By Martyn Witt

The current austerity measures and disruptive economic conditions may deter investment, however solar panels may well be seen as the optional ISA. Those thinking of investing will also be encouraged by a 6 to 9% tax free return. The solar energy ideal has been embraced with renewed enthusiasm in the UK post introduction of the feed in tariff scheme within 2010. Any individual or business who commits to a solar panel installation whether it be in an office, school, business, hospital or home will benefit from a preferred tariff of 41.3p a unit Surplus solar energy produced by any type of solar energy installation can be given up to the UK Grid for an additional 3p allowance.

As a pe-cursor to the feed in tariff introduction to homeowners costs were viewed as taking years to see back but that solar energy technology was available to each and every consumer. The perception has now changed and the inducements encourage a big difference, solar pv panels are now acknowledged as an ethical investment.

The UK has been seen as being somewhat slow and faltering in embracing renewable energy. The country leading the way in respect of renewable energy is Germany. Germany employs 250,000 confirming it’s commitment to renewable energy along with associated manufacturing exported worldwide. Those countries that have tried to keep pace with the German’s achievements are Portugal, Austria and Spain. The government in Spain was seen to disregard the plight of the tax payer as the tariffs were reduced due to the recession. The renewable energy market within the country has not run smoothly. The incentives on offer from the Spanish government ensured the rapid development of large scale installations. The government established a target of 2010 but these were achieved in 2007.


With the recession still seemingly in full swing it was also feared that the UK government would peg back its feed-in-tariffs offered. These concerns though were unfounded as a review is scheduled for 2012. The first 9 months of the scheme saw 18,455 installations; PV solar panels made up 93 percent and hydro generators and wind power made up the balance.

The benefit and uniqueness of Solar photovoltaic panels is endless as any individual wherever they are in the world can harness this free source of energy. Improvements to solar panels has seen improved efficiency in how they convert even on a day predominated by cloud. The overriding precept though persists that a southerly facing roof is ideal. The panel also should not be concealed by trees or other extraneous objects.

For homeowners fortunate enough to have other space available solar panels need not be restricted to the roof area. A frames over pergolas have been manufactured to accommodate panels. Though some concerns over aesthetics remain. There seems a predominant uneasiness about the impending presence of solar panels but once installed are typically welcomed. You do not need planning permission from the local authority but there are obvious restrictions within a conservation area.

The largest obstacle though is still seen as installation cost. Numerous home owners will see installation costs of around 10k to 20k. The highest production permissible, within the feed in tariff scheme, can be met by the high end pv panels producing around 3.8kw an hour. Well worth remembering is that earnings are tax free and existing returns surpass ISA’s at 6%.

However taking younger families on lower incomes unlikely to have this type of funding there is the rent a roof scheme and/or to make solar panels themselves. Consumers can benefit by lower cost electricity but will see nothing on the feed-in tariffs; all profit is secured by the installing company. On average companies within the rent a roof sector require a minimum roof space of 30 sq metres.

Some critics have questioned the credence of the rent-a-roof contract and that homeowners may only see back around 100 each year. Grants though have helped to encourage pv panel manufaturers to reduce their costs. China’s entry into the market has also helped to bring down the price of solar panel components. Looking at the wider picture the populace must acknowledge that traditional energy costs continue to soar. Domestic generation of power must be expanded and encouraged as relying on imports remains impractical. Currently the feed in tariff programme within the UK remains tiny. However the financial inducements now available from the UK government will hopefully encourage more individuals to install.

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