Solar panels

Solar Electricity Systems

Solar Panels

Solar electricity systems capture the sun's energy using photovoltaic (PV) cells. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run household appliances and lighting. PV cells don't need direct sunlight to work - you can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day.


Benefits of Solar Electricity Systems

Sunlight is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation your electricity costs will be greatly reduced. A typical home PV system can produce around 40% of the electricity a household uses in a year. If your system is producing more electricity than you need, or when you can't use it, someone else can use it - and you could make a bit of money through the Feed-in Tariff.

What is the Feed-in Tariff scheme?

Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) became available in Great Britain on 1st April 2010. Under this scheme energy suppliers have to make regular payments to householders and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources such as wind turbines.

The scheme guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity generated by the system, as well as a separate payment for the electricity exported to grid. These payments are in addition to the bill savings made by using the electricity generated on-site.

If you are eligible to receive the FIT then you will benefit in 3 ways:

1. Generation tariff – a set rate paid by the energy supplier for each unit (or kWh) of electricity you generate. This rate will change each year for new entrants to the scheme (except for the first 2 years), but once you join you will continue on the same tariff for 20 years, or 25 years in the case of solar electricity (PV).
2. Export tariff - you will receive a further 3p/kWh from your energy supplier for each unit you export back to the electricity grid, that is when it isn’t used on site. The export rate is the same for all technologies.
3. Energy bill savings – you will be making savings on your electricity bills, because generating electricity to power your appliances means you don’t have to buy as much electricity from your energy supplier. The amount you save will vary depending how much of the electricity you use on site.

Visit the Energy Saving Trust to see how much you may be able to earn.

Costs and Savings

Costs for installing a solar electricity system vary a lot - an average system (2.2kW) costs around £12,000 (including VAT at 5%). Per kW, solar electricity systems can cost in the region of £4,500 to £8,000 per kW, but costs per kW should reduce as system size increases.

In general: the more electricity the system can generate, the more it costs but the more it could save, solar tiles cost more than conventional panels, panels built into a roof are more expensive than those that sit on top but, if you need major roof repairs, PV tiles can offset the cost of roof tiles.

Savings can be considerable - around 1 tonne of CO2 a year. A 2.2 kWp system can generate around 40% of a household's yearly electricity needs. If the system is eligible to receive the Feed In Tariff it could generate savings and income of around £900 per year.

Maintenance is generally small - you'll need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don't begin to overshadow them.

Grants and Discounts

Installing an energy efficient measure in your home may not cost as much as you think. You may be eligible for a grant or discount to cover the costs of your installation. To find the right offer for you search the Energy Saving Trust's Grants and Discounts Database. The tool is easy to use and only takes 5 minutes to complete.


To find out if Solar Electricity Systems are suitable for your home visit the Home Energy Generation Selector tool.

For further information on Solar Electricity Systems Contact:
Energy Savings Trust Advice Centre: 0800 512 012