Solar panel update

It’s just over a year since our solar panels were fitted so I thought it was time for an update. After a problem getting registered for the FITS payments which meant that we missed out on a month’s worth of the best sunshine of the year we finally started earning some money from the sun.

For several years now I have been taking meter readings on a weekly basis and I have continued to do this since the panels were fitted. This allows me to see how much energy we are using on a weekly basis and to recognise any patterns and anomalies in our energy usage as well as helping us to reduce our energy consumption. The nine panels have performed well and for 23 out of the 59 weeks so far we have produced more energy than we have used from the grid – this is very satisfying and spurs me on to try and find ways of reducing our consumption even more.

One of the interesting things about the panels is the way in which they have changed our habits. Because we are paid for each unit that we generate, whether we use it or feed it into the grid, we have been using energy intensive equipment like the washing machine during the day, especially if the sun is shining. The advantage of this is that we use the energy that is being generated by the panels, we still get paid for generating it, we don’t get paid the extra few pence for feeding it onto the grid but we also don’t use as much energy from the grid thus reducing our bills.

The company that fitted our panels, Solar Europa, have been excellent. I didn’t mention in my original post but we were the first house in the country to be fitted with these individual micro invertors and panels so we were guinea pigs! As a result of our feedback a whole load of improvements have been made to the system making the invertors even more efficient and the monitoring system easier to use. A few weeks ago Solar Europa came out and replaced our original invertors with the latest updated ones free of charge. Their service and levels of communication have been superb!

Are the panels going to pay back in the estimated 9 years? After a false start with the FITS scheme and a poor summer of sun we haven’t earned quite as much money from the panels as we had hoped but my calculations suggest that if every year was as bad as this last one the panels would pay back in about 11 years and this doesn’t include any calculations on the reduction in our electricity bills.

Would I still recommend solar panels even though the FITS payment has been reduced? Most definitely! The panels themselves have dropped in price significantly so although the payback time may be slightly longer they are still an incredibly good investment and help to reduce our dependence on carbon based fuels. If you have a sound roof facing in the right direction and you intend to stay in the same house for the foreseeable future then I would recommend that you investigate Solar PV.

Have there been any problems or issues? The only issue we have had, and I’ve only recently worked out why, our TV reception has not been as good and the reason is that the aerial is in the roof space – the solar panels are in the way reducing the signal. I will have to go crawling in the roof space and relocate the aerial to a corner where the panels don’t interfere!

Am I glad that I got the panels? You bet!

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