There’s Money in Your Roof

Do you have perfect pitch and a sunny disposition?

The number of householders installing solar panels is rapidly increasing, according to energy regulator Ofgem; however this may be due as much to interest in the financial rewards as to concerns about green issues.   Not only do you save on your electricity bill, the Government’s feed-in tariffs scheme will actually pay you for all the electricity you generate, plus you can sell any surplus electricity to the National Grid.

  • Solar thermal panels use the sun’s energy to heat hot water.
  • Solar photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s energy into electricity.
  • The systems work even on cloudy days.
  • Harnessing the power of the sun is clean, safe and sustainable and benefits the planet as well as your pocket.
  • A typical photovoltaic system can generate around half  your electricity,  greatly reducing your electricity bills.
  • You receive money from the feed-in tariff scheme for  all the electricity you generate.
  • You will also be paid for any surplus you sell to the grid.

Dunster resident Daphne Wilbrahamis enthusiastic about her experience.

‘I’ve installed both solar thermal panels, for hot water, and photovoltaic panels, which generate electricity,’ explainsDaphne.   ‘My electricity bills are much lower and I’m gaining around £1000 a year from a combination of the feed-in tariff and selling my surplus to the grid.

Since the cost of installing all the panels was around £13,000, my gain on the investment is almost 10% – and it’s tax free.’

The slim black panels on Daphne’s slate roof are unobtrusive, and didn’t require planning permission.  Although you don’t need full sunlight, a south-facing roof is best.  ‘The installers said I had the ideal roof – actually they told me I had perfect pitch and a sunny disposition!  They were quick and efficient, and the process of installation was very easy,’ says Daphne.

Landowners may be interested in renewable energy generation as a new agricultural initiative.  Alert to impending energy shortages, price rises, and CO2 targets, Mole Valley Farmers have been researching the potentials of ‘farming’ energy in terms of the benefits both environmentally and as an agricultural income generator.  They have launched a new division: Mole Valley Renewables, to help you to explore the options, including solar power and small wind turbines.

Meanwhile local group Transition Minehead and Alcombe are promoting an Energy Challenge during Energy Saving Week, October 25th – 31st.  Supported by Minehead Chamber of Trade and working with West Somerset environmental group Forum 21, the Energy Challenge will increase awareness of energy use and renewable technologies and share ideas to help save energy, save money and reduce carbon emissions.  There’ll be a street stall near the Red Cross charity shop in Minehead on October 30th, between 10am and 2pm, where you can find out about the financial help available for renewable energy technologies, book a free energy survey for your home, and take the opportunity to meet people who have installed renewable technology systems.

More in the Feed-in Tariff

Installers are busy fitting photovoltaic panels on local homes. Forum 21 member Charles Birch says itʼs a no-brainer: produce your own electricity and be paid for it – and help to reduce CO2 into the bargain. But thatʼs OK for those people who can afford the upfront cost of around £10,00. What about those who canʼt?  People who have trouble paying their expensive fuel bills arenʼt likely to have this sort of amount available, and yet they are the very people who could benefit most from the scheme. Even more unfair is the fact that the cost of the FIT will be borne by everyone through their electricity bills, while only the fortunate few will reap the benefit.
So itʼs not surprising that some commercial companies, including British Gas, have come up with schemes to help people afford it. A typical scheme offers the householder free installation of the PV panels, thus saving the upfront cost. The company makes its money by taking the income from the FIT:currently 41.3p per kilowatt generated. The householder gets the free electricity, saving perhaps a third of their bill. A reputable company will cover maintenance and insurance costs. And no problem if you move – the scheme transfers to the next householder.
Sounds good. So whatʼs the catch? Well, itʼs been estimated that the
company could be earning £35,000 over the 25 years of the scheme,
an easy and guaranteed income. The householder will be getting much less.
One financial journalist has estimated that if the householder took out a loan to pay for the installation themselves, even at an interest rate of 12% (far higher than it is now), they would be paying an approximate total of £20,000
over the period of the loan, and gain the £35,000 from the FIT. So, much better off. Another no-brainer? Probably yes. But maybe not so good if you move house after a few years.
The previous government was toying with making low interest loans for renewables that would act like a mortgage, to be transferred to a new owner.
This might still happen with the change of government but is by no means certain. Meanwhile, there is a low interest (3%) loan scheme operated in West Somerset by Wessex Home improvement Loans. Available to home owners on low incomes, loan can be used for home maintenance and improvements, including renewables. West Somerset residents can phone the district council
for more information, on 0845 241 7243.

To find out more, come to the next Forum 21 public meeting on October 14th, when the speaker will be Paul Sander Jackson, the director of Wessex Loans. It will be at the Methodist Hall in The Avenue, Minehead at 8pm, after our AGM at 7.30.