Say hello sun­shine and feel the ben­e­fits of so­lar gain

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Jonathon Wing­field

QUES­TION: For some time we have been think­ing about in­stalling so­lar pan­els. It has al­ways been our be­lief that the pay-back pe­riod is so long that they are not fi­nan­cially vi­able.

How­ever, we now un­der­stand that there may be an op­por­tu­nity for us to sell sur­plus elec­tric­ity back to our sup­plier and ac­tu­ally make a profit. Do you know how this all works and what are the costs for us to in­stall the pan­els. Are you also aware of the level of sav­ings that can be achieved? AN­SWER: In com­mon with most new technology, fi­nan­cial gains are not al­ways present in the early stages of devel­op­ment.

How­ever, in re­cent years the costs of in­stalling so­lar col­lec­tion have fallen while ef­fi­ciency has im­proved. This is now an ex­cel­lent way of re­duc­ing your en­ergy bills and mak­ing some ad­di­tional money while re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions. I am only sur­prised that there hasn’t been more pub­lic­ity about “feed-in tar­iffs” (Fits), which are due to come into force in April. They give a guar­an­teed re­turn that is tax-free and set to rise in line with in­fla­tion.

They were first tri­alled in Ger­many, taken up by Labour and sup­ported by the cur­rent Govern­ment, prob­a­bly be­cause the money fund­ing the scheme comes from the util­ity com­pa­nies and not them. Typ­i­cally, in­stal­la­tion costs for the pho­to­voltaic pan­els are around £12-£15,000. How­ever, you are paid around 40p for ev­ery unit of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated giv­ing an av­er­age house an an­nual in­come of circa £800. Any sur­plus en­ergy not used is ex­ported back to the na­tional grid for which you are paid an ad­di­tional 3p per unit. This will give a re­turn on your in­vest­ment of around £1,000 per year. The fi­nal amount de­pends on a num­ber of fac­tors such as where you live, size and ori­en­ta­tion of roof and your av­er­age con­sump­tion. Max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency is achieved on south fac­ing roofs that are com­pletely un­shaded by ad­ja­cent build­ings or trees.

Clearly this re­quires a size­able in­vest­ment, which may be be­yond the reach of most fam­i­lies. How­ever, there are some com­pa­nies that will “rent your roof” and pay all of the in­stal­la­tion costs. Al­though you don’t ben­e­fit from the feed-in tar­iff, you do get to use as much of the gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity you re­quire for free.

Feed-in tar­iffs are not just re­stricted to the gen­er­a­tion of elec­tric­ity as there are sim­i­lar ben­e­fits from in­stalling so­lar wa­ter heaters. This is less well known but I un­der­stand the govern­ment’s Re­new­able Heat In­cen­tive is promis­ing to pay around £400 a year to any­one in­stalling so­lar wa­ter heat­ing on their roof. The sys­tems cost around £5,000 but can pro­vide most of your hot wa­ter from April to Septem­ber and also con­trib­ute to rais­ing wa­ter tem­per­a­ture over the re­main­ing months. Again, a south-fac­ing roof is re­quired al­though south-east and south-west can work but not quite so ef­fi­ciently. The so­lar pan­els are com­pat­i­ble with most heat­ing sys­tems but a wa­ter tank suf­fi­cient to hold two days’ us­age will be needed.

It should be noted that in­stalling the re­quired num­ber of pan­els will change the ap­pear­ance of your prop­erty and al­though per­mit­ted devel­op­ment rights have been re­laxed, it is still worth while check­ing with your lo­cal plan­ning depart­ment be­fore sign­ing up. It is also un­likely to in­crease the value of your prop­erty, at least un­til the whole Fit con­cept be­comes more widely em­braced by es­tate agents as a very real ben­e­fit.

Join­ing these schemes will in part off set pre­dicted rises in en­ergy bills but it is also likely that the Fit pay­ments to peo­ple who in­stall in later years will be less gen­er­ous so my ad­vice is don’t de­lay. If you live in an ap­pro­pri­ate house this is prob­a­bly one of the safest and best per­form­ing in­vest­ments you will ever make.

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