How to Get Free Solar Panels & Are They Worth It?
How can I get free solar panels?
Free solar panels have been available to home owners provided energy suppliers in return for a solar share of the energy produced. This has arisen due to the government scheme 'feed in tariff' or FIT as it is more commonly known. This scheme pays solar panel owners 41.3p per unit of electricity generated, even if used in your home. It adds a bonus of 3p per unit for any electricity returned to the grid. This equates to around £800 a year cashback over a whole year. Under normal circumstances, the homeowner would receive this cashback but, in return for free solar panels, the green energy company takes this payment. The scheme allows the companies to give away solar panel systems, which they usually sell for around £12,000, for free and still make money. The homeowner can use the electricity during sunlight hours at no cost.
Who can apply?
The scheme is open to all but companies may have specific requirements on the size and type of your roof as well as whether it is south or north facing. It's best to check with the individual energy company for full terms and conditions.
Are there any drawbacks?
The companies make money and the
homeowners get free solar panels and reduced electricity bills. However, it is not all positive news. Any electricity that is not used during sunlight hours cannot be stored and is returned to the grid. Most companies also make you sign a contract agreeing to keep the panels for around 25 years. Whilst homeowners will not have to insure or maintain the panels this is still a considerably lengthy agreement to enter into. Should you wish to sell your home the panels would have to stay, so you are relying on potential buyers accepting the scheme. It is also estimated that homeowners only save around £100 a year on their electricity bills so many may question whether the whole process is worthwhile.
So, is it worth it?
It is worth noting that if you could afford to buy and install the solar panels yourself, you would receive cheaper electricity bills and get paid for all the energy created. The government have promised the scheme will run for at least 25 years and prices will rise with inflation and are tax-free. In total, over the 25 years, you stand to make £23,000, a profit of £11,000. In comparison, a homeowner who received free panels would only save around £2,500 in electricity bills in the same 25 year period.
So, in conclusion, whilst clearly not as financially rewarding as buying panels, free panels do offer reduced bills and the chance to do your bit for the environment.