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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FAQs

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 does the inverter do in a solar PV system?
The PV panels generate direct current (DC), which is a different type of electricity to the 240V alternating current (AC) that is used in your property. The inverter converts the DC power to AC power so that it can be used in your house.
Are there any grants available for installing solar PV panels?
The Feed in Tariff is a payback scheme rather than a grant scheme, and has replaced most grants for solar PV systems however, grants may be available from your local council - please contact them for details. The Feed-In Tariff pays you for the electricity you generate using your PV system, as well as any excess electricity generated, which you can export back to the Grid.
What guarantees do solar PV panels come with?
It does vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but typically Solar PV panels will come with an output guarantee in the region of 20 and 25 years. The Inverter will have a shorter life, and your should budget to have this replaced once during the life of your system (25 years or more) and therefore has a shorter guarantee, typically around 5 years. The labour guarantee will depend on your installer and your should ask or study the fine print in your quote; 5 years is fairly typical.
Is there an approvals standard for solar PV panels?
Yes, solar panels can be approved by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). In order to qualify for the Feed-In Tariff scheme you must ensure that you use MCS approved panels.
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