How Do We Get Electricity From the Sun?
Small amounts of electricity are generated when certain semi-conducting materials, such as kinds of silicone, are exposed to sunlight. This process is known as the “photoelectric effect”. Sunlight is made up of photons or particles of solar energy. Photons contain various amounts of energy, corresponding to the different wavelengths of the solar spectrum. When photons strike a PV cell some are absorbed, the energy of the photon is transferred to an electron within the PV cell and this creates electricity.
How Does it Work? When Solar Energy (AKA Light) falls onto the solar panels, the electricity that is generated is in the form of a DC current, an inverter then converts this into AC electricity, which is then used to power your home or business.
Why solar PV? Solar photovoltaic’s is considered the most reliable form of low carbon electricity generation. There are no noisy moving parts or expensive maintenance regimes. Our systems have a life expectancy in excess of 30 years and performance warranties of 25 years. The introduction of the government backed Feed-in-Tariff means Solar PV isn’t just better for the environment, it is also one of the best financial investments around.
How long will my PV System last for?
A well designed system will operate well in excess of the manufacturers 25 year performance warranty. As the PV module has no moving parts and requires no maintenance, it is reasonable to assume a lifetime expectancy of at least 30 years.
What determines the output of the system?
What determines the output of the system?
Apart from the size of the installation, the factors that determine the optimum output from a solar PV system are:
- Geographical location: The location of the installation will determine the amount of radiation that the panels experience, generally the further North, the lower the radiation and therefore the output.
- Aspect: The array should face within 45 degrees of South, with South being optimal.
- Roof angle: The optimum tilt is 30 to 40 degrees which is the typical roof angle in the UK
For more information on system design and suitability for different properties, give us a call and we will help to assess your various options.
How much space is required to install PV Panels?
The space required will depend on the space available, materials used, and desired size of the system. There are many options for panels in terms of size and output – if space is limited then it is possible to choose panels that maximise the output per square inch.
Are the Feed in Tariffs here to stay?
Many other countries have successfully introduced FiTs, Examples of countries where FiTs have worked well include France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Netherlands among others. One of the biggest success stories is Germany who have the largest PV market in the world and can also boast the world’s second and third largest solar farms. Germany’s solar generation capacity has grown exponentially since the first version of a Feed-in Tariff was introduced in 1990. Germany currently has over 8,877MW of installed solar generation capacity thanks to FiTs.
The FiTs were originally introduced by the Labour government but have since been backed by the coalition government who have pledged to ‘establish a full system of Feed-in Tariffs for electricity’. They have also outlined proposals for a green investment bank (the Green Deal) to enable loans for installation of systems that can be repaid with FiT payments. Feed-in-Tariffs may change but the payments are guaranteed for those who enter the scheme now.
I rent my property if a landlord installs an electricity generating technology, who would receive the FITs?
It will be up to landlords and tenants of domestic or commercial property to come to an arrangement about the receipt of payments and on- site electricity use benefits. Typically the home / property owner will receive the benefit of the Feed-in-Tariff while the tenant will receive the benefit of reduced electricity bills. The amount received for exporting to the national grid is a point to be discussed and agreed between landlord and tenant.
Will I need a special meter to be able to claim FITs?
Generation must be metered. FITs payments are made to generators on the basis of metered generation. Meters will need to be able to measure Generation, Usage and Export. At present most meters will read Generation only. As an interim measure, DECC has announced that all systems <30kW will have their export tariffs can be deemed (estimated) at 50% of generation, subject to the following:
- These arrangements will only apply until the finalising of specifications for smart meters; - These arrangements do not apply if export meters exist already, or are provided at the generator's expense
My system is not connected to the electricity grid – can I still claim the Feed-in Tariff?
Yes. You will be eligible to receive a lower generation tariff. You will also have to sign a declaration stating that all of the electricity generated on site will be used and not wasted.
Is it better to export the electricity I produce, or to use it at home?
The aim of the FiT Scheme is to incentivise people to use the electricity they produce as much as possible. The amount you save by not buying electricity from your energy company is significantly more than the sum you get for exporting it. It makes sense to utilise the electricity while your system is generating so you do not have to draw energy off the national grid. The government hopes that by generating your own electricity you will develop a better understanding of energy and become a more efficient electricity user as you see your bills reducing.
Do I have to make my house more energy efficient to qualify for the scheme?
With the current revised Feed-In Tariff rates and stipulations, it is now required for both domestic and commercial installations (under 50kW) that any property to which the solar electricity is provided carries an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of category D or above. Some properties are exempt such as Listed Buildings, most Wharehouses, and many Agricultural Buildings. Most modern properties will meet the EPC requirement. Any properties that are below the Band D rating will receive a significantly reduced tariff rate. However, the benefit of the Solar PV technology can also be included in this EPC assessment which can help boost your property into a higher band. If, even with the PV, you would still be below Band D, we can also advise on lost cost works you can undertake such as cavity wall insulation or energy efficient lighting which will increase your rating.
What happens if I move house?
With the average family moving house every 7 years or so, and the life of the feed-in tariff at 25 years this will be a questions for a lot of people. The government expects standard property ownership rights to apply to the generating equipment. This means that when a house is sold, the generating equipment and the FiT payment are sold too, and the energy company administrator must be told of the sale. They expect that the market will decide how much a microgeneration installation will increase the value of your property.
If I move can I take my solar panels or wind turbine with me, and still claim the Feed-in-Tariff?
No. The scheme is only available on installation of new systems, by an MCS accredited installer. If you took your equipment with you, reinstalling it would count as a second hand installation, and not be eligible for the cash back.
Am I eligible for the Feed-in-Tariff if I install my own system?
No. To claim FiTs you must use an MCS accredited installer and install MCS accredited products.
Will I have to pay tax on the income I get from the FiT Scheme?
For domestic properties there is no tax. There may be some tax implications for commercial installations.
Are the payments inflation proof?
Both the Generation and the Export Tariffs will rise annually in line with the Retail Price Index.
How long will I receive the tariff payments for?
Your Feed-in-Tariff is guaranteed by the government for 20 years after installation if you have photovoltaic (solar) panels.
Can I claim the FiT if I install a refurbished or second-hand system?
No. The reasoning behind this is that the scheme is intended to encourage new entrants into the market.
I’ve heard that the rates “degrees” over time. What does this mean?
As we have seen recently with the most recent Feed-In Tariff drop, tarrif rates of payment to new applicants decreases over time. The theory is that as the market for microgeneration grows, the prices of the equipment and installation are expected to go down. As this happens there will be less need for such a large financial incentive and so the rates of the FiT go down. Degression is where tariffs for new installations are set at a lower level each year, than they were the previous year. The rate you receive at installation then stays the same for the whole life of the tariff (with annual adjustments in line with the retail price index). (The latest proposal for another tariff degression will be on 1st July 2012.)
What happens if I add to the capacity of my renewable energy installation?
If you have two different technologies on the same site (i.e. Solar Thermal water heating panels and Solar Electric (PV) panels) they will be classed as different installations. Multiple installations of the same technology at the same site will be classed as a single installation. If you add to an existing installation of the same technology within 12 months it will be treated as an increase in capacity of the same installation.
If you add to a system more than a year after the first system was registered in the FiTs Register, it will count as a new installation. You will still get the same payments for your original system. The new installation will be rated for the combined capacity of the two systems. For example, if you installed a 4kw solar PV system in May 2011 you would be paid 45.4 kw per units. If, you install a second 4kw system in July 2012 you would still be paid for the first 4kw as if it were a standalone system under its current T&C. For the second system it would be paid as if you had one 8kW system. Thus, instead of the current reduced rate of 21p for a 4kw system, you would fall into the 4-10kw bracket and be paid at 16.8p per unit for the second 4kw system only.
I installed my system before the Feed-in Tariff proposals were announced. Am I eligible?
If your system was installed before 15 July 2009, and is accredited under the Renewable Obligation (RO), then you will be automatically transferred onto the FiT in April 2010 (albeit at the lower 9p generation rate). If you are not accredited under the RO, then you must have been accredited before 31 March 2010 to be eligible. You will continue to receive this support until 2027.