Frequently Asked Questions
- general information on the Feed in Tariff Scheme? - Energy Saving Trust
- the government method of assessing building performance and CO2 emmisions? - Standard Assessment Procedure (thanks avalanche).
- renewable energy in the UK? - Without the Hot Air David Mackay (thanks avalanche).
- updates on the Feed in Tariff? - At the OFFGEM website (thanks Steve0810).
- estimating output from your PV system?
- Try our very own predictor tool here.
- PVGIS (thanks briggsplace).
- all sorts of information on the FiTS (thanks avalanche)
- technical data on PV panels? - Photon Database (thanks kwakefield).
- FiTS tariff rates table (thanks dwilliams).
This document describes the Microgen Forum Acceptable Use Policy.
We review the policy occasionally and may change it as required.
Currently we read posts but do not moderate them.
We prefer not to moderate both to avoid delaying posts and to use our time elsewhere.
However we may introduce moderating if required.
We may update this Acceptable Use Policy at any time, without notice.
Please help to keep the Microgen Forum helpful, friendly and respectful.
The forum is open to all with an interest in UK PV. It is not limited to our data donors.
We encourage you to post informative messages.
Posting advertising is not acceptable.
In using the Forum you agree not to:
1. Post, publish, distribute or disseminate material or information that is defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, threatening, abusive, harassing, unlawful or deemed to be incorrect by The Forum.
2. Post, publish, distribute or disseminate material or information that incites discrimination, hate or violence towards any person or group on account of their race, religion, disability, nationality or otherwise; threaten, abuse, disrupt, stalk or otherwise violate the legal rights (including rights of privacy and publicity) of others;
3. Use any information or material in any manner that infringes any copyright, trademark, patent or other proprietary right of any party;
4. Make available or upload files that contain a virus, worm, trojan or corrupt data that may damage the operation of the computer or property of another;
5. Upload pictures with content which is deemed to be undesirable or offensive by The Forum; collect or store personal information about others, including email addresses;
6. Advertise or offer to buy or sell goods or services for any commercial purpose;
7. Impersonate any person or entity for the purpose of misleading others;
8. Violate any applicable laws or regulations;
9. Use the Forum in any manner that could damage, disable, overburden or impair the Forum or interfere with any other party's use and enjoyment of the Forum;
10. Attempt to gain unauthorised access to any of the Services, other accounts, computer systems or networks connected to the Forum through hacking, password mining or any other means;
11. Post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by The Forum;
12.Use the Services to send junk email, spam, chain letters, pyramid schemes or any other unsolicited messages, commercial or otherwise;
Spam and Spamming
We operate a strict no-spam policy.
1. Members spamming within our forum or by personal message with frivolous and/or duplicate posts will have their posts removed and their membership revoked for a period of time. Persistent offenders will have their membership cancelled.
2. Members posting direct or indirect links, avatars, using business names or linking to facebook or twitter may, at our discretion, be classed as spammers. Postings from these members may be taken down, and in cases of continued posting, these members will be banned and they will be flagged as a spammer.
3. We have features which enable members to both edit their own posts in order to add commentary, and to quote multiple posts in one reply. Failure to make use of these features by persistent double (or more) posting, that is, posting multiple times in a single thread without another member doing so in the meantime, may be deemed as spamming.
If you have a complaint about a posting, please email us at: email@example.com. You can also report a post's content by clicking the 'report' link at the bottom right of the post.
Please do not post complaints to the Forum.
The Sheffield Solar Team
Currently, all analysis results published to the website are on a monthly basis, by calendar month.
For this reason, we only require at least one reading per calendar month in order to include systems in our analysis, but higher resolution data is more useful in our research.
There is now a flag on your homepage to show the performance of your system. If your system is performing as it should, you will get a green light in the "My PV" box. If your system is failing not generating as much as it should then you will see a red light, and if there is insufficient data then you will see an amber light.
So look out for the red light each time you log in. It takes six months for us to collect enough data to use this feature, so during the first six months it's worth keeping an eye on what your neighbours are producing to see if your system is working.
If you think your system is failing, send an email including some details, your username and system number and we will investigate.
The CSV uploader is a tool for entering your data directly to the database. It can be used to upload multiple readings much quicker than the form used for individual readings, and can accept readings from multiple URNs for users who have more than one system registered. If you are able to use it then it will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes us to administer the data.
Enter your data to a spreadsheet with the following columns: URN, Date, Time and Reading. Be sure to save this as a .csv file. The preferred date and time formats are given in the instructions.
To use the importer you must be logged in to the site. To get to the importer page, click on the My PV tab and then click the and Upload CSV Readings button. There's also a link to the CSV importer from the Submit Reading page.
Now click Choose File, select the file you wish to upload and click Import.
If the upload fails, you'll be given an error message with some feedback as to why the file could not be interpreted. Common errors are forgetting to include the URN in the first column and using an unrecognisable date/time format.
If you receive an error message, but you're not sure what's wrong with the file, contact the Sheffield Solar Team (quoting the error you received and attaching the file) and we'll diagnose the problem for you.
Downloading generation data from your inverter will generally allow you to access higher resolution data than is available from you generation meter and is more accurate than most "clip on" meters which measure current. Unfortunately, there is no set way to extract readings from an inverter, since the method varies by manufacturer and model.
Some inverters will allow you to download the readings remotely to your PC using bluetooth, whilst others might require you to connect your PC to the inverter via a cable or insert a memory stick/card directly into the inverter. For guidance on how to extract readings from your specific inverter, you should consult the user manual. If you don't have the user manual, it's likely to be available somewhere on the internet.
The quickest way to find the manual is by googling (other search engines are available) the manfacturer and model and including the keywords "user manual". For example, if you type "Sunny Boy 4000TL user manual" into google, the manual is the top result.
Once you have the inverter readings, you can do one of the following to get them uploaded to the microgen database:
- Email the raw inverter file to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your URN and one of the Sheffield Solar team will upload them on your behalf.
- Open the file in some spreadsheet software and reformat the data such that it can be uploaded by you using the CSV uploader (see 'How do I use the CSV uploader?' FAQ).
Eventually, we're hoping to develop a facility that allows you to upload the raw inverter file for most common formats and we'll do the rest.
Your forum profile is public.
However your email address defaults to private.
If you wish to check or edit your privacy settings, navigate to the forum whilst logged in and click on the 'Profile' link near the top of the page (just underneath where it says 'Microgen Forum').
You can see whether your email address is visible to others by navigating to the following URL but replacing <username> with your username:
See also the FAQ: 'How do I email or Private Message the author of a post?'
There are a few ways you can find your installation on the Performance Maps...
If you're logged in, clicking on the maps from the home page will automatically zoom to your installation.
You can also go to the 'My PV' tab at the top of this page and then click on the 'View on map' button for the installation you'd like to find. This will zoom automatically onto your installation. What's more, you cany copy the URL (web address) for this page and bookmark it and share it with others, since this address will zoom in on your installation without the need to log in.
You can also look up any URN by following the process described in the March 2013 Newsletter.
If you cannot find your installation, it may be that we do not have sufficient data to include it in this month's analysis. To calculate your monthly generation we need at least one reading from within 10 days of the start and end of the month. If you have checked your data and still cannot find your installation then please contact us and we’ll look into it for you.
Once you have registered for a user account and signed in, you can begin adding PV system(s) to you account.
Navigate to the My PV section of the site, which is accessible at all times when logged in via the navigation bar at the top of the page. Once there, you can click the 'New Installation' button.
You'll be prompted to enter the details of your installation and then asked to add an 'array' to it. This extra step is in case your system is comprised of multiple arrays with different orientations and/or tilts. Some of the information is optional, but it's a good idea to try and fill in as much as you can now because we don't allow systems to be edited via the website, and most of the information is required for the monthly performance analysis. If you do need to edit your system details once you've submitted, you should email us and we'll make the changes.
N.B. If you have multiple arrays, but are able to monitor them individually, you may wish to add each array as a separate installation. This way, you'll be able to add a separate set of readings for each array and we'll be able to analyse the performance of each array separately.
To email or private message (PM) the author of a post: visit the post and click email or PM.
The forum profiles default to allowing others to email and PM authors of posts.
We encourage you to allow others to email or PM you.
To block emails and/or PMs, visit: Forums: Profile: Privacy
To register as a user of the site, go to www.microgen-database.org.uk and follow the 'Sign up' button.
Enter your details. It is suggested that you do not use your real name or email address for the user name as this will be visible to others. Once you submit your account details you'll be sent an email with a link to verify your email address before the account becomes active.
When logged in to the Microgen Database site you can edit your profile details including your user name, password, email address and alert preferences. Do this by going to the link at the top right of your browser window which says 'My Account: <yourname>'.
All the generation data that we collect is in the form of cumulative energy readings in kWh, just like your electricity meter readings. With each reading you submit, we're after the total generation in kWh since your system was installed/commisioned. As such, each reading is always higher than the last.
You can enter data by going to "My PV" > "Submit Reading" and fill in the boxes in the form.
If you are collecting data on a daily or more frequent basis, or have historic data and you record it in a file, you can email your data file in to the Sheffield Solar team. If you follow these guidelines it will help us to enter them more efficiently:
- Send data in once a month, with the full previous month's data, no partial months.
- Include your URN in the email subject or file name,
- Use the following format for your spreadsheet [optional]:
If you are able to download data directly from your inverter, then you can email the files in as they are, on a monthly basis.
The location of your system on the map is deliberately randomised whenever visible to others to protect your privacy.
We only collect postcode data (so there is some inaccuracy in location), then we randomise by up to 1 km in the North-South direction, and the same in an East-West direction. Therefore the maximum distance that you appear on the map, from your postcode boundary, is around 1.3km diagonally (eg North-East).
In a town this means your installation cannot be distinguished from hundreds of others, while even in a remote location in the country there are still likely to be several other properties contained within that area.
There are two main reasons for having difficulty entering data: it may be that you do not have cookies enabled, or your browser may not be supported.
Cookies enable the site to remember who you are, so you stay logged in. For the site to work your browser needs to be set to accept cookies. If they are not enabled it will keep logging you out.
The location of these settings varies between browsers, this website explains more about cookies and how to enable them.
If you're experiencing problems submitting readings (or indeed using any aspect of the site) and this doesn't solve the problem, you should email the details to the Sheffield Solar team and we'll respond as soon as possible (usually within a few days).
At least once a month, ideally after sunset on the last day of the month.
The further from the month end or beginning that you take your reading, the greater the inaccuracy of the results, and if the reading is 10 days or more from the beginning or end of the month then the data for that month is excluded from the report.
Many people send in data more frequently as this is useful for our research applications, but may also be required for future website features. Weekly, daily, hourly or even minutely readings are welcomed!
Even better is if you are able to download data from your generation meter or inverter and send this to us. Contact Sheffield Solar for details of how to go about this.
We used to have a gallery section on our old site where users could upload a photo of their PV system, but this was under-used, so when we redeveloped the website we opted not to include it as a stand-alone feature. Instead, we're encouraging users to upload photos to the Gallery section of the forums. Note that you can attach an image to any forum post, not just those in the Gallery section.
Keen eyed users who were familiar with the old site may have noticed that the images from the old gallery are now used as the carousel background on the home page for this website (when not logged in). An image is selected at random each time the page loads - if you have a nice image you think we should include in the list, please email us :)
- Click on log in with empty credentials for username and password
- Click on "Forgotten your password?"
- Enter your registered email address.
- You will be sent a link to your email to reset your password.
Once you have logged in you can view and edit your account settings, including privacy and password settings, by clicking on the link at the top right of the window: "My Account: [YourAccountName]".
Generation per kWp is a useful measure for comparing how well systems are performing. It is found by dividing the generation (kWh) of each system by their rated peak generating capacity (kWp). The unit of measurement is kWh/kWp (kilowatt hours per kilowatt peak). kWh/kWp readings can be directly compared, despite the systems being different sizes.
|URN||Generation (kWh)||System size (kWp)||kWh/kWp|
Installation X has generated more in total (100kWh), but is a bigger installation.
Installation Y has generated more per unit size of system (30kWh/kWp against 25kWh/kWp for installation X).
Efficiency is the proportion of the energy which your panels receive that is converted to electrical energy. It is represented as a percentage.
In order to calculate the efficiency of your PV installation we carry out the following stages:
1. Interpolate local irradiation from the Met Office (MIDAS) weather dataset.
2. Convert the local irradiation to the plane of the modules and multiply by the array area.
3. Divide the energy generated by this value ad multiply by 100 to get %.
When you browse the forums you will see that posts also include a small user-card with details about the author. The user has a unique image which is either randomly generated, or they may upload their own image. In addition there are other options for each user such as whether their email is displayed and how you may contact them.
If you would like to personalise your profile you can do this by choosing the 'profile' tab at the top of the page (just below the 'Forum - Microgen Database' title). This opens a 'Profile Menu' from where you can choose to use an 'avatar', signature and the like. You can also set privacy levels to your desired level.
It is recommended that you explore 'profile menu' to personalise your profile.
There are a few reasons why you might not be able to use the nearest neighbour feature:
- You haven't provided all of your system details.
- You haven't provided enough readings for us to analyse your system's performance or we haven't yet verified the readings or run our analysis scripts against your data.
- You have a system with multiple arrays (sorry the nearest neighbour check doesn't currently work for multi-array systems).
If any of these apply to your system and you want to find out more, don't hesitate to email the Sheffield Solar team.
We verify all readings entered into the Microgen Database to try and ensure we identify anomalous readings as early as possible and they do not go on to affect the results we present on the website or in academice publications.
The verification process involves a computer script which scans through your data to ensure any new readings you have entered are feasible. Where the script suspects an anomalous reading, the reading is manually checked by one of our team. If we think it's anomalous, we'll flag it such that the next time you vew your previous readings it'll show as a different colour on the graph and be highlighted in red in the table below. Anomalous readings can be caused by a whole range of things, the most probable of which is typos when entering the reading. Don't worry if you have anomalous readings, we're happy to identify and rectify them as it makes our dataset more accurate which in turn results in better performance analysis and better quality research!
Sometimes it can take a few days for readings to be verified due to the staff time required - please bear with us and feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss this process. Until the readings are verified they cannot be used to analyse your system's performance.