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Last updated: 12 March 2018

Are Solar Panels For You?

Harnessing Solar Energy

There is a bigger focus on harnessing energy from renewable sources than ever before as stricter climate regulations are put in place to promote sustainability and reduce our CO2 emissions. Among all alternate solutions, the sun is arguably the most promising source. Solar energy is a cleaner and limitless alternative for producing energy in an efficient and carbon-neutral way. By scale and application, the technologies in solar photovoltaic systems, more commonly known as solar panels, appear to be the simplest, most scalable and most cost-effective means of renewable power generation. 

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the deployment of solar panels has nearly doubled last year with over 650,000 installations across the UK. About 80% of these are domestic installations. The upward trend is expected to continue as more and more realise the advantages of investing in alternative energies, particularly in the solar PV systems. Even more so, the promise of significant savings on electricity bills and the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme which pay property owners for generating their own green energy, make solar panel investments profitable and more economically viable. While the benefits can be substantial, many are still reluctant in joining the solar panel bandwagon due to the large upfront cost of installation and the slow return on investment.

Practical Considerations

Committing to invest in solar panels requires practical considerations. The three most important of these being cost, financial viability and suitability.

  • The cost of solar panels system vary depending on the size and quality of the system and of course, your energy requirement. On average, a household of four needs about 4000kW per year which will then require 21m2 of roof space. This would cost between £4,000- £6,000 and is expected to generate around £20,000 in combined profit and savings over 20 years. While the solar panels would eventually pay for themselves, it will not do so until at least 7 years later.
  • Knowing your annual electricity consumption is important in assessing the financial viability of your solar panel investments. This data will be computed against your supplier’s projected performance numbers to provide you with as accurate as possible estimates on potential electricity savings, generation tariffs and exported energy revenues. Current feed-in tariff until March is at 13.88p/kWh, guaranteed for the next 20 years; National Grid sell back rate (surplus electricity) is at 4.77p/kWh. Potential investors must be mindful that these subsidy rates are subject to change regularly and most likely to decrease over time.
  • Suitability takes into account the optimal operating conditions for solar panels. Some homes are better suited for solar panels than others. Factors like location, roof angles and weather conditions can affect the solar PV performance. Simply put, the more sunlight, the better. The ideal roof is south-facing and angled between 30-50 degrees to receive the most amount of sunlight. Also, as sunlight is related to weather conditions, the energy output may not be as stellar during overcast days. In any case, it is best to consult a professional about the suitability of solar panels for your home.

Solar panels may seem like an expensive investment but when one takes overall savings into account, it could be worthwhile. Before taking the next step, make sure to crunch the numbers and do your homework so you can make an informed decision on whether solar panels are right for you.