on bringing derelict land and buildings back in to use, creating educational opportunities for disadvantaged people, providing cultural and creative activities and building assets that will prosper the community. They currently have 1,200 members.

The toilets themselves had been derelict for almost 20 years, and when Hackney Council submitted an application to have them demolished, it was opposed by the Clapton Improvement Society. They collected hundreds of signatures on their petition, suggesting instead that the area would benefit from some well-maintained public toilets, operated and looked after by locals, according to a sustainable plan. Eventually, a lease was negotiated with the Council, and after securing a conditional Lottery award for the solar panels and 4 months of hard work from an array of local electricians, builders, plumbers and carpenters, the toilets are almost ready to open. The toilets themselves will flush using rainwater collected from the roof.

Aside from the toilets, you’ll be able to sit down and grab a tasty treat from ‘The Convenience’, a community café run by Nana; enthusiastic older ladies keen to serve up nostalgic treats from your childhood. The café will also host regular ‘events in the gents’ such as film screenings and gigs, and if that isn’t enough, the old toilet comes complete with its own roof terrace.

Not happy to rest on their laurels, the Clapton Improvement Society already have their sights set on building a Hydro Turbine on the River Lea which they hope to finance through a crowd-funding campaign supported by local residents. If all goes to plan, the money recouped through generating their own renewable energy will go straight back in to making further improvements in Clapton.

For now though, we’re looking forward to the opening of the Brooksby’s Walk toilets on November 7th.


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