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'Free' solar panels are not a great deal, says Which?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 October 2010 at 2:10 pm

Installations companies stand to benefit more than consumers from 'free' solar pv panels according to new research from Which?.

They found that householders could save as much as £10,500 over the next 25 years by buying their own solar pv panels (to generate electricity) instead of signing up to a scheme offering 'free' solar panels.

Even in the sunniest corner of England, 'rent-a-roofers' would only save a maximum of £412 a year off their electricity bill, whereas the company supplying the solar panels would get £1,313 from the government's feed-in tariff incentive scheme.

Which? experts found that if consumers took out a (Which? Best Rate) loan to cover the installation cost, they would still be thousands of pounds better off in the long run. It has a great little illustration showing savings you could make depending on which area of the country you live in.

This finding from Which? comes to the same result as our own calculations on the rent-a-roof scheme. Our concern is that unless householders are big daytime electricity users they won't even see much reduction in their electricity bill.

Photo by qthomasbower


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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4 comments - read them below or add one

Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 29 March 2011 at 8:12 am

Hi Kodlak13

You might be being a bit harsh: I just learned recently that the government's purpose for the feed-in tariff is to increase the number of people involved in the energy debate, by getting them to engage first hand with energy. Rent a roof schemes do have this effect, especially for households who are at home during the day, or for small businesses, because they see the impact on their electricity bills, and can experiment with timing electricity-intensive activities when the sun is shining and the panels are generating.

My concern is that it's sold transparently, so that people are given an accurate picture of what the reduction in their bills might be based on their usage, rather than a generic figure that doesn't reflect their life.

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Explore Solar

Explore SolarComment left on: 15 November 2010 at 5:19 pm

Explore Solar Ltd

The Free Solar Panels ( not really free) or rent a roof space, is a great scheme for offices and charities or schools, where they can directly consume all the power that the panels will produce. But for Home owners it is not such a great idea. You are going to be locked into renting your roof for 25 years, and this could cause problems when it come to selling your property. With installation prices now coming down, it is worth while for consumers to have the panels installed by an MCS approved installation company, such as Explore solar You can find out more on our web site.


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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 1 November 2010 at 12:15 pm

The short answer is no, you probably will not benefit much, if at all. If you want to work out how much you'll benefit, then you could use an electricity monitor, and log how much electricity you use in the hall during daylight hours, and what proportion that is of your total bill. The offerings do vary, so if you went for a supplier that paid you the export tariff, and kept the generation tariff for themselves, you'd get a little return - but the scheme is designed to incentivise usage on site, so the export tariff is only 3p per kWh exported.

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john benn

john bennComment left on: 28 October 2010 at 11:12 am

If we fit our large south facing village hall roof with free solar panels and accompanying conversion equipment will we benefit from free electricity as most of our usage is in the evenings..



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