Solar Electricity (PV)

Costs: £4,500-£5,500 I Annual Savings: £560 I Payback: 10 years I Profit: £5000

You can generate cheap, green electricity from sunlight, even here in Britain.

Solar electricity systems capture the sun's energy using photovoltaic (PV) cells. The cells convert sunlight into electricity, and this electricity can power your lighting and appliances. You can receive payments for the electricity you generate, as well as for exporting any electricity you don’t use to the grid.

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The basics

The cells used in solar panels are now so efficient that they will work well anywhere in Britain particularly if you have a southerly orientated roof. A typical home PV system can produce around 50% of the electricity used in an average household per year (Department of Energy and Climate Change), saving around £140 on your electricity bills.

In 2010, the government introduced the Feed-in-Tariff scheme to encourage uptake of solar panels. Under this scheme, your energy supplier pays you for any energy that you generate using your solar panels, as well as any excess that you export to the grid. The average installation can make around £420 a year in FITs at current tariff rates. You can alternatively get the installation paid for using a loan from the Green Deal finance scheme.

Fitting panels is not a complex process, and you can get them fitted with very little disruption. You do need to ensure that you get a qualified installer to qualify for the FITs.

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Can I export the electricity I generate using a solar PV system?
Yes, one of the benefits of the Feed-In Tariff scheme is that you can earn an extra 4.5p per kWh that is generated then exported. All unused electricity will automatically be exported unless you connect batteries to your system. Your electricity company can fit an export meter or they can pay you based on estimated export rates (usually 50%) - sometimes your electricity supplier can authorise installers to fit the export meter instead. Do not confuse the export meter with the gross generation meter, which is fitted as standard on all solar PV installations.
What is a kWh?
A kWh is a was to measure electricity, particularly electricity that is generated by your renewable energy system. A kWh or 'kilo watt hour' is often referred to as a unit of electricity that is shown on your electricity bill. If an electrical product has a rating of 1 kW it means that it will consume 1 kWh every hour that it is on.
What is a Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC)?
The government created an obligation for electricity suppliers to encourage homeowners to fit specific renewable micro generation systems. For domestic electricity generation, this system has now been superseded with the Feed in Tariff (FIT).
How are solar PV panels fixed to the roof?
This will depend on the roof, but typically solar PV panels are fixed using rigid stainless steel brackets that are fixed directly to your roof rafters. The brackets hook out from underneath your existing tiles. Tiles or slates should not be drilled to fit the panels, nor should mastic/silicone be used to weatherproof your roof. Solar panels can be fitted to any roof type except thatched roofs.
Will solar PV panels affect my home's rateable value?
Council tax is based on the 1991 values and the government shelved plans to revalue all houses a few years ago, so currently, no. It is likely that there will be a revaluation in the not so distant future. When they do, the value of the solar panels will be included in the valuation, but the rating could also account for your home's the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which should reduce tax as you would have a lower EPC score.
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