Still weighing up the pros and cons of going down the solar power route? Here are some answers to Frequently Asked Questions about solar PV in general that may help you decide.
How do Solar PV cells work?
Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert radiation from the sun into electricity. A typical PV cell consists of semiconducting material, usually silicon, manufactured with two electrically different layers. When sunlight hits the cell it excites the electrons within the silicon, creating an electric field across the layers and causing the flow of electricity.
How much electricity do Solar PV systems generate?
A suitably orientated, unshaded 1 kWp system can generate approximately 800 kWh (units) of electricity each year.
How much carbon will my panels save?
This varies with the size of system and its performance. Typical estimates range from 0.6 tonnes per year (t/yr) for a 1.5 kWp system, to 1.7 t/yr for a 4 kWp system, to 4.2 t/yr for a 10 kWp system.
How much money can I save and/or make?
For a typical 16 panel installation (4 kWp), in the first year, you could save around £200 on your electricity bill and earn around £200 from the FIT. This represents about a 6.5% return on your investment. At the end of 20 years your total revenue plus savings on bills could add up to over £8000, not allowing for inflation or increases in energy charges.
Where can I put my Solar PV panels?
PV panels (sets of panels together are often called ‘arrays’) can be mounted in a range of locations but the sloping roof of a building usually provides the best and simplest site. PV panels can, however, also be mounted on flat roofs or on the ground, using ballast or specially designed mounting frames.
Most importantly Solar PV panels should be located in a broadly south-facing, unshaded location.
My roof is old and in fairly poor condition - can I still install a Solar PV system on it?
Although Solar PV systems are not normally heavy enough to cause structural problems, if your roof is in poor condition we would recommend that a structural survey be undertaken before proceeding with your installation.
Do I need to make my house energy efficient first?
Yes. From 1 April 2012, to qualify for the maximum applicable rate of FITs, a property must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing an energy efficiency rating of level D or higher. This EPC must be submitted with the application for the FIT, otherwise the system will receive the lowest FIT rate, currently around 0.6p/kWh. See 'New energy efficiency requirements and the feed-in tariff' below.
Are there any other Solar Discount Schemes in operation?
Yes, the first nearby scheme was set up in spring 2011 by Whittington and Fisherwick Environment Group (WFEG). Their scheme is doing really well and they have shared their experiences and given us advice in setting up this scheme for the Stafford area, for which we are very grateful. If you want to find out about their projects please visit their website at www.wfeg.org.uk
For further information about the Stafford Area Community Solar discount solar energy scheme or other energy-related projects run by Sustainability Matters please visit the Stafford Area Save Your Energy website (www.staffordarea.saveyourenergy.org.uk) or phone Rob Hine on 01785 603387.
New energy efficiency requirements and the feed-in tariff
Energy performance certificate (EPC) at no extra charge with the SACS scheme
From 1 April 2012 there is a new requirement for people wanting to install solar PV. The property on which the solar panels are to be sited, or to which they are wired to supply electricity (e.g. if sited on a barn or outbuilding), must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing a rating of level D or above, to qualify for the maximum possible rate of Feed-In Tariff (FIT). This must be submitted as part of the application for the Tariff. Failure to include this EPC with your FITs application will automatically mean you get the lowest tariff, currently set at 0.6 pence/kilowatt hour (compared with, say, 4.25p/kWh for an eligible system).
This is a good opportunity to make your property energy efficient and keep energy bills as low as possible. And the SACS scheme will make it easy for you, providing you with a complete 'one-stop' package to ensure you have everything in place to get the best possible return on your investment, and make your property as 'eco-friendly' as possible.
The installer, MEB Total, can undertake a full energy survey by a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor and advise on any measures needed to bring your property up to the required energy efficiency. This will be free of charge provided you go ahead with the solar PV installation within 3 months from the initial survey. Otherwise the cost will be deducted from your deposit. MEB Total can also provide quotes for doing work such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, etc.
Once the energy improvements have been made, MEB Total will undertake a second energy survey to provide the EPC, so that installation of your solar panels can proceed. The EPC will then be submitted with your application for the FIT.
You don't have an EPC – MEB Total will perform an energy survey:
For more information, contact John Giblin of MEB Total on 0845 2263 233