How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in the UK?

Solar panels cost from £2,500 to £3,500 per kW to purchase and install. The average family home will require at least a 2 kW system for all their energy needs

Solar Panels Cost

In the past, cost and climate have prevented the UK using solar power on a large scale. Recent years have seen a greater focus on the need for green energy; the greater affordability of solar technology, as breakthroughs in technology and improvements in manufacturing are helping to bring costs down, and government incentives to make solar energy more affordable and even profitable. These factors are changing that trend and solar technology is a growing industry in the UK.

It’s not possible to know with any certainty which are the top sellers for any particular size system this is because a system is made up of many components that can be re-arranged to build different sizes. For instance, in order to get a 1kw system on a small area 5 panels x 200W may be used. If it seems a better proposition to spread the panels over a larger area, 8 panels x 125W may work better. These decisions are unique to the household requirements and can only be accurately calculated once the property and location are assessed.

Romag SMT6 Series

Romag is a UK based PV manufacturer and their SMT6 Series Modules were the first to achieve BSI Kite mark for MCS accreditation. They offer eight standard PV kits from 1.2kw to 4.0kw all fitting into the highest Feed In Tariff for retrofit installations.

Sanyo HIP – 215/210/205 NKHE5

Sanyo’s HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) modules offer one of the highest conversion efficiencies in the world and are MCS certified.

System Size Suitability

The Ofgem estimate for the amount of kWh (units) of electricity used by a UK household is, on average, 3,300. Clearly, this covers a wide range of household sizes and the unique situations of their occupants. Suitable roof space available and the homeowner’s budget will also affect the size of system that is suitable.

A person living alone is expected to use around 3,000 kWh per annum and a 2kw system may be sufficient. The property may be quite small with suitable roof space of only 8m2, in which case the homeowner may need to look at a 1kw system.

A 2-3kw system would be suitable for a working couple who could expect to use around 4,000kwh per annum. Their roof area would need to be between 14 – 21m2.

An average family with a couple of children will see their consumption change over time depending on the age of the children and if one parent is at home all day or the children are at school and both parents at work. They should expect to use between 5,500 to 6,500 kWh per annum and should look to installing a 4kw system if possible. For this they will need about 28m2 of roof space available to house the panels.

Additional Costs

Roof-mounted solar modules have no moving parts, which generally keeps outlay to a minimum but there are some costs that should be considered that may not be obvious at the outset.

Maintenance

Solar panels are designed to withstand climate changes including heavy snow, frost and wind and continue to function properly. However, some maintenance is required to keep them performing to their maximum capabilities, which is all-important to benefit from the free energy generated and especially to earn the most from the Feed In Tariff.

There are several ways to keep solar panels clean and at peak performance. You could do it yourself if access is easy enough. If that’s not an option, your regular window cleaning company may be able to help. As solar panels and telescopic cleaning equipment are becoming more popular, many window cleaners are adding solar panel maintenance to their list of services. Your installer may also offer this service and it’s even possible to install an automated cleaning system.

Insurance

You will need to include your solar system on your house insurance policy and this may make a difference to the current payments.

Planning Permission

In the vast majority of instances, planning permission for installing solar panels on your property is not required. The exception is for properties within conservation areas and National Heritage sites. You should always check before proceeding and most installers will offer to deal with this on your behalf. If planning permission is required there is usually a fee to be paid on application.

Calculating The Cost of Your Solar Panels

The real cost of your solar panel system can be calculated by considering the initial outlay of your system in respect to what return you will make from being grid-tied and qualifying for the Feed In Tariff and factoring in any hidden costs.

The initial outlay comes in two main parts
1. The cost of the system – To decide on the size and type of system required you need to know the amount of electricity units (kWh) are being consumed by your household per annum so you can make sure that the system chosen will meet your household needs. You will also need to know the size in square metres of your roof.
2. The cost of the installation- installers charge different prices for their installation services and it’s important to ensure they are MCs accredited to qualify for the Feed In Tariff. The best way to judge is to get several quotes and compare.

When you get your quotes back you may see quite a difference in them and wonder if the most expensive ones have made a mistake or trying to rip you off. Usually neither is the case and they’re all trying hard to give you the best deal they can and win your custom.

Take this example:

table4 How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in the UK?

In both cases 15 panels will be used on an area of 15 square metres but Brand X solar system costs £11,500 and Brand XX is charging £500 more. However, the most expensive system is producing more kWh over the first year than the competitor meaning that cost to you of every unit produced is less. Therefore, in this example, the more expensive quote is offering the greater value.

Offsetting The Cost

Although the initial outlay for solar panel systems is high, it can be offset against the earnings and savings to be made from the government’s feed in tariff scheme, especially if you take action now and get your installation in before December 2011. The tariff is government backed and guaranteed for 25 years. Once you’ve recuperated your initial investment, which usually takes between 8 and 10 years, you will continue to make a generous income from the tariff as well as additional savings on your electricity bill. If you view it as providing you with a return of around 9%, you can see it’s more of an investment than a cost.

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