Dimbleby in solar panels row over lost compensation
A sculptor and part of a British broadcasting dynasty has been left short-changed by his faulty solar power system.
Nicholas Dimbleby, 66, son of BBC legend Richard and younger brother to David and Jonathan, had solar panels installed in the grounds of his Devon manor house.
But faulty equipment and his remote location – at the end of power lines in the countryside east of Exeter – have conspired to deprive him of hundreds of pounds in income.
He is now warning other users in rural locations to beware that uneven electricity supplies could leave them pumping free energy into the national grid without compensation.
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Mr Dimbleby says the installers should have known there could be a problem and ought to reimburse his losses.
"From the consumer point of view, people are having these things installed all the time and you have to be cautious – it is no good if it trips out.
"It is quite complicated – the energy was generated and went into the grid, but money only comes back through a reading which you send by email."
The £15,000 photo-voltaic (PV) array was installed at Mr Dimbleby's home and studio at Clyst Hydon last August, by Rainbow Renewables.
The equipment is supposed to pay for itself over a decade, earning a projected annual income of £1,600 by selling units of electricity via the Feed-in-Tarrif (FiT).
It ran for about nine months then began to cut out, failing to generate power even on a sunny day.
When Rainbow Renewables were called out and found that the generation meter they had installed was faulty they offered to replace it free of charge.
But they are not prepared to reimburse the lost income, about £380 – and say the equipment was more than a year old.
"There was no way of me knowing what was going on," Mr Dimbleby added.
"I went through all possible claims but it is a labyrinthine process – in my case the FiT was not fit for purpose."
Rainbow Renewables said the artist had been "very unfortunate with a few issues", including "being at the end of Western Power lines".
It said it had not received any reply to suggested remedial work to eliminate the problem with power lines, something Mr Dimbleby does not feel he should pay for.
"The company knew the situation here and should have known there could be a problem," he added.
"You cannot sell a car then say you need four wheels but will have to buy the fourth one."
Jenna Fleischman, Rainbow Renewables' general manager, said the fault was rare and she had only been seen once or twice before.
She said the firm would reimburse for lost generation where the company had delayed the replacement of the faulty part, but in this case she felt it would be "unfair" given the length of time and also the "considerable" amount of money.
However, she also said when Mr Dimbleby had lost money by going on holiday and not completing and signing his FiT application, the company did reimburse him as a "goodwill gesture".
"People should not be put off from looking at solar PV when it is still a great addition to any property and a great investment," she added.