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Interview with Richard from Aspen, sharing his experience on solar energy

Here Pure Portugal speaks with Richard from Aspen Heating and Energy Installation, where he gives his guidance on solar energy setup and where to start. Richards’ years of experience make him a wonderful asset to the Pure Portugal Service Directory. His opening lines in our interview inspired us straight away.

“I get such pleasure from bringing something as fundamental as power to someones home. When the power gets switched on, the excitement from the client is infectious”.

Read on for more….


Pure Portugal: Someone has just arrived on their land. What should they be thinking of first regarding solar energy? 

Richard: Generally people’s needs are very simple. When I am installing, the first question I ask is about what their system needs to do. Buy as big as you can afford as one always seems to grow into their power system. My advice is to be careful with the equipment you buy and always make sure it is good quality. You can spend half the price on cheap products and eventually you will spend more replacing them. At the start when you are trying to find your feet, whether this is initially charging the computer, the phone or the water pump, know this will grow. Firstly understand how these systems work, what you need now and what you will need in the future. Plan a system based on future needs so you do not have to start from scratch again as you grow. The system needs to be able expand with you, it is critical to start off right.

Pure Portugal: What about suppliers and the different parts needed for solar energy set up, where to go?

Richard: After exploring many suppliers, I work with Victron for charge controllers and inverters who produce reliable and quality products through Transicao Simples. I feel committed to these products and with Pedro, from Transicao Simples, we have formed a strong team. We collaborate and ensure the best solution is found. When people buy products from other suppliers, I often turn up to jobs where I know the product will not provide the future energy needs of the client.

For the battery it again comes back to needs. The right battery, for the right future needs. For the panels, we have a choice, and we work with a specific quality and grade.

People can tie themselves up in knots. They say ‘I have heard this, and we must use these batteries’. When this happens, ask them if they have direct experience of the products they are talking about, this is the critical part and I come back to the needs of each individual. Solutions will always be different.

It does not have to be a confusing subject. When I have commissioned a system, it is important for someone to understand what each component does, how to maintain it and how to best use the system.  If, whilst working with me, you do not understand this then I have not done my job properly. There is a period after the installation when it is important to monitor the system and ask me questions so you really get comfortable with how it is used. i.e. the sun has not shined for a few days and the system is doing this. It takes time for a client to work with a new solar system. I watch as clients become more and more intuitive with their own system. This is my job and the process I see people go on.

I would say buy in Portugal, buy local. The great products are here and we can support the local economy where we live.

Pure Portugal: So education is really important, but education based on their unique needs? 

Richard: The whole process of energy insulation is about giving yourself what you need for a change of possibilities in your circumstances. You need flexibility. For our own project, we never knew what our Quinta would become. I can visualise through my builders glasses and I can get an idea of where someone is going and how their systems can integrate their future.

Pure Portugal: What happens when the sun doesn’t shine for a while? 

Richard: An auxiliary generator is essential, every once in a while the battery needs what is called a ‘balancing charge’. It gives them a good shake, the batteries like this every 6 weeks. If you get a sustained period of less sun, you can use the generator to back feed the system and refresh the batteries. Just because you do not have direct sunlight doesn’t mean power is not being generated, it just means you are producing less, power is still being generated. Again you become more intuitive with your system, i.e. less sun today so I will do the washing tomorrow.

Pure Portugal: What are your thoughts on being on-grid versus off-grid? 

Richard: What I am seeing if that in remote places it is not financially viable to be on-grid. Companies such as EDP charge huge amounts to connect a Quinta up that is far away from a mains source, so as more people buy rurally, the only viable option will be an off grid approach. We can do the sums…If EDP charges E10,000 to connect you, you compare this with an off grid solution using a 12 year lifespan of your batteries, what is the cost of an off grid solar system versus EDP? If you are close to a transformer, EDP will be cheaper. You can make a informed choice based on cost – energy from the grid or renewable energy.

Also this is  part of a lifestyle choice, what does an individual want to invest in? Even if the batteries run out, the other elements can run at 80% even after 20 years. You really need to sit down with the client to work out and demonstrate clear cost options.

Rural living is growing in Portugal and I see this trend continuing and the need for more off grid energy solutions. Portugal is great for renewable energy and recently had a short time period where the whole country only ran off  renewable energy.

I am here to give good advice, share possible solutions and take away the mystery around this topic. Clients can come to me and say ‘this is what I need’, it is always customer led.

For more information on Richard and his service’s click here. 


2 thoughts on “Interview with Richard from Aspen, sharing his experience on solar energy

  1. Hi Team , Thanks for your latest Newsletter which I found to be very informative and useful . Along the same tack I was wondering if you had done similar for hydro power and if so where I might find it . ?. Thanks , Ted.

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