Your Questions Answered

What is solar electricity generation?

Using a technology known as PV (Photo Voltaic), energy from the suns light is converted to free electricity. PV solar panels convert sunlight into cheap, reliable, ‘green’, carbon-free electricity. The technology has been around for at least 50 years and many systems installed in the ’70s are still working and producing free electricity today. You have probably used a calculator, a watch or even garden lighting that is powered by solar cells: these work in the exact same way as a full-size PV panel.

Why should I consider PV?

You should consider PV for some very good reasons.

Solar electricity generation is good for the planet. Electricity generated from PV panels on your roof, replaces electricity generated from fossil fuels. It is also more efficient than electricity supplied over the national grid, which loses energy during the transmission from the power station to your home. It reduces your own and therefore the country’s carbon footprint and helps preserve the environment for your children and your children’s children.

Solar electricity is good for your wallet. In order to encourage you to invest in and use green electricity, and under a scheme known as Feed-in Tariff, the government will pay you for all of the electricity that you generate at very generous rates that are guaranteed for 20 years.

What ways are there to benefit from PV?

There are 2 main ways to benefit.

Rent-a-roof. Some companies are offering to install a free system on the homeowner’s roof. The homeowner benefits from the annual electricity saving and the installer receives the much larger FiT payments. This is a viable scheme, BUT it has many potential problems and we recommend you avoid it, and in all cases, never hand over any money for such a system as this just gives away the annual energy bill saving for at least several years.

A fully owned solar PV installation. The system is owned by the homeowner, who benefits from the FiT payments and the energy saving and has all the safety of installation and equipment warranties.

Landlords could also benefit by installing PV systems on their properties. They would benefit from the generation and export tariffs while their residents would benefit from the energy savings on their bills.

What about planning permission?

Planning permission is NOT usually required for domestic PV installations providing they meet basic criteria. It is a requirement only to inform the local authority of the installation. There are certain other requirements if the building is Listed or a World Heritage site.

I’m thinking of building a house. What should I keep in mind?

If you are building a property, make sure the roof faces south and is pitched between 35 and 45 degrees. And maybe talk to your architect about the most effective design and build considerations.

What if I sell the house?

The PV system adds value to the property, reduces running costs and provides a guaranteed income for up to 20 years. The FiT is simply transferred to the new owner.

How is PV income guaranteed?

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) has been established by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Under the MCS scheme all the installers and all the products used MUST be certified by the MCS for an installation to be eligible for the FiT payments.

In addition, you should ensure the installer is a member of REAL and therefore complies with the REAL Assurance Scheme Consumer Code which is backed by the Office of Fair Trading.

Note, homeowners should only use REAL and MCS accredited installers. Qualified companies will only use MCS certified products and practices. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of qualifications. You will not be able to claim FiT payments if the company who installs your system are not MCS and REAL accredited and if MCS approved Solar panels have not been used.

More than 21,000 solar panel and wind turbine FiT-eligible installations have been registered in Britain to date, the vast majority being domestic.

What about businesses?

Businesses can also benefit from the FiT scheme and in addition, could be eligible for government-subsidised loans.