Going Green

I just got a mailing from Homebase of all people extolling the virtues and economics of going green by installing solar electricity panels on my roof.

So in the interests of saving the planet, let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer :

(1) “Solar PV panels convert light energy from the sun into electricity. Although they work best in full sunlight, they’ll still work if it’s cloudy.” But as I heat and cook by gas, I use most electricity when it’s dark. I asked. They don’t work at night.

(2) “Get paid for every unit of electricity you produce, and even more for what you don’t use.” Apparently this works because “you’ll be paid up to 41.3p***** for every unit of electricity you generate and an extra 3p for every unit you don’t use and export to the electricity network”. Sounds great, but “***** Based on retrofitting a solar photovoltaic system of less than (or equal to) 4kW in an existing, eligible property. Additional costs may be incurred.” Additional costs? Hmmmm….

(3) So how do we get the figures then? “Remote monitoring of your system, from a smart meter fitted in your home****.” Whoops – more asterisks. Ah – “**** The performance monitoring service also includes automated meter reading and is offered free for the first year to give you confidence in your installation. If you’d like it for longer, it can be continued at a charge of £4 a month.” To put it another way, they charge you to meter it.

So cutting right to the chase, let’s look at the costings :

A typical example* (Uh oh – another asterisk!)

Cost of our home solar power system  =  £11,150
Total savings on electricity bills  =  £2,426
FiT generation payments  =  £19,866
FiT export payments  =  £721
Total profit  =  £11,863

Looking good? Well, until you consider that “With a typical installation, you could break even in just under 13 years, giving you another 12 years of profit. You could make up to £700 in the first year alone and benefit from a typical annual rate of return of over 7%”

Also the ‘optional’ £4 per month metering charge more than wipes out your export payments. So it costs more to meter it than you get for exporting it.

And there are a lot of asterisks, and a lot of uses of the words ‘typical’ and ‘could’ in there, so I guess I need to simplify it for you :

If you are not thinking of staying in your house for at least 13 years, forget it. If you go to work all day and burn electric at night, forget it. If you don’t think lashing out eleven grand to save ‘up to’ ‘typically’ £700 quid a year is a good return, forget it. And if you think it will save the planet, forget it.

I know where my £11,150 is going. Where’s the holiday brochure?…

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6 responses to “Going Green

  1. And factor in the maintenance that they don't tell you about.Here's what I wrote.http://niklowe.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-bag-of-fag-packet.htmlThe panels are expected to last for 20 years, but at the end of their life will only be capable of delivering 80% performance. (The calculations are based on 100% through life output).The panel will require cleaning on a regular basis. in my case I’ve based it as every two years due to the Oak trees across the road, and the numerous pigeons we have here for some strange reason.Now seeing that I have a three story house, H & S decree that work on the roof requires scaffolding in my area.Lets throw in £200 for that (Most likely double). Therefore after 20 years the cost in total will be £2,000.Inverters burn out in time. Well the good chaps at MugsRyou, installed a top of the range model that lasts 10 years. So I’ll only need two of those. £1000 a throw.The upshot of this long rambling story is that it will take me 19.07 years to break even. That’s if the panels deliver that 100% for the whole period and we actually get some sun.

  2. Vastly overpriced smoke, mirrors & gimmicks ..Even if I had that sort of money (which I don't) .. I wouldn't be buying ..They can stuff it right up their own inverters ..

  3. The main purpose of these seems to be to give the holier-than-thou brigade extra Polar Bear Saviour Points to boast about at coffee mornings.Isn't there a tax blag to be had out of it though? I seem to remember a few years ago when Labour were going to ramp your council tax for having a nice view and neighbours who weren't serial killers there was some talk of tax breaks for property owners who ate their own waste and suchlike?

  4. OK Dioclese,Here's the deal. Send me five grand and don't install this fashion statement. You will still be much better off (as will I).You know it makes sense.regardsBillothewisp

  5. I've used solar panels to keep a battery charged at an isolated building I use in the countryside. The first one lasted just 3 years as the seals failed and water got in. The second one has, at least, managed better than that. BUT…. neither of them has ever delivered the claimed maximum output, even directly facing the sun in the middle of a July day. A cumulous cloud in the way will halve the output, and solid overcast, even in summer, will reduce it by more than 70%. In winter you will be lucky to get 10% even on a good day! There are now polycrystalline panels available which are claimed to be 40% more efficient in cloudy conditions. But 40% of bugger all is still bugger all….Keeping them clean has been mentioned – you only need a well aimed seagull dropping and a complete series string of cells will be crippled. In simple terms they are a waste of time in this part of the world.

  6. "I've used solar panels to keep a battery charged at an isolated building I use in the countryside"There's so much about that sentence which makes me want to edge towards the door and phone my family – check everyone is alive.

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