It is an exciting week for me as my new solar electric PV panels get installed.
I will be sad though to see my first solar panels, installed 17 years ago, being removed. They were hit in a freak lightning accident last year. It was the historic first in London to sell metered PV electricity to London Electricity. Now there are more than a million solar homes across Britain, producing carbon free electricity and reducing their bills.
This massive growth in solar installations was prompted by the government’s recent Feed-In-Tariff scheme, which pays homeowners a premium for 20 years, for every kilowatt of electricity they produce. Existing installations like mine did not qualify. However, the new panels (installed by ghiuk.co.uk) will qualify and I will make my money back. On my current very modest electricity consumption rates, I hope to produce about five times my annual consumption and so make my home a net exporter of green electricity again.
Panels now produce over double the amount of electricity and cost about a fifth of the price since I put mine in. Usual installation costs per home are about £6-£8,000. However, the government is proposing to cut the premium paid to new installations by up to 87% at the end of this year. So you need to move urgently to benefit from the Feed in Tariff.
If you cannot afford the panels but do own your own home with a south-facing roof, some companies (e.g. markgroup.co.uk) will install them for free. But they will take all of the government’s Feed-In-Tariff payments and you get just the free electricity during the day.
Sadly, seventeen years after my Southwark home led the way in London, the council is still being Neanderthal about this amazing technology. Thankfully, the government stopped Southwark blocking planning permission for solar panels in non-conservation areas. However, it shockingly failed to require the huge new Heygate development to include any renewable energy whatsoever. Maybe the new Corbynism might inspire the New Labourites in charge of Southwark to finally catch up with the solar revolution? All new developments should be required to fit solar-panels. Cladding the south-facing walls of the ugly new Aylesbury skyscrapers with solar panels, would be a good place to start!
Donnachadh McCarthy is the founder of 3 Acorns Eco-audits (www.3acorns.co.uk) and www.nationalcarbonfootprintday.org.