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Five reasons why now is a really good time to install solar PV

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 March 2013 at 9:46 am

If you want to generate your own electricity there's not likely to be a better time than now to install solar PV panels. Global oversupply of solar panels has led to tumbling prices - but experts predict that this may not last.

The feed-in tariff - the government's incentive for the take up of microgeneration technologies including solar PV - is far from dead, despite rumours to the contrary. Yes, the rate has been cut significantly. But because prices have also fallen, the returns available from an investment in solar are still very attractive. It also makes solar accessible to more people, as he high upfront cost has been one of the main barriers to investment in solar PV.

The Solar Trade Association's solar PV consultant Ray Noble illustrated how the relative costs and returns have changed in this comparison between April 2011 and the situation now at this year's  Solar Power UK Roadshows:

Why now is such a good time to get solar panels:

1. The EU may impose an import tariff on Chinese solar PV modules, as the Chinese have been accused of dumping stock in European (and American) markets. The price of solar panels has already increased, and is expected to increase more.

2. The Chinese are expected to be using more of the solar panels they produce at home in the future, which will reduce the global oversupply.

3. The current feed-in tariff rate for systems of 4kWp or less is 15.44p until 30 June 2013, when it is likely to reduce by 3.5%.

4. It's a way of reducing the future impact of rising energy bills. You could think of installing solar PV as pre-buying a proportion of you electricity needs for the next 20-30 years at a set price, freeing you from the market rates. Or, to turn that on it's head, you will save money on all your electricity bills for the next 20 to 30 years. How much you save will depend on how much electricity you consume during daylight hours. The greater your usage, the bigger the reduction in your bills.

5. Solar panels regularly produce more electricity than predicted by the MCS calculation. Ray Noble used a house in Durham (pictured above) to illustrate the point: the MCS predicted generation was 820kWh/kWp per year; the actual performance in 2012 was 960kWh/kWp. And this is in the north of England in the wettest summer on record!

Find out more about installing solar PV on YouGen:

A video introduction to solar PV

A video introduction to the feed-in tariff, and FITs FAQs

Find out how well solar PV works in bad weather

Find out which energy companies give best customer service for feed-in tariffs

Find a local solar pv installer


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

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6 comments - read them below or add one

Sims Solar Ltd

Sims Solar LtdComment left on: 2 April 2013 at 10:55 pm


If you don't already know your DNO you can identify this from your MPAN number and cross reference with.

With a system outputing more than 16A (assuming single pahse supply) you will need to go down the G59/2 route for connection but this is straight forward.

My local DNO (SSE) asks for circuit diagrams and type test certificates etc so may be beyond the DIYer. That said, the application is straight forward so should not cost a great deal if you got an installer to do, if not free if there is job at the end of it for them.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 2 April 2013 at 8:42 am


Here's some more info on extensions, extracted from the ofgem rules:

2.63 says Where a FIT installation is extended using the same technology type, the extension is assessed as a separate Eligible Installation. If successfully accredited, the extension will be assigned a separate eligibility period and separate tariff code based on the aggregate of the total installed capacity of both the extension and the existing FIT installation. Both installations will, however, share the same FIT ID on the Central FIT Register.

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glbellComment left on: 1 April 2013 at 5:22 pm

Rudge, thanks for that. my system was installed 14th Feb '12 so is it 1 year from that date or some other date. thanks foe the other info.

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Rudge Energy

Rudge EnergyComment left on: 1 April 2013 at 3:50 pm


Under the FiT regs introduced last year or so, you will need to wait for a year before extending your system, otherwise your existing system will be downgraded to the current FiT rate at the time of the new extension.

Other than that, the new extension will need to a complete new system, with inverter AND total generation meter. You will then register it as a new installtion and give your power company 2 readings every quarter.

You can contact your local DNO yourself and obtain the relevant form to make the enquiry. They will have the whole networked mapped and will be able to carry out a desktop study and get back to you in a few weeks. It will be better if your installation company carries out this query, as there may be some questions you'll not be able to definitively answer

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glbellComment left on: 1 April 2013 at 2:25 pm

I have a 4KW Canadian Solar with a 3.8 centrosolar inverter. I managed to install it just as the 43p rate was coming to an end.

So if I wanted to extend to 6KW (ignoring the DNO point for a sec) I have few questions I keep getting varied answers to

- what rate would I get on existing 4wk & "new" 2kw

- Whats the most sensible installation option - install as a 2kw with a 2kw inverter or get a 6kw inverter and replace the existing 3.8 ?

- Now the DNO question, how can I find out if the 6Kw is acceptable to Scottish power (I have very little electrical knowledge) - do they just come and survey the property, cabling and loads ?

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muymalestadoComment left on: 22 March 2013 at 11:13 pm

Its nice to be shown that one might have made a good decision.  Whether the figures stack up or not we're quite pleased after about 14 months.  It does look like it was a good call to buy the PV.

Now.  The comment I have is that the hit and miss nature of the estimating online calculators does not allow me to compare the actual performance against any reliable numbers.  The MCS calculator mentioned and the one I used 14 months ago give a variety of expected numbers depending on me deciding what some of the parameters are.  I can make up my own estimate to suit my mood.

I can assume losses, degredation, inflation, inverter lifetime, in-home usage, and more which may individually mean small changes but together lead to large monthy/annual changes in estimated output and ROI.

A potential new investor should always estimate low, and I will have a reasonable estimating mechanism after the first five years generation.

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