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The Great 'Get Paid To Generate Energy' Hunt

edited 20 April 2010 at 9:21PM in Green & Ethical MoneySaving
651 replies 108.3K views
MSE_ArchnaMSE_Archna Senior ResearcherFormer MSE
1.9K posts
MSE Staff
edited 20 April 2010 at 9:21PM in Green & Ethical MoneySaving
On 1 April new feed-in tariffs were introduced. These tariffs are payments to normal households for generating their own renewable electricity.

The new tariffs are being massively subsidised by the Government, meaning it's now a more feasible way to cut your energy bill and make cash.

So we thought we'd tap MoneySavers' collective knowledge on how best to maximise this. Whether it's deciding if wind turbines or solar panels are best or general tips and tricks on buying an accredited system we want to know if the scheme will work for you and how you're making it work.

  • Which is the best system to go for and how did you decide? Eg solar, wind turbine, hydroepectricity etc...
  • What size system is best?
  • What should you watch for when buying your system, eg warranty, degradation rates of panels..
  • At the moment, the big suppliers offer the same export and generation rates (though competition may change this when the scheme is more established), but what extras do you get from your supplier? Eg did you get a free export meter?
  • What if you have an old system - what's the best way to upgrade it so you can get the higher feed in rates?
For more details of how the feed in tariffs work read more about the Clean Energy Cashback Scheme on EnergySavingTrust.

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  • edited 20 April 2010 at 11:40AM
    shaven-monkeyshaven-monkey Forumite
    651 posts
    edited 20 April 2010 at 11:40AM
    I looked into a variety of alt energy a year or so back.
    Wind generation is pretty much pointless in an urban or suburban area unless you're in a tower block and can put the turbine on the roof or your property is on the crest of a hill with no nearby trees.

    Solar PV is probably the best bet for generating but there are new technologies in the pipeline for cheaper mass production flexible solar panels which should hit the market within a few years. That said, as long as you've got the south facing roof space for a panel or two and the capital to invest, it may be worthwhile to fit now.

    Hydro power is expensive, the equipment isn't too bad but you need permission to divert water.
    Taken from http://www.sustainablestuff.co.uk/GenerateYourOwnHydroEnergy.html
    You will have to obtain an extraction licence from the Environment Agency ( ext,[URL="http://www.sepa.org.uk:Scottish"]www.sepa.org.uk:Scottish[/URL] Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland) to divert water from a water course (even if the water is returned) and this will specify how much water may be diverted and when.

    The Environment Agency are responsible for all water courses in England and Wales and will take into account the environmental impact particularly in times of low rainfall on fisheries. However they usually look favourably on renewable energy projects.

    As well as this you will probably also require planning permission to erect a building to house the turbine especially if the project is in a National Park, AONB or Conservation Area.
    "Gold is the money of kings; silver is the money of gentlemen; barter is the money of peasants; but debt is the money of slaves." - Norm Franz
  • correction "The new tariffs are being massively subsidised by the Government"

    The new tariffs are subsided by energy customers in there bills

    The more affluent are more likely to burn more carbon and also likely to be the ones who can afford to buy solar panels
  • edited 23 April 2010 at 12:50PM
    CardewCardew Forumite
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    edited 23 April 2010 at 12:50PM
    Firstly for most people Wind generation is not a viable proposition. Also some people seem to confuse Solar thermal with Solar PV.

    Solar thermal only produces hot water and is a joke in money saving terms - spend £thousands to save £tens. It also has a well deserved reputation for being sold by corrupt firms/salesmen as many 'Watchdog' type programmes have exposed and perusal of Trading Standards office reports will confirm.

    Solar PV is electricity generation and benefits from the recently introduced Feed in Tariffs(FIT); however as stated above they are hardly paid for by the Government. A levy on all our bills will pay for FITs. If, say, £10 billion is eventually paid out annually in subsidies, we pay!

    The pros and cons of PV electricity generation with the (FIT) are discussed in this thread:

    http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=2244389

    A couple of points.

    1. Beware of salesmen talking in terms of 8% return on your investment. The logic behind 'investment' returns is discussed in the above thread. However the important principle is that putting, say £10k in a savings account and getting x% compounded interest, with your interest and capital always available, is very different to buying a system for £10k which gives you an income of y%.

    2. It is not possible to 'upgrade' an old system to get the new higher FITs.

    3. Whilst the FITs have made PV far more attractive, it is still a very long term investment and even the most enthusiastic solar advocate will not expect to show a 'profit' in less than 10 years.

    4. As we have no choice but to use an accredited installer if we want to get FITs, it would be desirable to have Ofgem exercise some regulation over these firms regarding prices and system guarantees(whilst panels have a very long warranty - the system is normally only 2 years)
  • LokoloLokolo Forumite
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    Solar PV is probably the best bet for generating but there are new technologies in the pipeline for cheaper mass production flexible solar panels which should hit the market within a few years. That said, as long as you've got the south facing roof space for a panel or two and the capital to invest, it may be worthwhile to fit now.

    Have you got a link to that? I'd be quite interested to read!
  • http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050727064058.htm

    http://www.pvpower.com/flexiblephotovoltaic.html

    products being sold at the moment
    http://products.bigfrogmountain.com/shop/home.php?cat=357

    They're a relatively new technology so prices are high and capacities are low as folk try to work out how to squeeze maximum dollar from them. As production methods improve the prices will drop, hopefully.
    "Gold is the money of kings; silver is the money of gentlemen; barter is the money of peasants; but debt is the money of slaves." - Norm Franz
  • Doc_NDoc_N Forumite
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    I have a £17,500 quotation for a 4 kWp solar PV system with 22 Mitsubishi panels. That's from a small local company with a proven track record.

    A quote from e.on has yet to arrive, almost a month after contacting them, and I'm still waiting for Tesco even to manage to send out a surveyor, nearly three weeks after contacting them.

    Tesco and e.on have proved so inefficient in the quotation process that I'm very unlikely to use them unless they come up with dramatically lower figures than £17,500 (which I doubt).

    What sort of quotations are other people getting for 4 kWp systems (the efffective maximum, given the Feed in Tariff limits)?
  • edited 21 April 2010 at 8:53AM
    Bungle1976Bungle1976 Forumite
    9 posts
    edited 21 April 2010 at 8:53AM
    Cardew wrote: »
    Solar thermal only produces hot water and is a joke in money saving terms - spend £thousands to save £tens. It also has a well deserved reputation for being sold by corrupt firms/salesmen as many 'Watchdog' type programmes have exposed and perusal of Trading Standards office reports will confirm.

    I started looking into solar thermal a couple of years ago, I found that there are a LOT of cowboys out there (one of the salesmen openly told me that he used to sell double glazing). I contacted all the people who put leaflets through my letterbox and a number of on-line companies. Virtually none of them would give me an estimate over the phone even though I knew exactly what I needed and was happy that when they sent out their "surveyor" (or high pressure salesman as they actually are) that the price may change if I had missed something. When these people turned up I was getting quotes of between £8k and £10k which is frankly outrageous and would support Cardew's statement above.

    However, after I had pretty much given up realising that the payback was far too long, a couple of smaller firms responded to me. The quotes were somewhat more reasonable (and they were happy to estimate over the phone). They were estimating payback in about 10 years and the figures they were quoting supported that (the payback with the earlier quotes would have been 20 years at best).

    I did end up getting a system fitted, and I have to say that from April to September last year I only turned the hot water on three times (on those occaisions I had people staying who were doing voluntary work on canals so the shower was being used a lot). Other than that the solar did all my hot water. Obviously there are swings and roundabouts (cloudy/wet summers won;t be as good as sunny ones obviously!) but I reckon if anything 10 years will be PESSIMISTIC with what I have, the calculations I did after 12 months show I will get payback after about 8 years :j

    I did have a couple of other considerations, for around the same cost I could have swapped my hideously inefficient back boiler for a modern condensing one. But British Gas reckoned the payback for that would have been 14 years based on my useage (not including the much higher maintenance costs for a condensing boiler, there isn't much to fail on my old Baxi Bermuda!).

    So I would say solar thermal is not neccersarily a joke, depending on your circumstances and the company you use to do the work, it can be a sensible thing to do (it certainly was in my case). If you have the time, skills and confidence to do it yourself (time was the issue for me) then payback will be even quicker, even though you won't get the grant for using an accredited supplier.

    I am about to start doing the maths on solar electric and possibly swapping the back boiler under the boiler scrappage scheme to an air source heat pump. This may sound like I am a long haired hippy "greenie", I am not especially (though obviously green issues are a consideration). I am an engineer, I do the sums and if it adds up to being a good use of my money I do it.

    P.S. Just realised this is somewhat off topic for feed in tariffs, sorry
  • jondarojondaro Forumite
    7 posts
    Cardew wrote: »


    A couple of points.

    3. Whilst the FITs have made PV far more attractive, it is still a very long term investment and even the most enthusiastic solar advocate will not expect to show a 'profit' in less than 10 years. Totally agree at the moment, but the 'return' is based on capital, i.e what it produces as income versus what it costs to install & run; herein lies the big issue; Because the 'return' is pretty simple to calculate based on average income from generating, the known FIT values etc, it is simple for providers of the panels & installation packages to set prices which offer this supposed 8-10% return, and in the current financial climate they are possibly attractive to some, however this is in fact a complete rip-off as the industry is operating a cartel; see below re installers; If you source the components seperately, the combined cost is for a 2.2KpW system between 30-50% lower than buying in a package BUT try finding an MSC installer to meet the FIT compliance requirement and it is a 100% brickwall of no-one willing to step outside the complete package only cartel. Totally agree some form of robust ombudsman is required to ensure this gets sorted, otherwise the required uptake will never even begin.

    4. As we have no choice but to use an accredited installer if we want to get FITs, it would be desirable to have Ofgem exercise some regulation over these firms regarding prices and system guarantees(whilst panels have a very long warranty - the system is normally only 2 years)


    Second point around the capital cost is, where are the much trumpeted low/nil interest capital loans? Currently the biggest single blocker to uptake is the prohibitive initial capital outlay, irrespective of the actual return available; This is where the real uptake will come from, by being clever in offering complete financed packages, at realistic capital costs only then will the massive uptake begin; What will follow could then be the much desired tens/hundreds of thousands of jobs directly linked to renewables. Crikey if we can bail out the banks as we have, just think what £50-100 million to provide subsidised loans would generate!!!
    If Government or the traditional finance sector aren't interested, come on you green entrepreneurs & philanthrapists!



    Big fan of renewables but thwarted beyond belief!

    Jondaro
  • CardewCardew Forumite
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    Bungle1976 wrote: »
    I started looking into solar thermal a couple of years ago, I found that there are a LOT of cowboys out there (one of the salesmen openly told me that he used to sell double glazing). I contacted all the people who put leaflets through my letterbox and a number of on-line companies. Virtually none of them would give me an estimate over the phone even though I knew exactly what I needed and was happy that when they sent out their "surveyor" (or high pressure salesman as they actually are) that the price may change if I had missed something. When these people turned up I was getting quotes of between £8k and £10k which is frankly outrageous and would support Cardew's statement above.

    However, after I had pretty much given up realising that the payback was far too long, a couple of smaller firms responded to me. The quotes were somewhat more reasonable (and they were happy to estimate over the phone). They were estimating payback in about 10 years and the figures they were quoting supported that (the payback with the earlier quotes would have been 20 years at best).

    I did end up getting a system fitted, and I have to say that from April to September last year I only turned the hot water on three times (on those occaisions I had people staying who were doing voluntary work on canals so the shower was being used a lot). Other than that the solar did all my hot water. Obviously there are swings and roundabouts (cloudy/wet summers won;t be as good as sunny ones obviously!) but I reckon if anything 10 years will be PESSIMISTIC with what I have, the calculations I did after 12 months show I will get payback after about 8 years :j

    I did have a couple of other considerations, for around the same cost I could have swapped my hideously inefficient back boiler for a modern condensing one. But British Gas reckoned the payback for that would have been 14 years based on my useage (not including the much higher maintenance costs for a condensing boiler, there isn't much to fail on my old Baxi Bermuda!).

    So I would say solar thermal is not neccersarily a joke, depending on your circumstances and the company you use to do the work, it can be a sensible thing to do (it certainly was in my case). If you have the time, skills and confidence to do it yourself (time was the issue for me) then payback will be even quicker, even though you won't get the grant for using an accredited supplier.

    There are other threads on this subject but I really can't let that go unchallenged.

    The Government commissioned tests on 8 solar thermal systems(link in other thread) carried out in southern England, and the average annual output was 1,000kWh.

    Ring some of the more responsible firms and ask the question and they will also grudgingly admit the 1,000kWh is about par.(most of this in summer)

    Now 1,000kWh per year will save you between £25 and £50 a year if you have gas and depending on the efficiency of your boiler.

    Even with the most expensive method of heating water i.e. daytime electricity you will save £100 a year.

    Now you haven't said how much your installation cost but £2000 to £3000 is about par for good firms.

    So on what basis can you calculate the sort of payback times in your post?

    Bear in mind that £2000 to £ 3000 invested in a long term bank account will produce £80 to £120 per year.

    So please let us see the calculations you made.
  • m-s-m_2m-s-m_2 Forumite
    6 posts
    Just a couple of points about solar PV:

    The thin-film panels are cheaper but reliability is an unknown at the moment. They generally aren't suitable for household roofs as they have lower efficiency than silicon panels (typically 6% vs. ~15%), so need more space.

    Good quality silicon-based panels should come with a 20-25 year warranty.

    When doing the calculations (I have a spreadsheet but it doesn't look like I can post attachments) remember that you will need at least one new inverter during the life of the system, costing roughly £1000 (depending on system size etc). IIRC the current market leaders are SMA and Fronius, both of which should come with a decent warranty. However, the life of the inverter is still only likely to be around 10 years.

    That said, it is possible to get a decent return on the technology, assuming you have a south-facing roof with no shading. There are a number of on-line calculators that will calculate output based on location and roof angle, however a typical load factor for silicon panels is 10%, so you'd expect 876kWh/year per kW of PV installed.
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