If you’ve lived in the UK for the last few years, you’ll have noticed solar panels going up on roofs all over the country.
That’s partly because, just like in other countries, panels have got cheaper. You can install the same panels you’d use in Florida, or Jerusalem. It’s still true that the UK doesn’t get as much sun as those places, but it’s now less expensive to harvest whatever is available. A medium-sized installation generating a couple of kilowatts will cost you several thousand pounds and last for twenty years.
If we were only talking about power generation, it might take a decade to pay for itself. But we aren’t just talking about generation. The UK government’s feed-in tariffs (FITs) have changed the game.
Full-scale domestic solar installations include an inverter to make AC power from the DC power coming out of the panels. Most homeowners will opt for a grid-tie inverter, which allows them to tie the solar panels to the grid. That means that, just like in other countries, they can sell any excess back to the power company.
But the UK government also pays a generous feed-in tariff on that surplus — 21p/kWhr, provided that your house meets certain energy efficiency standards. FITs mean that all those new solar installations are paying for themselves faster than they used to. Let your installer handle the paperwork.
There are a few other incentives to go solar, too. First, there’s the Renewable Heat Premium Payment. At the moment, that just delivers a standard 300 pound payment for installing solar thermal panels (hot water, not electricity). An upgrade called the Renewable Heat Incentive may sweeten the deal for photovoltaic panels.
And, if you live in Scotland, you can get an interest-free £2,000 loan to install a system.
Solar power is a long-term investment, but it’s paying off for a lot of people in the UK.