Ok, so I want to start by giving some context here, I do care about the environment, the amount of waste in the building industry, the throwaway society we live in does make me feel sick at times. That said there is A LOT more I could do personally to reduce my impact 

I would put myself about midway on a scale of 1-10 when it comes to environmental concern. 1 being someone who burns big piles of tyres just because it looks pretty, always ensuring they use a brand new plastic straw every time they drink something. 10 being someone who ties themselves to trees with biodegradable chains and would not be seen dead without their bamboo straw – that they are very keen to tell you has saved the lives of at least 17,000 rare, endangered turtles

I’ve been developing property since 2012, as a developer it’s my job to ensure I deliver an extremely good product, better than, that which someone can easily get anywhere else. I always aim to think of the long-term value to the end purchaser (rather than short term profit). However, there needs to be enough profit for it to be worth doing – I mean yeah, it’s important to work from a place of passion . . . passion alone does not pay the bills though

Therefore, throughout my journey I have explored renewable energy solutions on every project I have done. The ones I have investigated are;

  • Solar (photovoltaic PV – but for the purpose of this article I will refer to as solar)
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Air source heating
  • Biomass boilers

I will admit that I am not the greatest researcher (it’s not where my skills are best utilised). Instead, I will normally speak to an array of people in which ever industry it is I’m looking into. I aim to speak to people who have different perspectives. For example, if you speak to three people who sell solar panels, its likely you will get a common answer. I will then back it up before and after with some of my own overview research

Regardless of the subject matter, over the years I have found this a reliable way of gaining a balanced view on a variety of topics, that I previously did not have any knowledge in

When it comes to property development, my brand and focus has always been geared toward period property, aiming to deliver a timeless sympathetic aesthetic – you will see where this comes in shortly

Obviously when it comes to renewable energy, there are savings that can be made. One needs to take into consideration the initial cost, ascertaining how long it will take to get a return on the investment (ROI)

For some people their only consideration will be this factor, for me the aesthetic plays a huge part also. In general, I think solar panels look bloody awful. I have only seen one period style property where they sat sympathetically. That was when I did a cob building course with Kevin McCabe. In my opinion Kevin is a master of balancing renewable energy solutions with traditional, rustic, sympathetic architecture. I would love to one day work with him on creating a cob house. 

Check out his website here https://www.buildsomethingbeautiful.co.uk

When you speak to most solar installers, they will tell you that their panels look bloody brilliant and will only enhance the look of a period property. Maybe they genuinely believe this? Maybe they just say this to get the sale? Maybe they just have no concept of good aesthetics and design? Il let you decide for yourself

If you speak to one of the people who sit at a 10 on the scale I spoke about earlier, they will value environmental impact over aesthetics. If you spoke to a purist from, say English Heritage, they would probably say that no financial incentive is worth effecting the external aesthetic of a period property

Recently I have designed some cool, modern, tiny houses. They still have a good quality design twist to give them character and make them stand out from the crowd. In these instances, I have normally opted for a simple metal roof, these can be completely covered with solar panels. Personally, I think these can look great, the modern looking solar panels are within context of the design (they are therefore sympathetic and don’t look “foreign”)

Hopefully this gives you the context of where my decision making is based

Up until now, I have not felt the financial incentive outweighs what I consider to be a negative impact visually, to the period style properties I have created . . . that is until recently. Obviously, the electricity cost has risen significantly this year

I own two holiday lets Otterhead House & The Old Chicken House, between the two of them they use , on average 1,800kWh of electricity per month. At the time of writing this, my electric cost per kWh is 49.25p/kWh, this is reduced to 32.25p/kWh because of the energy price guarantee. This means the electricity cost for these properties is around £580.50 per month. If we go up to the non-reduced rate of 49.25p/kWh, that will be £886.50 per month, that’s £10,638 per year – getting bloody scary I would say!

Personally, I expect it will go up before it goes down. I am in the very fortunate position of these being businesses that generate money which can absorb these costs; however, it comes straight off the bottom line so it cannot be ignored

I have just installed a 12kW system, I have been told on average it should generate 1000kW of energy per month (obviously I’m yet to see this as its only just gone in). This is about 55.5% of the total usage. The system cost £15,000 including fitting. If we do generate and use the 12kW per year that should translate to £3,870 per year, meaning that it’s recouped its cost in under 4 years. Things very rarely work as well in practice as they do in theory, if we can get a return in 5 years then I feel that is money very well spent (20% ROI is not too shabby)

The other considerations that came in were long term value. You never know what’s around the corner, I always consider worst case scenarios. If I was in a situation in 1 or 2 years where I need to sell the properties. The aesthetic would be a consideration with properties like this to a potential purchaser. There is however a huge awareness within the community on the cost of energy. My feeling is that the financial incentive would outweigh any negative aesthetic. The cost of installation, should, at least be recouped

This was brought to my attention earlier in the year, I was viewing a property that needed renovating with Rebecca Reeves from Symonds & Sampson estate agents in Ilminster. The property needed a complete strip out and total refurb. To leave enough profit after costs the end sale figure would have needed to be in excess of £1m. An ambitious task for that particular property. Rebecca pointed out to me the majority of people she see’s buying at that level, would be much more likely to purchase, if there were renewable energy solutions already in place

This is the point where the balance tipped for me. I still don’t love the look of the panels. Obviously, I went for the most sympathetic ones I could find. The financial implications with the current state of electricity costs, made it a reasonably simple decision to make. Solar has come on a lot in recent years, providing greater efficiency. My hope is that all renewables will continue on this trajectory 

If you are interested in all thing’s property development, then I have launched a FREE (yes you heard correct) mini course. 

By the end of the course, you will be able to;

  1. Get yourself in the perfect position to invest in your first property 
  2. Understand how to minimise risk with your first property investment
  3. Point out what REALLY adds value to any property renovation
  4. Maximise the end sale price of your first investment property so you don’t leave any money on the table

>>> Click here to sign up and get started on the journey <<<

As always, if you have any thoughts or questions on this or anything else property related, I would love to hear from you?

Cheers George B


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