The numbers add up. There are currently more than 700,000 solar installations in the UK and these are generating over 7 GW of power. Increasing numbers of homeowners are choosing to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their property for environmental, social and financial reasons.
However, many people still have questions about this form of renewable energy. In this blog post, we answer some of the most common solar FAQs and dispel some unfounded myths surrounding solar energy to help you understand whether solar panels are worth it?
Will solar panels pay for themselves?
If you’re going to invest in something, you want to know that you’ll get a good return. Solar panels are a worthwhile investment to consider for a number of reasons.
Reduced energy bills = more money for holidays.
Your family budget will see the effects of your solar investment in less than a year. During daylight hours, the electricity produced by solar panels is fed into your home to power your kettle, television and other electrical items.
The result: you pay for less energy from the National Grid and your bills go down. In addition, you can maximise your savings by using more of your electrical devices during the day rather than the evening; your morning washing cycle will be powered by the panels on your roof.
The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) - get paid for the energy you produce.
Introduced in 2010, this government scheme is an added incentive to get more people investing in solar energy. Under the FiT, you get paid for every unit of power generated by your solar panels, regardless of whether or not you use it, at a fixed rate, for a guaranteed 20 years.
The generation tariff pays you for the energy produced by your solar installation; your electricity supplier will pay you the current FiT rate for every unit of electricity generated. In July 2015, a small, domestic installation of under 4 kW would earn as much as 12.92p per unit (kWh) generated. For current rates, see the Ofgem website.
The export tariff pays you for the electricity you don’t use. Unused energy produced by your solar PV system is exported to the National Grid and your energy supplier will pay you for this. In July 2015, you would receive 4.85p for every unit of energy exported; the current tariff can be found here.
From the day your solar installation goes live, the Government guarantees to pay you the FiT for 20 years. All payments are tax-free provided you live in your property and don’t rent it out.
Your investment will also move with the times; the FiT rate increases in line with inflation.
The amount you can earn from the FiT depends on the size of your solar PV system, with smaller domestic installations typically receiving the maximum rate and larger commercial systems earning less. The FiT is therefore a real incentive for homeowners with small installations. Find out more information here.
Solar panels; the alternative pension
Experts have suggested that a one-off investment in solar energy can deliver a double-digit, ISA-like tax free return during retirement, proving it to be a viable alternative to a pension.
A study by the solar installer EvoEnergy calculated that an average household solar PV system is capable of delivering annual returns of more than 10 per cent during the 20 years after its installation, as a result of the FiT payments. For a typical managed pensions fund, annual growth was found to be 6 per cent.
So not only will investing in solar energy help contribute to your own future financial security, it also helps towards a greener environment in which to enjoy your ‘solar retirement fund’.
Will they work even if there’s no sun?
The financial returns are clear to see, but are solar panels compatible with British weather! The UK climate isn’t known for its sunshine, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in solar energy. Solar PV technology generates electricity from daylight, not sunlight. The PV cells convert light energy into electricity, so heat from the sun is not necessary. (How solar energy works)
It’s true that direct sunlight provides the ideal conditions for your system to function to its maximum potential, but even if it’s overcast your solar installation will still be generating power. Additionally, modern solar panels are fitted with concentrators which use lenses and mirrors to maximise the effect of any light that does reach the cells.
If there is light, there is solar power - even if it’s raining!
I won’t benefit from the generated power because I’m out all day.
Consumers are often sceptical about solar energy because of their daily routine; solar panels do not generate power at night and if they are out at work all day, they think they won’t benefit from the energy being produced.
Not so. If the generated solar power is not powering electrical appliances within the home, it’s fed back into the National Grid and you receive the current export FiT for the units of surplus energy.
Alternatively, the wireless switching technology in the immerSUN means you can now use the electricity generated while you’re out - just later! This innovative energy saving device enables you to ‘self-consume’ the power generated by your microgeneration device, such as a solar PV system, by diverting surplus power to a designated load, normally a hot water heater. Click here for more information on how an immerSUN works.
Installing an immerSUN device will not only mean that you return home to a ready supply of hot water, you will also reduce your energy bills by £250 or more each.
Do they really help the environment?
Yes. This one is undebatable and the numbers say it all. Figures from the National Grid demonstrate that as the UK solar capacity increases, the demand on electricity produced by non-renewable methods decreases. The expected demand on the National Grid for 2015 is 37.4 GW, the lowest projected figure to date.
Owners of solar panel systems relying less on the National Grid and the export tariff means that more of the electricity consumed across the UK has been generated from solar energy.
To sum up...
By choosing to install a solar PV system on your home, you’re not only investing in your current and future finances, but also in the environment to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Solar energy is not only ‘worth it’, it’s the ultimate ‘feel-good’ investment.