What are the environmental issues?

As with solar panels, there are social and environmental issues around the mining of the materials used in electrical batteries, and the issues are more serious because of the type of materials (mainly lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese). Again, there is significant work to be done to set up systems and facilities for recycling these batteries. 

By |2022-05-23T13:53:15+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

Can you recommend any installers?

Through our Solar Made Easy project we are seeking partner installers who we can confidently introduce to clusters of homeowners in different communities. Since starting work on the project we have found that the energy price escalation has had a huge impact on the solar market. Demand has soared and the good installers are inundated with enquiries. We hope that our cluster approach will make it easier for installers to respond to demand.  If you wish to proceed independently, we would recommend that you look out for the following  when you seek quotes :  Are they MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) [...]

By |2022-05-23T13:51:16+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

Will my solar panels work in a power cut?

Generally speaking, no. As your solar system is connected to the grid it needs to be shut off in a power cut, so it doesn’t feed live electricity into the power lines while workers make repairs. However, if you have a solar battery with a backup function you will be able to use your solar energy during a power cut. These have a relay (a switch) which will automatically disconnect your electricity supply from the grid when it detects a power cut. You can read more about this in these articles: Solar Back-up Batteries & Power Cuts and Do Solar [...]

By |2022-05-24T09:31:05+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

Will I need any other permissions?

If your system is larger than 3.68kWp, you need to apply to connect to the national grid (via Electricity North West). This is to ensure that if you are exporting 100% of your electricity at any particular time, the network in your local area can cope with the additional electricity. Your installer should be able to apply on your behalf. Unfortunately, there is often a wait of several weeks before permissions are granted. There is a possibility that you may be charged for any upgrade works to the grid that are required to enable your electricity to be exported.  There [...]

By |2022-05-23T13:48:58+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

Do I need planning permission?

Generally speaking, no – installing solar panels is considered to be permitted development (as long as the installation doesn’t extend beyond certain limits). However, you will need planning permission if “in the case of land within a conservation area or which is a World Heritage Site, the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a wall which fronts a highway”, or if “the solar PV or solar thermal equipment would be installed on a building within the curtilage of the dwellinghouse or block of flats if the dwellinghouse or block of flats is a listed building”. See [...]

By |2022-05-23T13:48:07+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

What about maintenance costs?

You may well have to replace the inverter (the box that converts direct current from the panels mains alternating current) after 10 – 15 years at a cost of perhaps £800 at 2022 prices. The panels themselves should still produce at least 80% of initial power after 25 years.   There seems to be a difference of opinion on whether it is necessary to clean panels and you can find advocates for annual cleaning (this could cost £100 - £200) while others say that this isn’t needed in UK conditions (but check more carefully if pigeons roost nearby!). Investigate further before [...]

By |2022-05-23T13:47:02+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

So how long will it take to pay back my outlay?

Some installers will calculate this for you, but the answer depends on the assumptions they make. If you use only about 30% of the electricity you produce it could be 20 years. This would reduce to about 15 years if you heat water with excess electricity, or if you secured a reasonable SEG payment, and would reduce further if you did both.  If you also install a battery and maximise the benefits of storing your generated electricity and off-peak grid electricity, this could drop to 10 years. This is based on electricity prices and solar PV prices in early 2022 [...]

By |2022-05-24T09:30:12+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

I heard that I could sell my excess electricity back to the grid. Is this true?

Yes, if your system is connected into the electricity grid, and assuming your house is already connected to the grid. Your installer will connect your system for you, if permitted – see below. The way to sell your electricity back to the grid is via the Smart Export Guarantee Scheme (SEG) which you can arrange with your electricity supplier or another one. Electricity suppliers decide the price they will pay you for your electricity. As of April 2022 best rates are around 5p per kWh. You can find SEG rates for different electricity suppliers here. 

By |2022-05-24T09:28:12+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

So how much of the electricity produced by my solar panels will I be able to use?

That depends on your lifestyle and what you use electricity for. If you use gas for heating and hot water and are out all day you may only use about 30%, averaged over the year. You can increase this by using devices like a washing machine on a sunny day if possible, or if you have an electric vehicle that you plug in during the day. If you use gas for heating hot water you can fairly easily divert excess electricity to do some of this. You can improve it even further by using a battery to store excess electricity [...]

By |2022-05-23T13:44:13+01:00May 23rd, 2022||

How does my meter cope with this?

Old style meters don’t, they run backwards if you are exporting to the grid. While this may sound good for you, your electricity supplier will detect this as soon as one of your meter readings is less than the previous one. If you are planning to install solar PV and don’t have a Smart Meter you should let your supplier know and they will change it. Smart Meters only record electricity coming into the house from the grid. See advice from Which?. 

By |2022-05-23T13:38:30+01:00May 23rd, 2022||
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