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Solar panel FIT tariff cuts receive industry criticism

Friends of the Earth joined Solar Installation companies to bring the legal case to the Royal Court of Justice.

A High Court ruling on subsidies for households has been welcomed by the industry. Judges rules on Wednesday the 23rd December 2011 that the decision to bring the move forward to December was legally flawed.

It is expected that the drop in subsidies will hit the industry hard, with fewer installations having a knock on effect on firms profitability.


Solar panel installation top tips

With the growth of the renewable energy market and in particular that of the consumer solar panel market, unfortunately one thing will always come hand in hand “rogue” or “cowboy” solar panel installers.

The Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL) – set up by the Renewable Energy Association has reported increasing amounts of reports from disgruntled consumer solar panel installations. More and more companies seem to be setting out to take the consumer for a ride, these sorts of businesses are targeting poor consumer awareness, giving false hope, providing poor equipment or setups and pressurising clientele into taking out installations with them.

If you’re considering or have been considering any sort of solar PV system follow our tips below to safeguard yourself from the cowboy cliche!


Do solar panels require planning permission?

Up until April 2008 it was essential to apply for planning permission before having solar panels fitted. However as the government looked to encourage people to buy into renewable energy they removed the requirement of planning permission to make it easier to install solar panels.

The only requirement which must be fulfilled when fitting solar panels is that the panels should not be installed above the ridgeline and should project no more than 200mm from the roof or wall surface.

If you live in a a-listed building or a conservation area then you will need to gain planning permission before installing. You should check with your installer before agreeing to have the work carried out.

Are Solar Panels Still Profitable – Feed-in Tariff Changes

For those of you that don’t know, the UK government had been paying £43.3p per kWh created for solar panel adopters through the Feed-in Tariff. A little under 2 months ago the government announced a earlier than previously planned cut to this tariff, cutting it down from £43.3p per kWh to just £21.0p per kWh. There’s no hiding that this is a dramatic drop, and largely un-expected, as the government hadn’t planned a review of the Feed-in Tariff, until 2013.

Why is this so important?


How do I apply for the Feed-In Tariff?

Once your chosen installer has installed your renewable energy technology, you will need to take the following steps to register for FIT:

  • Ask your installer to register you on the central MCS database. The installer will then send you a certificate confirming MCS compliance.
  • Tell your chosen FIT supplier that you wish to register for the FIT and send them a completed application form along with the MCS certificate.
  • Your FIT supplier will cross-reference your installation with the MCS database and undertake other eligibility checks.
  • Your FIT supplier will confirm your eligibility and the date you are eligible for payments from.
  • Your FIT supplier will add you to the Ofgem Central FIT Register, which records all installations in the FIT scheme.
  • Your FIT supplier will agree with you if and when you will need to provide meter readings and when they will make FIT payments to you – these will form part of your statement of FIT terms.
  • If you want to opt out of the guaranteed export tariff you must tell your FIT supplier – you would only do this if you have a separate Power Purchase Agreement to sell your surplus on a commercial basis.

Although this may all seem complicated a majority of the steps are completed by your supplier and is something you should confirm with them before agreeing to have the installation completed by them. Remember that in order to quality for the FiT you must use MCS approved Solar Panels.

Is my home suitable for solar panels

Many houses in the UK are suitable for Solar Panels and can in some way shape or form benefit from solar panels and solar energy. Most installers will however be looking for certain key factors which really determine and make up the potential for your house to make the most of solar energy. These factors are extremely important in determining the monetary gains and the practicality / feasibility of installing solar panels onto your roof.


I have a flat roof, can I still get Solar Panels?

If you have a flat roof you can still have Solar Panels fitted to your roof but they will need to be mounted onto an a-frame which allows the solar panels to be positioned at the correct angle to the sun.

Angling the solar panels is important in ensuring you maximise the potential to produce renewable energy. Each location around the world has an optimum angle which will be determined when you install your panels.

Solar Energy Myths

Solar Panels are a widely regarded as one of the greatest innovations however there are still lots of myths and misconceptions. These include the use of solar panels during the winter and the efficiency of the panels themselves.


Solar panel mounting systems

Solar panels can be mounted in lots of different ways, the type of mount you can use is usually determined by the type of installation and the land available for the equipment to be used in.

Most residential installations will make use of the homes roof space and be fitted directly onto racks on the roof, however businesses and places like farms etc which have more flexibility could have a stand alone installation.

There are many available mounting systems, below we will run through some of them, but before we do it’s important that you understand why the mounting points, orientation and angle of the solar panels is so important.

Solar panels have small crystals which convert photons from the suns rays into a current, then an inverter (also part of a normal solar system), converts the current into an AC current, for use in the home.


Solar module performance and expected lifetime

Many consumers interested in using Solar PV for residential or business purposes like to know what the lifetime and performance of the panel will be like over time. The length of life of a photovoltaic unit is a critical element in the financial assessment of solar power. Cash payback may take well over a decade in northern Europe, even with substantial subsidies, such as the proposed new UK tariffs. So adding even a few years of expected life can mean a major difference to the viability of a project.

Below is a small outlay of industry expectancy and why.