Latest news on Solar PV (updated March 2016)

Feed-in-Tariffs have been slashed after a recent Government review.  For systems below 10kW, the rate will be 4.39p/kWh for systems installed before 31 March 2016, dropping to between 3.89p to 4.23p/kWh after that.  This compares to 43p when the FIT scheme was launched.  The cost of PV panels has fallen dramatically in the last few years – but not far enough to make the numbers add up with these new FIT rates, unless you get a particularly cheap deal on the installation.  According to the Energy Saving Trust PV calculator, a 3kW system on an unshaded south-facing roof would cost £6200 over its 20 year lifetime, and recoup £5,900 in FIT payments, savings on fuel bills and export tariffs.  So the numbers don’t add up in financial terms – though there’s still a good argument in carbon emission savings terms – it would save 32 tonnes of CO2 over this period.
So the rug has been pulled out of the domestic PV market.  We retain this page for its historic interest – since for a good 5 years, solar PV was a really great green investment.

Steyning’s Going Solar!

Does your house have a sunny roof? If so, have you thought about installing solar panels? You can save on energy bills, cut your carbon footprint, and create a nice little earner. More and more people are catching the solar bug. Following the Greening Campaign solar push last summer, there has been a leap in the number of systems installed. As of April 2012, there are more than 60 systems installed in the area.  Hills Road gets the prize for the most solar street in Steyning.
If we keep going at this rate, we could turn Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding into solar powered villages. If everyone put up solar panels, we could generate over 50% of our total domestic electricity requirements. This is the theoretical maximum, according to Sam Barnard, a former Steyning Grammar student, who did a detailed study of the potential for solar energy in Steyning for his university dissertation.

How does it work?

Check out this presentation which gives a Beginner’s Guide to Solar Energy.  (note that the tariff rates quoted may be out of date so check before you invest!).  Basically, there’s two types of solar panels:

  • Some produce hot water
  • Others generate electricity – known as photovoltaic or ‘PV’ panels

Some of the 60+ PV systems now in place in Steyning, Bramber and Beeding

Facing due south is obviously the best, but anything between southeast and southwest is good too. It needs to be largely unshaded, and not have too many obstructions, like dormer windows. For more details of solar options in practice, see this case study of a system installed in Bramber in 2010 which has now been running for two years (at the original FIT rates).
How much does it cost?  A typical hot water system costs £3000-£4000, whereas an average-sized PV system is more like £4,000-£6,000 – but prices have been dropping.  Always get several quotes, and follow up references.
The economic case for solar is less compelling than it was.  For domestic PV systems, the Feed in Tariff started at 43p per kWh at the outset of the scheme in 2010, which gave payback times of 7-10 years.  But it has steadily been cut and it is now just over 4p/kWh.  The income earned from selling back electricity to the grid has stayed relatively constant – this is now set at 4.85p/kWh.  So the economics are now much more marginal – though the benefits in reducing your carbon footprint are as strong as ever.

How are my panels performing?

Those of you with solar panels are no doubt wearing a smug grin every time the sun shines. But how are your panels actually performing? Would you even know if you had a fault that was impairing their performance? Probably not. There’s a new programme at the University of Sheffield to help address this. You sign up on their website, log your production figures, and they will compare your generation with your neighbours, and provide a bunch of other information and support too.

Will it increase the value of my house?

Yes it should do, since it will guarantee the next owner a steady income stream and/or cheaper energy bills. You’ll also be improving the energy rating of your house (Energy Performance Certificates take solar panels into account), But there isn’t much hard evidence yet since the feed in tariff is still quite new, and few estate agents have had much experience with selling houses with panels. See this article for a helpful discussion of the issues to bear in mind.

Launch of the Steyning Solar Scheme – May 2011

The Greening Campaign organised a public event on Wednesday May 25th 2011 at Steyning Cricket Club. Geoff Barnard gave a presentation on a Beginner’s Guide to Solar Energy. This was followed by a ‘panel discussion’ where the audience could quiz a panel made up of two local residents, Mike Croker and Sharon Jessie, who’ve both had PV systems installed recently, and representatives from the four companies that were invited along: Nick Porter (Southern Advanced Systems), James Cartwright (HomeSun), Gbenga Kogbe (Sunhive), and Andy Tugby (Southern Renewables).  The Greening Campaign negotiated a deal these companies. For every system they installed in Steyning, Bramber and Beeding during 2011 they agreed to make a contribution to help Steyning Museum put solar panels on its roof.  In total over £1800 was raised for the museum!