Photo Kirklees IS SOLAR ENERGY FOR ME? A guide to going solar

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1 Photo Kirklees IS SOLAR ENERGY FOR ME? A guide to going solar

2 WHY SOLAR? Economics Solar energy can reduce bills, earn you money and protect you from rising energy prices. Solar is a free source of energy and emits no carbon. The cost of solar PV panels has dropped by around 80% in the last 5 years and installations for both Solar PV and Solar Thermal have never been more affordable. Returns on your investment have never been better with the secure Feed in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive, so this is a perfect time to install Solar PV and Solar Thermal. There are over half a million British households who generate their own electricity and over 200,000 households who generate their own heat. Join them now and go Solar!

3 Other benefits The UK has a legally binding target to generate 15% of the total energy demand from renewable sources by Solar is a safe, secure and clean solution to the UK s energy crisis. This is part of the global revolution to transition to a lowcarbon economy, with the aim of avoiding damaging climate change. This is the time to play your part in this energy revolution. Investing in Solar is an investment in your future. Purpose of this document This document is intended to give you an overview of Solar PV and Thermal technologies, to enable you to make an informed decision. Photo Kirklees

4 SOLAR PV What is Solar PV? How does it work? PV stands for photovoltaic, a technology that converts the sun s radiation directly into DC electricity. They do this by using a thin layer of semi-conducting material. When the material is exposed to daylight it becomes energised, generating a DC current. This current is then directed through an inverter to convert it into AC current, which can be used in the home. Is my home suitable for a solar PV installation? PV panels may require up to 30m 2 of roof space, with worthwhile systems only requiring around 12m 2. Systems installed on south-facing roofs yield the best results although systems facing east and west (or east and west) can also work well. It is not recommended to install PV panels on north-facing roofs or if there is a lot of shading. If there is no suitable roof space a system can be fitted on the ground or on a wall. The largest domestic system is normally 4kWp, which is normally 16 panels of 250Wp each; a panel is approximately 1m wide x 1.7m tall. Your roof also needs to be structurally sound but if there is any doubt your installer should discuss this with you and consult a structural engineer. Is it easy to install? A standard domestic installation will involve attaching the PV array securely to the roof and connecting to the domestic electrical system. A Solar PV system requires professional installation but usually only takes a day or two and with minimum disruption to the household. Will my system be grid connected? Most systems are grid connected, which means that when the system is generating more electricity than the household is consuming, the excess will be sold back to the grid. When the system is generating less than the household is consuming the extra required is bought from the grid as normal. For technical reasons, a PV system

5 will not work if there is a power cut. There are off grid systems available that rely on battery storage and do not need to be connected to the grid. Does the UK get enough sunshine for PV to make sense? A common misconception is that a solar cell needs direct sunlight in order to create electricity. It s not so much about the amount of sunshine, rather the intensity of the light. So even on a cloudy day, PV cells will still create electricity, and solar thermal panels will still contribute to heating water, albeit to a lesser degree. Ultimately, a judgement of a system s performance should be based on its average performance over the year, and its total yearly output will provide a significant contribution to your household. What size of system will I need? This depends on your household energy demands, how much you are willing to spend on an installation, and what projected savings you wish to make. A typical PV system will be between 2kWp and 4kWp. How much energy will we save? A typical solar PV system in the UK will produce around 850kWh a year for every kwp installed. However, as the energy that isn t used is exported to the grid, energy savings depend on your electricity usage patterns. Solar PV generates electricity throughout the day, so households who have a higher electricity demand during the day make the biggest energy savings. Are there government incentives for solar PV systems? The Feed-In Tariff (FIT) is paid by the Government as an incentive for people to generate their own electricity. This gives a payment for every unit of energy generated. Furthermore it is assumed that half is exported and an extra payment is paid for that portion (whether exported or not). The latest rates can be obtained from tinyurl.com/solarfit.

6 The FIT is guaranteed for 20 years and index linked to inflation from the install date, but FIT rates are falling for new systems that are installed. Therefore it is best to purchase a system sooner rather than later. How much will it cost? A typical 4kWp system should cost between 5,500 and 7,000 including VAT depending on the components used (2015 prices). Is a solar PV system easy to maintain? There is little to no maintenance required for a PV system, although you ll need to make sure trees don t grow tall enough to overshadow the panels and that the panels are kept reasonably clean. It is advised that installations are checked once every 3 years to ensure peak performance. How long will the system be fully functional? The panels should last 25 years or more but output does gradually reduce over time. The only item that may need to be replaced is the inverter at approximately 700 (2015 prices). Most inverters should last at least 10 years. Will I require planning permission? Although planning permission for domestic solar installations is not generally required, there are still occasions when either general planning permission or listed building consents must be sought. We advise you check with your local planning department regarding any planning conditions that might apply. I have decided I want to install a PV system. What should I do now? After reading all the above information and you feel like you are ready to seriously consider installing a solar system you should contact several reputable installers. To

7 ensure your installer is reputable and for you to obtain government incentives, you must verify that they are certified by the two government schemes approved for renewable installations, which are: The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) and The Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC). RECC is approved by the Trading Standards Institute under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). All installer members of the STA are MCS registered and abide by the RECC. You can find local installers on the STA website solar-trade.org.uk/findamember.cfm. MCS and RECC also provide a list of their members at microgenerationcertification.org/consumers/installer-search and recc.org.uk/scheme/members. Photo Sundwell Solar Ltd

8 SOLAR THERMAL What is solar thermal? How does it work? There are two types of solar thermal collectors: flat plates or evacuated tubes. Both types have their pros and cons so speak to your installer to see which are most suitable for you. All collectors absorb solar radiation from the Sun that then heats up a fluid inside the collectors. The solar collectors are in turn connected with insulated pipes to a hot water cylinder so the hot fluid can circulate, transferring heat from the collectors into the cylinder. The solar heated water in the cylinder is then topped up when necessary by a boiler or other heat source, which then has less work to do (so burns less fuel) to get to your desired temperature. The hot water in the cylinder can be used in various ways depending upon the design of the system and total area of collectors installed: Delivered to taps and other hot water outlets (e.g. shower) Delivered to the cold inlet of a compatible combination boiler and then used at the taps as above. Provide a contribution to the heat around the house (radiators or under-floor heating). Is my home suitable for a solar thermal installation? For conventional solar thermal systems, you ll need around 2-4 m 2 of roof space. A solar thermal system requires a hot water cylinder, which stores the hot water for later use, so you will need to install one of these if you do not already have one. Connections also need to be made with the existing heating system. Is it easy to install? Installing a solar thermal system can take from 2-3 days. You should expect some internal and external disruption for installation of collectors and the cylinder. You may be without hot water for a day.

9 Photo Norfolk Solar How much energy will we save? A typical solar thermal system will meet 50-60% of a household s hot water needs, translating to an average saving of 1,500 kwh/year. Larger systems and those contributing to heating the house can save more. The timing of the boiler or other heat source relative to water use is the main factor that determines how much solar energy the system contributes. Financial savings depend on the form of energy or fuel being replaced but typical savings are 120/year when replacing gas and 390/year when replacing electric immersion heating (2015 prices).

10 Are there government incentives for solar thermal systems? The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (drhi) was launched on the 9th April 2014 and for qualifying installations will be paid per unit of energy (kwh) produced. At the time of writing, systems that contribute to heating the home do not qualify for drhi but this is something the Solar Trade Association is working to address. The current RHI rates can be viewed at tinyurl.com/drhi-rates. How much will it cost? The cost of installing a typical solar water heating system is around 4,500 (including VAT), depending on the size and type of the system and components used (2015 prices). Is a solar thermal system easy to maintain? From time to time, you should check whether there are any leaks in the system. It is generally recommended to replace the heat transfer fluid 3-7 years, costing approximately 100. The pump in these systems normally last for over 10 years, and then can be replaced for about 90. How long will the system be fully functional? Once installed, solar thermal systems can operate for 10 or more years without having to change any components, and entire systems can last for up to 25 years. Will I require planning permission? Although planning permission for domestic solar installations is not generally required, there are still occasions when either general planning permission or listed building consents must be sought. We advise you check with your local planning department regarding any planning conditions that might apply.

11 I have decided I want to install a solar thermal system. What should I do now? After reading all the above information and you feel like you are ready to seriously consider installing a solar system you should contact several reputable installers. To ensure your installer is reputable and for you to obtain government incentives, you must verify that they are certified by the two government schemes approved for renewable installations: the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) and Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC). The Code is approved by the Trading Standards Institute under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). All installer members of the STA are MCS registered and abide by the RECC. You can find local installers on the STA website solar-trade.org.uk/findamember.cfm. MCS and RECC also provide a list of their members at microgenerationcertification.org/consumers/installer-search and recc.org.uk/scheme/members. Photo Leonie Greene

12 Further reading There are many places you can go for further information about going solar. The YourRoof website ( is a non-commercial, independent and informative website run by the STA and gives detailed information about solar PV and thermal as well as providing calculators to evaluate your return on investment (ROI). The Energy Saving Trust ( is a charitable body that provides independent advice, including information and advice about solar power and solar thermal. Consumer champions Which? ( have a guide to buying solar panels in their online energy section which you do not need to be a subscriber to access. The Citizens Advice Bureau (tinyurl.com/cabsolar) also has impartial advice for people investing in solar. YouGen ( enables you to see feedback from people who have had solar PV or solar thermal installed and their direct experience of local companies. They also provide practical information and advice. This leaflet has been produced by the Solar Trade Association (STA) on behalf of STA installers. The STA was established in 1978 as a not-for-profit association. The STA is the leading voice for the solar industry in the UK and represents both the solar heating and solar power renewable energy sector groups. By using an installer who is a member of the STA, you can be sure that they will be MCS registered and will abide by the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) which can be seen at The RECC is approved by the Trading Standards Institute under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). This is a mark of the highest consumer protection standards maintained through the Code. Photo Solarsense

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