Solar PV installations are ideal for residential installations because they generate clean, renewable power that can earn their owners export income whilst lowering their overall electrical usage through on-site generation. Whilst the Feed-In-Tariffs (FITs) have been reduced the price of solar PV system components such as the photovoltaic cells and solar inverters have also falled allowing home owners to look at solar PV installations ranging from £5,000 to £7,500 on average.
The greatest and most powerful stimulant to solar for the residential domestic market was the introduction by the UK Government in 2010 of the FITs (Feed-in Tariff) scheme, which enabled residential energy consumers to connect to the National Grid, via their energy supplier and PV system and receive financial subsidies for the electricity they produce alongside significant savings on their annual electricity bill.
Other financial incentives for solar for residential are that a new and professionally installed PV system can add value to a property, which in a down-turning property market is an attractive proposition. Irrespective of increasing property values, estimates suggest that a residential PV solar system will pay for itself within 8-12 years, after which the electricity it supplies will be free or extremely cheap for the next 20 years (the full lifetime of most solar PV installations is around 30 years).
A solar for residential PV system is made of modules, which are typically around 1m x 1.5m. These are connected in what is termed an array and this forms the full solar PV installation. Solar PV arrays today can be designed to accommodate virtually any size and shape of roof. Ideally, to achieve maximum performance from the system, the roof will be south facing and tilting to 30-50degree from horizontal. PV panels can be mounted vertically (on a side wall for example) and horizontally, if required, although performance may be compromised in these positions. Solar electricity does not necessarily require direct sunlight. A system can still generate electricity on cloudy days but not as much.
Typically, UK installations are around 14-15 square metres. A 22kWp (kilowatt peak) system may comprise 12 panels, utilising an area of 15 square metres and generating 1,800kWh (kilowatt hours) per annum. The average home, however, uses more than this (around 4,000kWh) so a PV supply often needs to be subsidised by supply from the national grid via a utility company.
Under the FITs scheme, renewable power system owners can get paid for the electricity you generate with your solar PV system. The scheme guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity generated (generation tariff) alongside additional payments for electricity exported to the grid (export tariff). These payments are in addition to the bill savings made by using the electricity generated onsite. Payments from the scheme vary (depending upon system size and when it was installed but they are index linked and guaranteed for 25 years. You are unlikely to require planning permission for PV installations for most residential properties in the UK but your installer must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) for you to be eligible for FITs payments.