05. Gaining power


Electricity arrives on site, with the help of an assortment of people. But I've promised not to tell you how it was done.

We plan to generate most of the energy we need on the roof of The Orchard using solar panels. But this doesn’t mean we can live without a connection to mains electricity. In England, domestic solar power stations tend to produce the most power when it is least needed by the occupants (in the summer, during the day) unless the house is so poorly designed that air conditioning is installed. So the best thing to do is export to the grid when in surplus and buy back when in need.

We are a long way from having a roof to put solar panels on but we are certainly in need of power to run the building site, so a temporary building supply has to go in, saving us the noise and hassle of a generator.

There are various different players involved. First of all me: I began by digging the hole on our side of the boundary and installing a meter cabinet with a rigid hockey-stick cable duct that sticks into the sand below the pavement. Then three van-loads of guys from UK Power Networks turn up: the first to dig the hole in the pavement, the second to make the connection and the third to fill the hole in again and make good the pavement, which they do very well.

The second job is of course the scary one. The power in the street remains live throughout the job: the guys cheerfully open up the cable ducting and make a new connection without getting fried. They ask me not to take photographs until the job is complete as foolish people die every year trying to avoid paying for electricity by making their own illegal connections. Practical tips on how to make the connection are therefore not encouraged.

Finally, the supplier I have chosen, Good Energy, instructs the District Network Operator, EDF, to put the meter in. Just in time to plug in a cement mixer.

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