No doubts one of the most important downsides of solar panels is their price. When asking people why they don’t have solar panels at home, “because they are very expensive” is the most probable answer. For many people, it is hard to invest around £7,000 in a solar panel system. Or even if they have the money, it still sounds like an excessive investment.
In this scenario, free solar panels sounds like a very tempting offer. These free solar PV offers are also referred to as 'rent my roof space' schemes with the solar panel owner simply 'renting' the roof space from you. However, everything that is free should be analyzed carefully. Why would someone (other than the government aiming to meet its green energy target) offer such a benefit? Well, the companies offering free panels get their share, too. Lets analyse this a bit more.
Free Solar Panels?
Switching to green energy shouldn't be a hassle, so here are some good news for you: it is possible to get free solar panels! If you happen to have a roof with the right angle and it is big enough to fit some solar panels, there are companies willing to install them for free.
Why? Because in return they will keep the resulting Feed-in Tariff (FiT).
What do I gain? Well, you will save on the initial investment (which is not a minor detail) and you will have annual savings of around £125 on your utility bills. Moreover, since electricity prices are expected to rise over time, your savings will be even more significant. Another benefit of this free panel deal is that usually the company covers the system’s maintenance and also pays for its insurance (because the panels belong to them).
Since solar panels do not require frequent maintenance, this last benefit might not be so significant. Moreover, there are not many companies offering this deal, and the requirements and conditions to apply are a bit picky and tricky.
First, you need to own your home and your roof must usually be 24 square meters due south, or within 35 degrees of south. Then, there is often a 25-year commitment contract required. So if you are planning to sell your house, you should take this into account. Also, once you sign up for the deal, there is no option to buy the panels meaning that you will be trapped by this contract for 25 years.
Read more: Free Solar Panels?
Why Not Making Money With Solar Panels Instead?
Free sounds good, but making money sounds even better! In this case, you will have to pay for the panels yourself so that they belong to you and you keep all the benefits. Either you can make an effort and make the initial investment (around £7,000), or you can ask for a loan and use someone else’s money to start with.
Once the system is installed, its lifespan is expected to be around 30-50 years. You can benefit from the Feed-in Tariff during the first 20 years, meaning that you will get paid for the electricity produced by your solar system (either if you consume it or if you sell it back to the grid). The panels will pay for themselves in around 8-10 years, depending on how much electricity they produce. After this, you will still save money on your utility bills.
How To Qualify For The Feed-In Tariff (FiT)
1st. Your installation must be carried out by an MCS - accredited installer.
2nd. You must be a UK resident and own the property. (Or if you rent the property, you may be able to receive permission from your landlord).
3rd. Anyone who installs a renewable energy system producing electricity is eligible to claim the tariffs as long as they produce less than 5MW of power (five megawatts is a lot of power, so all households and the vast majority of businesses wishing to install renewable energy systems are therefore eligible).
Latest update: As per the UK government announcement, the Solar Feed in Tariff scheme has come to an end on 31st of March 2019.
Read more: 5 Things You Need To Know Before Going Solar