There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic when it comes to solar power in the UK, despite the reduction in Feed in Tariffs that essentially put a dent in the domestic market. Last year saw some new solar records broken and we are still continuing to invest in major projects around the country, some on a subsidy free basis.
Thanks to some great sunshine in the summer, on the 1st May, the UK got a record 24.3% or 8.7GW of its power purely from its host of solar panel arrays, both domestic and commercial, around the country.
Lower Prices Means Solar is Still a Good Investment
According to Which? the cost of solar panels have come down quite dramatically over the last few years. In 2011, the average cost of a 3.6 to 4 kWp system would have been around £12,000. By the middle of June 2017, that cost was down to just under £6,500 on average.
One of the biggest drivers over the last decade has been lowering prices along with better technology. The Government were providing a healthy Feed in Tariff that meant those homes getting solar PV installed could get a good return on investment by basically selling their excess back to the utility companies and getting a subsidy of about 12 pence for each kWh produced. That was slashed back in 2016, much to the dismay of the industry, but you can still get a FiT of 4 pence if you install today.
While the number of homes that are opting for solar has dropped since 2016, that doesn’t mean installations have stalled completely. The lowering price of solar is making it more attractive and there are some systems out there that you can install for just over £4,000. Expect the market to continue to become more competitive over the next 12 months.
For many homeowners, however, the cost of installation still represents as sizeable investment. While domestic and roof top solar is struggling a little, commercial solar farms are continuing to be built with 640 MW of capacity added in the first quarter of 2017. According to The Solar Power Portal, this had a lot to do with beating the March deadline for accreditation on 4.99 MW installations:
“The rush to connect by 31 March 2017, and subsequently apply for accreditation from Ofgem for 1.2 ROCs, saw an incredible number of solar farms built. Of the 118 solar farms accounting for the ground-mount contribution, 90 of these had capacity in the range 4.5-5 MW.”
The Rise of Subsidy Free Solar
Since the slashing of Feed in Tariffs in the early part of 2016, the solar industry has had to come to grips with the prospect of developing free of any subsidies. Though many see this as a mistake by the Government because it was introduced too early, most understand that this is the end point that the sector needs to reach.
The first subsidy free solar farm on a 45 acre site at Clayhill in Bedfordshire started producing electricity in November 2017. The 30,000 solar panels were installed by Anesco and will deliver enough power for 2.5K homes. According to the company’s executive chairman, Steve Shine:
“For the solar industry, Clayhill is a landmark development and paves the way for a sustainable future, where subsidies are no longer needed or relied upon. Importantly, it proves that the Government’s decision to withdraw subsidies doesn’t have to signal the end of solar as a commercially viable technology.”
While the Government is hailing subsidy free projects like Clayhill, most experts have warned of the need to be cautious. It doesn’t meant that the solar industry is up and running on its own two feet yet – that may well come. For the moment, it’s a case of so far so good but we shouldn’t get carried away.
Some good news is that Next Energy Solar Fund is investing in four more subsidy free solar projects that should come to fruition in the coming year.
Improvements to Solar Storage
Like waiting for the next Star Wars movie to come out, those in the industry are anticipating great things with solar storage over the next 12 to 18 months. There are already a number of different models of batteries for solar panels on the marketing, including Tesla’s Powerwall, but we haven’t yet reached the tipping point where storage becomes the norm rather than the exception.
So, when is it really going to take off and bed in? While some providers are introducing solar batteries to their clients across the UK, including many home owners, others are staying at arm’s length as they wait for the cost to come down and the technology to improve.
Realistically, there are still a lot of questions to answer when it comes to battery storage. One issue is how you integrate different products from different providers. This may mean that towards the end of 2018 we may start finding many installers using more integrated approaches and incorporating software that makes this easier. What really needs to happen though is an increase in customer awareness and a greater uptake of storage systems and that can only happen once the price comes down. This may be happening a little slower in the UK than in the rest of the world but the signs are good.
As with any investment, if you are thinking about having solar panels installed in your home then it pays to shop around. You can now search for installers in your area using our comprehensive database. We always advise to get at least three different quotes and to do as much research as you can.
V3Solar has developed a new solar technology that the company claims could be cheaper than coal. Using cones and 'spin cells' the units manage heat whilst maximising the use of the suns rays. Other technologies are due to break onto the market this year that promise to increase electrical yield whilst minimising cost and space.
Find out more about solar panel installation here.