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.
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.
- What is the payback for a solar PV installation?
- Currently a solar PV system should pay for itself in about 7-9 years, after which you'll continue to save money on your bills and receive FIT payments for the rest of the system's 25 year lifetime.
- Are solar PV systems a lot cheaper now?
- The cost of the PV cells and associated equipment is driven by international supply and demand. Prices of these components have fallen substantially over the past few years as larger manufacturing facilities have been set up in response to strong demand particularly in Germany and Japan. Installation prices have in turn fallen as a result of the reduction in system prices and as the industry has grown. This drop in prices is set to continue.
- Is efficiency important when choosing solar panels?
- Often not, the efficiency of any given panel relates to how effectively it can convert the sun's light. Given that the sun's light is free a panel can simply be made larger to offset a lower efficiency. Only when suitable roof area is at a premium does it make sense to choose high efficiency panels, this will maximise the amount of power that can be generated from the limited space.
- What guarantees do solar PV panels come with?
- Solar PV panels generally come with an output guarantee of between 20 and 25 years depending on the manufacturer. Inverters normally have a guarantee of 5 years. Most other components and labour are usually guaranteed for 5 years. Check your quotation for specific details and ask your installer if things aren't clear.
- 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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