Solar Energy in the UK – Today and Tomorrow
There are about 650,000 solar installations in the UK today, with a total capacity of over 5000 Megawatts of solar power. In a report found on the official website of The Guardian published on January 29, 2015, it is predicted that by the year 2020, about 10 million homes in the UK should have roofs that are covered in solar panels.
This number is seen to provide about 40% of the UK’s electricity needs during the sunny days of the summer season.
In the past few years, there has been a rapid increase in solar panel installations for homes, commercial buildings, and even communities. This increase could be attributed to the reductions of photovoltaic or PV panels costs, and the introduction of the Feed-In-Tariff subsidy that was introduced in 2010.
According to industry experts in the solar industry, the UK currently has enough panels installed to supply an equivalent of 1.5 million homes today.
While the UK is located in a relatively high altitude and not exactly the sunniest place on earth, panels actually do not need direct sunlight to work. Even on overcast or cloudy days, the panels still work by up to 50% – which is still enough generated electricity to power a home or commercial building substantially.
Government Programme: Feed-In-Tariffs
The Feed-In-Tarrifs or FITs is the most significant government programme in the UK that has motivated homeowners and building owners to have solar PV panels installed on their property.
The FIT programme was published in 2009 and introduced on April 1, 2010. It became the main financial incentive to encourage the use of renewable energy technologies. This subsidy is not limited to solar energy only but also encompasses other sources of clean energy such as wind or hydro power.
Basically, the FIT programme works in a way that you get paid for the renewable energy you generate. This includes energy that you use yourself, as well as surplus energy that you export to the grid. You’ll basically get a set amount for each unit, which is kWh or kilowatt per hour, and this set amount depends on the size of your solar panel system, the technology you use in the installation of the panels, as well as the date of your system’s installation.
To qualify for the programme, you need to have an installer and use products that are certified with the MCS or otherwise known as the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.
In terms of the subsidy, you will get your money from your energy supplier.
Free Solar Panels in the UK
Initial investments on solar panel installations are expensive and for those who can’t afford them, free solar panels as well as installations are made available by certain companies in the UK. Basically, these companies will install and maintain panels on your roof without you having to pay a single pound.
This is called the Rent-a-Roof scheme where the companies lease your roof for around 20-25 years and you benefit from free electricity while the company takes the subsidy from the Feed-In-Tariff programme.
With the general prices of solar panels going down, and more and more property owners are witnessing the benefits of generating solar power, the expert predictions of about 1/3 of all households in the UK using solar energy by the year 2020 is deemed to be a reality.