Fri, 30 Sep 2011 16:32:00 GMT
A lot of the conversations that I have with people indicate that there is still a lot of confusion about solar. I have spoken to people who are adamant that solar just does not work in the UK and no matter what I tell them they refuse to change their mind. They in turn have spoken to others and convinced them that solar does not work. The problem is that when people get half the story or outdated information it means they are missing out on an opportunity that is only going to be available for a short time.
When I first became interested in renewable technologies some 20 odd years ago solar was not a good proposition. The reason was that there were few installers in the UK and they really only worked on specialist projects and not on domestic installations. This meant that there was little knowledge on the subject and the costs were high. In fact unless you could afford to buy in bulk it was a waste of time buying a solar photovoltaic system.
Back then if you invested in a solar system the high costs and low returns meant that you would never recover your initial costs. Essentially solar was just a PR investment for big companies. So fast forward to today, or to be more precise April 2010 and the government launches what is called the feed in tariff, a scheme to encourage homeowners to invest in solar by heavily subsidising the technology. The idea is to encourage people in the UK to install solar PV systems which in turn will boost the solar economy and push down costs.
When the scheme first launched my Uncle installed a 2.2kWh system with the latest Sharp solar panels. Just over a month ago his neighbour installed an identical system from the same installer and the cost was just under half of what he had paid just over a year ago. The cost has come down because of the large number of installations that have taken place and because of the large number of new companies that now install solar and thus increasing the competition. Solar PV is not the fastest growing sector of the economy, probably the only part of the economy that is still growing.
Back when the government FIT scheme started there was very little understanding about this technology. The situation has changed greatly since then but you still need to do your research. Going back to my Uncle, he lives in a bungalow so the panels where relatively low to the ground unlike in a house that is about twice the height. What both the installer and my Uncle did not realise is that during the winter the sun is a lot lower in the sky, this means that any trees or other buildings or obstacles can cast a shadow over the roof. The result is that whilst in the summer the panels produce loads of electricity. However in the depths of winter due to the sun angle the panels receive little direct sunlight and therefore produce a fraction of what they should be doing in winter. This is the reason that you really need to do your research and if you are buying solar panels make sure the installer takes these sorts of factors into account.
If you are new to solar then a good place to start is to read up about how free solar power works, this will explain what solar panels actually do. You should then find out if your home is actually suitable for solar, you can do this by checking the angle and orientation of your roof to find out how well solar will work for your home.
Your choices for solar are to either buy a system or apply for one of the free systems. The companies offering free solar systems are quite strict so you really have to have an optimal roof for solar, this means a large south facing roof. Free installers tend to cherry pick the best homes to install their solar panels so that they can get the most return from the feed-in tariff and the homeowner will get the greatest amount of free electricity. Buying your own system is by far the best option, this is more of an investment at the moment due to the high rate of returns through the tax free FIT payments guaranteed by the government. It means that you are guaranteed to get your initial investment back plus a healthy tax free profit, the government is essentially rewarding people for going green.
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In 2010 the UK invested 3.3 billion dollars on clean energy technologies, half of this went on offshore wind farms. Germany invested 41.2 billion the same year, over 12 times as much.
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