When the government rolled out the Feed-in tariff scheme it was to encourage people to use solar PV and to help meet our carbon reduction commitments. Apparently we get fined if we miss our targets and we are woefully off target. Not interested! How about the fact it will be the good old reliable tax payer who will be footing the bill.
Solar can play a significant role in the UK, sure it is not a perfect technology as a recent question I had through the solar questions form pointed out. It read; Is any of the electricity created via the panels stored in the house? Or is it only useable during daylight hours? Doesn't make sense to have the solar panels if they only produce daytime energy and we still have to use electricity from the grid at night!
Being someone who talks solar all the time the point wasn't immediately obvious to me, I though of course solar only produces electricity during daylight hours. Then I realised most other fossil fuel based technology provides electricity all of the time. I can see his point, how can renewable energy technologies such as solar compete if it cannot provide electricity 24 hours a day. Why would you invest so much money in a solar installation if you will still be getting an electricity bill.
It is the tariff payments that are persuading people to install solar, without them people would not pay to have solar installed and there would be no free solar offers. With the government incentives however investing is photovoltaic solar right now makes perfect sense. In a question I have previously answered on the payback period for solar I demonstrated how you could be over £30,000 better off by installing solar.
There are some serious concerns about solar and the current government incentives for using solar compared to the old solar panel grants that I have. Firstly how the FiT scheme is funded, indirectly everyone who pays an electricity bill will pay a bit towards funding the scheme. This penalises people who cannot install solar because their house does not face south. Secondly people who do not own their own home or do not have a south facing home will not be able to benefit from the feed in tariff. Lastly the scheme favours people with larger homes and therefore a larger roof area, many roofs do not have enough free un-shaded space to accommodate the largest domestic sized array for which you would gain the most from financially.
I would predict that as the scheme is guaranteed by the government for 25 years then over this timescale as people become more aware of solar then south facing homes will command a premium when being sold. A similar thing happened with broadband, some homes were not selling as they could not get a decent broadband connection.
So far it may seem that I have been pretty negative but I am only trying to point out that the current system we have is not perfect. Solar does have many benefits such as once installed there is very little maintenance required to keep it running. The technology is rapidly getting better and cheaper, many are predicting the solar will be as cheap as coal in as little as a decade.
Solar can be integrated into buildings (BIPV) which means that part of the cost of solar can be offset by reduced building costs. Solar tiles are an excellent example of this and so for a new builds the panels look just like the tiles. The tiles are about twenty percent more expensive then conventional panels but you offset some of the additional cost by not having to buy so many roof tiles.
Whilst solar by itself will not meet all of your power requirements it can produce about half the average household needs. Eventually a cost effective storage method for solar will be produced in a similar way solar thermal stores heat for use at night. Until then it is better to reduce your bills by getting a free system, that's unless you have other plans for your currently vacant roof space. Even better invest in solar yourself and benefit from the generous tariff payments. If you can't afford the investment then the new Green Deal may get you the loan you need to cover the cost and you payback the loan from the savings and tariff grants so in theory will not be financially worse off.
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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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