Everyone who can do it should do it now
With the urgency of climate change and the collapse of biodiversity, the demand for green energy is high. Considering the sharp and continued rise of energy prices, solar panels prove good value for money in the medium/long term.
An Amersham based sustainability consultant, Christoph Geppert, was invited by Sustainable Amersham to share his recent experience in solar panel installation. Here are what we have learned:
Planning permission and building regulation: solar panel installation may be ‘permitted development’ with no need to apply to the Local Planning Authority for planning permission. To be sure that no future objections are possible, a ‘certificate of lawfulness‘ can be obtained. This is almost the same as a planning application but without the consultation of neighbours and it is cheaper.
When it comes to Building Control it is important to consider all the regulations, for example the structural integrity of the installation, the weather proofing and the required standards of the traders and materials .
Inform Distribution Network Operator, if necessary: Installations above 3.68kWp will need permissions from the Distribution Network Operator.
Notify your home insurance: Make sure your home insurance is valid with solar panel installation.
Inform your neighbours: To keep an amiable relationship, make sure your neighbours are informed, or on board.
Funding: Currently, there are no government grants available. Installing energy efficient systems such as solar panels, heat pumps and insulation are exempt from VAT from April 2022 to 2027.
The solar panels and the installation systems
Solar panel sizes and types: various sizes are available to match your roof size and shape; different types have different performances and aesthetics.
Check your roof size, orientation and tilt and work out the size you need to get the maximum energy.
Installation flavours: An in-roof system was chosen in this instance to create a more integrated look and to not increase the weight load on the roof. This also reduces potential wind lift of solar panels.
Will you have a battery? Solar energy is only available during the day. A battery will help storing that energy, but it has its own sustainability cost.
The equipment and accessories: DC cabling, DC isolator, charge controller, battery (optional), DC/AC inverter, AC isolator. These should all feature in your provider’s quote. You will also need a smart meter gen 2, which needs to be installed by your electricity supplier. The system can work without the smart meter but you will not get paid for the electricity that you feed into the grid.
The traders involved: solar panel manufacturer, installer, roofer and electrician. Using someone who can provide all the work tends to be easier to manage. The supplier GB-sol was chosen in this case because of their high ethical and environmental rating (Ethical Consumer). The company also is the only one that manufactures solar panels in the UK.
Use it: Make sure to run the dishwashers, washing machine etc during the day ! Solar panels may cover, in an average household, ~ 80% of the energy usage. A battery or an electric car helps to achieve this by allowing you to spread out the use of the generated energy.
Sell it: Smart meters will help you to get paid for the extra electricity generated and fed back to the grid. Currently, Smart Export Guarantees (SEG) do not provide a given price, you may get 1.5-7.5 p/kWh.