free solar panels UK

Are Solar Panels Cost Effective In The UK?

When many people hear about solar panels being used in the UK their first reaction is usually that they do not believe solar can work in our climate. It rains too much, there is too much cloud and the sun very rarely makes an appearance. One common misconception is that it rains all the time in the UK when in fact a vast majority of the year it does not rain at all. In fact London gets less rain than Rome or Sydney.

In the UK we get around 1,340 hours of sunshine in a typical year, in the south of England this is closer to 1,750 hours. In the summer months we get around 16 hours of daylight a day, that's 4 hours more daylight than in the tropics. We do get a lot of sunshine in the UK it just seems like it rains every other day. Whilst over the course of a year solar panels are more effective in countries such as Spain and even more productive in the dessert regions across Africa solar still has a place in the UK.

How solar panels work

Solar photovoltaic panels work by turning daylight into electricity, this is the key point, although they produce more electricity when exposed to direct sunlight they still produce electricity on the cloudiest of days. The only time solar does not work is at night when there is not enough light to generate a voltage.

There are newer panels that are being developed that can take advantage of the greater amount of diffuse light that we tend to get more of in this country. Technology such as dye-sensitized solar cells promises to be able to make much better use of ambient light. The efficiency of this type of panel is not competitive with traditional silicon cells at the moment but costs are constantly falling and efficiencies are increasing every year.

daylight hours in the UK

Cost effectiveness of solar panels for domestic use

In 2010 the solar panels UK market become cost effective literally overnight with the introduction of the feed-in tariffs. Prior to this date even with the old style solar panel grants solar PV was not really attractive enough to tempt most homeowners looking for a good long term investment. Many did install solar for ethical reasons but the long payback period for the amount that solar panels cost prior to this made solar un-attractive.

Since the launch of the feed-in tariff in 2010 all homeowners investing in solar can expect to see a payback period of as little as 7 years at the current tariff rates. The new solar grants system pays you over a 25 year period with tax free payments based on how much electricity that your panels produce. This is much better than the older system where you would only have received a fraction of the amount of funding.

Investing in solar

If you plan on staying in your house for the medium term then solar is one of the best investments that you can make at the moment. It is not only a good financial investment where you will at least cover the cost of the installed system and then earn back that amount again tax free but it is also a good investment in the UK. It will continue to protect you from future energy price rises which are predicted to soar in the next decade.

By choosing to install solar you are part of a eco-renovation drive that is creating jobs and wealth in the country. It is bringing down the cost of solar making it an even better investment and encouraging solar panel manufacturers to build panels in the UK rather than import them.

It is also a good green investment. There will be millions of tonnes of CO2 saved due to renewable technologies such as solar. It means that as a country we do not have to become increasingly reliant on gas, oil and electricity imports from abroad.

Free or paid solar

If you can afford the initial investment it makes much more sense to buy solar to get the best long term returns. However not everyone wants to or is able to invest in solar and so the free solar panel offers currently available enable you to benefit from solar power without having to make any financial contribution.


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