Weather-obsessed Britons have traditionally sought sunshine by travelling abroad. Now UK householders are intent on catching more than a few rays at home too. Residential solar panel installations have surged this year. Blue skies and booming energy prices get much of the credit.
No wonder. UK power prices tripled year on year through June, according to data from watchdog Ofgem. A retail energy price cap that rises in line with wholesale prices means that homeowners are gazing up at their sun-drenched roof tiles in a whole new way. Solar panelling is back in vogue.
Almost as much solar generation capacity has gone on to UK rooftops — 106 megawatts — in the first half of this year as for all of 2021, according to Lex calculations using UK government data. Our assumptions limit the capacity of residential installations to under four kilowatts.
At this pace, more solar panels will be installed this year than the total of 140MW in 2016 when generous subsidies were available. These payouts had disappeared by early 2019.
Solar panel costs have climbed about 15 per cent since last year, say Solar Energy UK. Expect to pay more than £7,500 for installing panels on an average four-bedroom house. One should break even via power cost savings in about a decade. That assumes the sun shines and power prices do not plummet again. One’s personal carbon footprint should shrink satisfyingly, either way.
Curiously, one may generate less electricity in sweltering heat than on warm days. The optimum temperature for the panels is between 25C and 30C, not the scorching conditions that prevailed earlier in the UK summer. Efficiency drops quickly above this range. Even then, the best solar panels turn less than a quarter of the sun’s rays into power.
Sun worship has taken on a new meaning as homeowners seek to reduce power costs. Until political tensions in Europe ease, solar panel demand should hold firm.
The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. If you have solar panels on your dwelling please tell us in the comments section below whether they were a worthwhile investment.