September 2019

Solar panels

The biggest news for the summer is the installation of our 14 solar panels. First, an explanation of how they work: our solar panels work by absorbing photons in the form of daylight, generating Direct Current (DC – like the energy found in batteries) running it through an inverter that converts the DC into alternating current (AC) so that it can supply our mains power, anything not used is fed back into the main grid. The solar panels themselves consist of layers of silicon cells surrounded by a metal frame and covered with 5mm of toughened glass (similar to windscreen glass) plus some wiring to connect the panels to each other and on to the Hall’s electrical system. The panels consist of two layers of silicon which are positively and negatively charged through the addition of other elements (typically phosphorus and boron which have one more and one less electron per atom respectively than silicon does) and as the photons from the sun strike these layers, electrons are stripped away from the phosphorus side which are then attracted to the boron side. A conducting wire then allows these free electrons to flow and generate electricity. A mobile app allows us to see the amount of electricity being generated and whilst it is possible to purchase more advanced monitors that show how much solar is used by the building and how much is put back into the national grid, we decided not to purchase one of these as the cellar cooler uses more than we produce.

In the future, we could expand the system further and incorporate battery storage so that the hall could eventually become self-sufficient in terms of electricity usage – the battery would be charged during daylight hours and discharge when the electricity is needed. We were very fortunate to be supported by Target 2020 who administer European Union grants for environmentally conscious community projects such as ours – the grant amounted to 35% of the installation costs. In terms of costs, the total installation of our 4.2kWh from Ecocetera amounted to £6720 of which we paid £4352 after the grant was refunded. By my calculations, the return on investment should be 4 to 5 years depending on future electricity prices – most electricity companies charge per unit which is typically 1kWh (current prices per unit is approximately 12p per unit). As these solar systems become more widespread, the costs should reduce further but this gives an indication of what our installation cost in 2019. To date, we’ve produced 1mWh (1000kWh) of electricity in 54 days at an average of 20kWh per day (the highest is 33kWh and the lowest so far is 7kWh) and our peak generation is just over 3kWh which occurs between 10am and 3pm (this window will shrink as the seasons change and I’ll update this over the winter when the days are shorter and the sun is lower in the sky). Hopefully some of that was of interest to you, I’ve certainly learned a lot about how these things work and I’m more than happy to discuss it further (I can often be found in or behind the bar on Friday nights or contact us in any of the usual ways).

Other news this summer include a redecoration of the hall by the National Citizen Service who are an organisation that run summer camps for 15 and 16 year olds to develop their soft skills during the summer. The volunteers asked if they could redecorate various rooms (they almost repainted the entire hall in the end) and organised the decorating themselves – we donated some funds to buy the paint and they provided the rest through fundraising efforts and sweet talking local businesses. Any surplus funds were donated to various other local charities and we benefitted from a fresh look to the bar and main hall. One of the volunteers is a budding artist and painted a lovely Moonin mural on the terrace wall.

Our bookings continue to exceed our expectations and the Friday night bar continues to be well attended – Bob, Claire and Gemma have been our regular friendly bar volunteers and it’s wonderful to see the nights so well attended; especially with an empty car park so for many it’s a pleasant walk to the bar for some sociable drinks. New bar stock includes Dunkertons’ recently launched Craft cider (which is a fresh, easier drinking version of their award winning cider), a new Negroni inspired Sibling Gin and Battledown Amber Ale. All local companies that produce great drinks – if anyone has any local brewers or distillers in mind then we’ll gladly consider stocking them.

Behind the scenes, the committee and volunteers are working hard on many projects which will be revealed as they come to fruition. One idea is to revive the New Year Year’s Eve party for local residents – we’ll be canvassing for thoughts on this soon, if you have any ideas or want to be involved then please get in touch via our email (swindonvillagehall@gmail.com), our website (www.svhall.co.uk), our Facebook page, mobile phones or even in person!

Ben Williams, Chair.

September 2019

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Our village hall is closed during the Covid-19 outbreak but we'll be back once it's over and life returns to normal.

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Best wishes, stay safe and wash your hands!