Millions of households across the UK could be paying around £700 a year more for electricity and gas following the price rises this April. So with this in mind, what role does rooftop solar energy generation (photovoltaics) play in the current energy crisis and in safeguarding us from future energy shocks?
Is solar a viable solution for households and businesses?
A recent report compiled by Solar Energy UK in partnership with the University of Cambridge analysed more than five million property transactions. The report suggests that solar power is a powerful way to lower running costs, increase property value and reduce the carbon footprint.
Tried and Trusted Technology
One of the significant benefits of solar is that it is one of the fastest renewable energy technologies to deploy. A domestic rooftop system can be designed and installed in days, and a large commercial rooftop system can be designed and installed in less than 12 months. In addition, it is easier to scale up an industry that is already in place than go from a standing start - an important factor due to the speed with which the UK needs to address the energy crisis.
Initial Cost Outlay
Rooftop solar has declined by as much as 60% since 2010. The average domestic solar PV system is 4.2kWp and costs around £6,500. Solar panels on top of the roof are the cheapest option, while solar tiles are the most expensive but can provide a more desired aesthetic.
Making money back
Under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), households can get paid for electricity that they do not use and export it back to the grid. Rooftop solar can save individual households well over £300 per year in energy costs while increasing property values at the same time. Homes with solar panels can increase in value by £1,800 or higher.
The initial cost can typically be offset within 12-18 years with some studies calculating payback times as short as 8 -11 years. With the proper maintenance, solar panel installations should last between 20 to 25 years or more.
The changes to the Part L Building Regulations in June 2022 will mean many new homes built in England will include solar. Housebuilders will have to design and plan to meet the 'Uplift to Energy Efficiency' requirements in new homes from 1st June 2022. This is already in place in Scotland. The 'Uplift to Energy Efficiency' aims to deliver a 31% improvement on current Part L sustainability and energy efficiency standards.
Solar panels aren't the only option available, but they are acknowledged as an efficient way to comply with the new Part L Uplift and the forthcoming Future Homes Standard expected in 2025.
What are the drawbacks?
Is Your Property Suitable?
The ideal roof for solar panels is south-facing. East or west-facing roofs yield up to 20% less energy, and North-facing roofs are the least productive. For a 3.5kW system, you need room for 15 to 20 sq. metres of panels. The best results are achieved from a 30 degrees roof.
Solar panels are classed as permitted developments, so planning permission is not required in most cases. However, there may be restrictions if you live in a listed building or a conservation area.
More and more households are investing in onsite solar to reduce their energy bills, and banks are starting to offer green mortgages to finance these home improvements. However, many people do not have access to such finance, so there is a role for the National Infrastructure Bank to provide finance for all green retrofitting.
Solar seems to be a viable option for many households in the UK and is a proven and durable technology. Of course, not all properties are suitable and can take full advantage of solar technology. However, PV systems are flexible and scalable in design and can integrate with other renewable technologies.
The high initial investment has always been a barrier to solar installation. Organisations like Solar Energy UK are pushing the Government to introduce long-term funding support for residential retrofits and tax incentives for onsite energy generation.