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Solar is not just about the feed-in tariffs

Posted by Paul Hutchens on 9 December 2011 at 9:57 am

There has been much talk and debate about solar panels recently; most of it about solar PV and the Feed-in Tariffs (FIT).

However, there is another game in town and it is potentially far larger than solar PV. Space and water heating in buildings accounts for nearly 70% of the energy consumed by them - so maybe we should pay some attention to that.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the heat equivalent of the FIT and is due to be introduced for domestic properties in October 2012 (the non-domestic RHI opened for business at the end of November 2011). It will pay homeowners an income for every unit of heat generated by their heat pump, biomass boiler or solar thermal water heating system.

In the meantime a one-off payment called the RHI Premium Payment is available to all homeowners as an incentive to install these technologies now - a bit like a grant - and still be eligible for the RHI when it arrives next year.

Before FIT, solar thermal was by far the most popular of the renewable technologies and is installed in over 100,000 homes in the UK. The technology is reliable, easy to install and should provide 50-70% of your hot water all year round.

In fact 31% of the 2,000 RHI Premium Payment  vouchers issued so far have been for solar thermal. Each will receive £300 towards the cost of installing a solar thermal system.

This is starting to filter into more interest as homeowners realise the value of this technology.

So, before you become too fixated with the FIT and the annoying deadlines imposed by this Government, think about installing a solar thermal system. It is less expensive than solar PV (about £4,000 on average), is easy to install and good for the environment - and you get £300 towards the cost!

Photo by kennysarmy

About the author: Paul Hutchens is founder and director of Eco2Solar, which installs solar systems around the UK.

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

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3 comments - read them below or add one

David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 12 December 2011 at 2:36 pm

Bob is right, the installation isn't easier, though not difficult, and yes, you would normally need a new cylinder with a solar coil. As we've always said the you have to start with the building, need and budget, then choose the right technology, not the other way around!

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Bob Irving

Bob IrvingComment left on: 11 December 2011 at 3:27 pm

Not too convinced by the 'easier to install than PV' comment.

Running pipes to and from the roof, with the required pumps, valves, and control cables is surely always going to be more complicated than PV cables. Plus you surely need a larger hot water tank than the existing one and is there space for that?

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David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 9 December 2011 at 2:35 pm

It is very true that FIT isn't everything. Renewables should be a holistic approach, based mainly around your property, priorities and budget. FIT and RHI (and the RHPP vouchers mentioned in the short term) are important factors, but it is about what you are looking to achieve. Hopefully the reduction in FIT for solar will let people take a more balanced view. We frequently install solar PV and Solar Thermal in combination, or Solar PV and Heat Pumps. The integration of technologies to meet your specific needs is the key factor, or the choice of which one technology comes first in your priorities, possibly to be added to later. You can see some case studies of integration here

But most importantly of all, use a company that comes recommended by others, ones that can put you in touch with previous customers.  

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