Free Solar Panels

I’m paying to have a new set of solar panels, its happening while I write this, the installers are on the roof drilling holes and so far not having cups of tea, though coffeee was offered.

The installation is being paid out of my hard earned savings and in my view a more effective alternative to either keeping the money in the bank or ‘investments’. I’m expecting an 8% to 9% return on my capital outlay over the course of the next 20 years or so, that return dropping at the point my Feed in Tariff contract finishes though I would expect to keep generating electricity for some years after that.

Overall my £12,000 investment will repay a bit more than £20,000 at current rates. The FITs are inflation linked so my return will not be eroded by inflation. Keeping my money in the bank at say 0.5% will see a degradation of about 1.5% per year allowing for 2% inflation.   Solar, with the Feed in Tariff is clearly a good bet.

Prior to going ahead with a paid for system I had looked very carefully at the option of a free system, I expect that my roof is South enough to comply with any ‘free’ requirements, however going through all the pros and cons it was clear that a paid for system was a better bet.

My concerns were:

  • Its my roof, getting free electricity based on a fairly standard install of 2kW would save me about £100 a year.
  • For the next 20 years, I cannot install my own system!
  • Nor can any prospective buyer of my house
  • That bit of roof is no longer mine to do with as I wish
  • Insurance / Damage

While I am sure that much of this has been carefully looked at by the free installers and there is a lot of small print protecting each party, it wasn’t at all for me.

I also looked at a company offering leased systems, effectively a solar installtion that after 20 years you might own. Wow, all the downside of a free system and you pay for it!  I covered this is greater detail here:
Solar PV leasing along with numbers, don’t go there!

While all the free and leased systems that I have looked at seem to have a reasonable business ethic behind them, just a bit too in favour of the installer, I am waiting for the real scammers to jump on this and how they will fleece people who usually tend to be older and trusting.

The Sunday Times 10/10/10 page 27  identified a clear scam. Free solar panels, but you have to pay for a survey to see if you are eligible. I doubt that there is any chance of any free solar panels being installed, especially when the ‘survey’ costs £2,500!

I can see more of these free solar scams coming on stream, perhaps a fixed annual rental, maybe an upfront bond re-payable over the years – but not when the company goes bust and re-starts with a new name and same scam.

My standard advice when considering solar thermal and PV.

Solar thermal will only heat your hot water, it won’t heat your house. At best it will provide 70% of your hot water, it shouldn’t cost more than £4,000 and you should use an MCS accredited installer in order to get the RHI when and if it is introduced.

Solar PV will cost about £12,000 or less for a medium sized system of 2kW, less than £19,000 for a 4kW system. The return should be in the order of 8%

(2012, prices have fallen and you should be looking at less than £10K for a 4kw system, the returns remain the same or better even with lower FITs)

You will never have to pay for a survey from a legitimate supplier

Never use a supplier / installer who will not discuss prices prior to a visit.

Installers who insist on sending a salesman prior to even talking about a price will be looking more at what you can afford, less at what the system costs.

As to who is installing my system – solarUK


Feed in Tariffs, a kick in the teeth!

Feed in tariffs will NOT apply to ANY system that has already been installed.

If you have a renewable energy system, your system, as with mine will continue to receive the same, pittance, a minimal financial return on generated and exported electricity. This will apply to all systems, all the schools, community halls, the public everybody who has put their money where their mouth is!

Only systems that have been installed under the new MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) will be able to claim the much publicized 35p per unit generated. The MCS has yet to be finalized and though it replicates the IEC regulations that your system (and mine) will certainly comply with, the MCS is an additional layer of bureaucracy that seems to function only to sideline us. (Us being all the people who have created this industry, lobbied for feed in tariffs and changes in the planning law and who have (for whatever reasons) coped with the high cost of installation).

This MCS will severely curtail the number of companies able to install solar PV, retaining a very tight club of installers and almost certainly allowing for a ‘cartel’ pricing structure. Solar systems are already twice teh price in the UK as Germany! It does not add to the quality of equipment or installation as Part P and IEC (IEC is the recognised international certification scheme) already have that function.  The cost of management of MCS and the quango that will be created will almost certainly be higher than the money saved in alienating us through avoiding payment for solar generated electricity.

I would expect that the negative publicity associated with the sidelining and effective alienation of all early adopters who would otherwise be actively promoting this technology will also represent a cost in that the scheme must now be publicized at a cost to the taxpayer.

I am an early generator of solar energy with a professionally installed Solar Century system. It is grid connected and the Highest power station in Kent. I was part of the EAMA study and have and expect to continue exporting renewable electricity. My electricity and system seems to be perfectly adequate, the system will be exactly the same as new systems!

This twist to the Feed in Tariffs whereby only new systems can apply is a slap in the face to all of us who have facilitated the creation of the renewable microgeneration industry in the UK. Without us investing in this new technology, there would be no industry, no installers, nothing!

I do not understand the Governments atitude in alienating so many people. people who should have been supported as they would have been fantatsic free publicity. EVERYBODY with a system is going to be ‘hurt’ by this. There will be NOBODY with an installed system who will be out there actively promoting – we won’t be saying, get a system, we will be saying, “I’ve been utterly let down, don’t trust these people”.

Worse than this, it will be financially beneficial for me to scrap my existing system and install what will almost certainly be an identical system, just 5 years newer (with the same 25 year and more lifespan). Whoever came up with this incompetent system, well, words fail me!

This Government should hang its head in shame!

Also see: Join our Campaign for Equal Cashback with petition.

Feed in Tariffs

During the last budget, the chancellor Alistair Darling stated that there would be an investigation of feed in tariffs carried out over the summer. At the time of writing its early Autumn and we are still waiting!

Feed in Tariffs define the price that the electricity company will purchase locally generated renewable electricity. In Germany this is about 40p and has stimulated a thriving market in microgenerated power.

In the UK its about 8p and makes it barely worth bothering! Lets get this industry going by having a decent level of payment for clean electricity!

Please sign my petition on the No 10 petitions website.