Solar Panels on Every Rooftop: Is the Future Micro?

According to Business Green almost half a million of us now have solar panels installed on our roof tops with more to come over the next year as domestic homes and businesses try to take advantage of the Feed in Tariff benefits of this particular renewable energy. According to Leonie Green from the Solar Trade Association: “A quiet solar revolution has been taking place led by half a million everyday households. Polls show over and over that the public back renewables and they have indeed put their hands in their pockets to prove it.”

The rise in demand may well mean that the industry could meet its ambitious target of the million installation mark by the end of 2015. And other industry insiders and renewables advocates are beginning to speculate what the UK would be like if every roof top generated its own electricity supply with solar panels.

The price of solar panels has come down over recent years with better technology being developed and ever more competition within the industry. Factor in the government’s Feed in Tariff, where home owners and businesses can earn revenue back from their installations, and you have a recipe for greater and ever faster growth.

The Future of Solar Farms

It’s not the only way we are currently getting our energy from solar panels. Just before Christmas the UK’s largest solar farm in Oxfordshire was connected to the grid, providing valuable power for some 14,000 homes. Whilst the 46MW Landmead site is built on what is termed low grade farming land, there have been recent objections to large scale solar farms precisely because they are using up valuable agricultural space. Solar farm developments have also had more than their fair share of detractors who don’t want to see huge installations built in their neck of the woods. Indeed, in recent times a growing number of projects have been refused planning permission on this basis.

The government has said that it would prefer to see more solar panel installations on roof tops rather than devoting a large number of finite subsidies to the building of more solar farms. With a reduction in subsidies and the fact that roof mounted installations are getting more from the Feed in Tariff than ground ones, over the next few years we could see an increase in the larger kinds of solar panel installations on buildings such as supermarkets and factories.

Solar Panels on Every Roof in the UK

Assuming we are going to move away from large scale solar farms, the question is if an increasingly micro approach could provide a substantial part of the energy we need from the sun. In San Francisco they are considering legislation that would see every new build obligated to have solar panels. Not only that, there are moves to get existing buildings in the city to install them too. According to David Chiu from the city’s Board of Supervisors it’s something that is eminently doable: “If you ever go to the top of a tall building in San Francisco and look down, you see the potential for sustainability on every single roof in the city.

The plan is ambitious and would require a hefty supply of government money to encourage homeowners and businesses in the city to have the panels installed but it is hoped that this will be in place in the near future with many installations could be up and running by the target date of 2020.

In Europe, Germany is undertaking a major push on solar energy and, here in the UK, the Imperial College in London has estimated that we could be producing around 40% of our electricity from solar if the rise in installations for domestic and business purposes continues to grow significantly. They believe that almost 10 million homes would need to take on panels if we are to reach this milestone by the end of the decade, and that, as with the San Francisco project, would need significant input from the government.

Installing Solar Panels

It’s becoming increasingly easy to get solar panels installed with a larger pool of providers out there which is driving the prices down. Whilst many home owners may well prefer to pay for the installation themselves and then benefit from the Feed in Tariff there are also schemes being offered where panels can be put in for free.

Compared to other renewable energy technologies, solar panels are becoming popular because it is easier to work out the return on investment. For a medium sized 2.5 kW array you could be expected to pay out around £5,000 and would probably get savings and a reduction in energy bills that amount to around £800 a year, meaning you begin seeing a profitable return on your investment within 6 or 7 years. The other beneficial part of installing solar panels is that they are also fairly low maintenance and you should expect your array to last in the region of 20-25 years.

Whilst it may be a pipe dream to think that most of us in the future will have some kind of solar panel array on our rooftop, particularly within the next 10 to 15 years, there’s no doubt that more and more of us are turning to this easy to install and valuable source of renewable energy as time goes on.

Find out more about solar panels here.

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