What is the difference between Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and Solar Thermal?
Solar Thermal uses the Sun’s radiation to produce hot water. Solar Thermal collectors (panels) are usually mounted on roof areas and connected to a hot water storage tank by a pumped circuit. The hot water generated by a Solar Thermal installation can only really be used at the location where they are installed and cannot realistically be exported.
Solar Photovoltaic panels use daylight to generate electricity. Generally, the brighter the daylight then the more electricity that can be generated from each panel. The electricity is then either used at the location where it is generated or exported into the National Grid.
Do I Need Planning Permission To Install A PV System?
Most roof and some ground mounted systems with an output up to 4kWp can be installed under Permitted Development. However, there are some restrictions and it is essential that you contact your Local Authority Planning Department to clarify before commencing work. Larger roof mounted systems also generally qualify for Permitted Development whilst most ground mounted systems require a full Planning Application. If your system is over 50kW you will need either a Certificate of Lawful Development or Local Authority Planning approval to qualify for OFGEM accreditation.
What Happens To The Electricity I Generate Which I Don’t Use?
Your Solar PV installation is connected to the National Grid through your existing home or business metered connection. When your system is generating less electricity than you need then you will be using your own generated electricity and importing the shortfall from the National Grid. When your system is generating more electricity than you need, then the surplus is exported back to the National Grid and you will receive a financial return for this amount depending on the size of your system and the type of contract you have with your electricity supplier or PPA provider.
Can I Install Solar PV On My House If I Have A Mortgage?
As a condition of your mortgage, your mortgage provider generally has "title” over the property as security for the loan. The "small print” in your mortgage contract will normally refer to your responsibility to keep the property in good repair, and to notify the lender, and perhaps request their permission if you intend to structurally alter the property in any way. Whilst some mortgage providers may only require written assurances that the Solar PV installation is being undertaken by fully accredited installers using approved products, others may be more specific in their requirements.
If you intend to enter into an agreement with a Solar PV company to effectively "rent” your roof area on which they mount their panels and pay you a fee then the situation with your mortgage provider may be a little more complex. Some mortgage providers are known to have interpreted this type of agreement as a sub-lease of part of the property which may not only be in breach of your mortgage conditions but additionally cause difficulties for a prospective purchaser of your property should you wish to sell your house at some point within the term of the Solar agreement.
Can I Install Solar PV If My House Or Farm Is Rented?
It is almost certain that you need to consult your Landlord (the property owner) to see if they have any legitimate objections to your proposal. The security of your tenure would of course be a major consideration. However, in our experience it would be unlikely that any Landlord would withhold consent for an installation.
How Important Is The Location?
Where you site your PV array is critical to the amount of electrical energy it can generate. In the Northern hemisphere, our Sun appears to rise in the East and then pass through the South before setting in the West. Your Solar PV array will receive the maximum amount of light on a daily basis if it is facing as close to due South as possible, and inclined at an appropriate angle to the passage of the Sun both during Winter and Summer.
If adjacent structures like buildings, chimney pots or trees create shadows across the array, this can cause a reduction in the output of the installation. Where some shadowing cannot be avoided, it is important that the way in which the array is designed and "wired up” separates the affected areas so that they do not adversely influence the output of the non-shadowed areas.
How Much Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Can I Generate?
The limiting factor is likely to be one or more of the following:
- The area you have available for the installation of PV array’s
- Local Authority Planning Approval if applicable
- The capacity of your existing electricity supply connection and / or the cost of upgrading it if necessary.
- The overall cost of the installation.
Typical Solar PV installations on domestic houses are between 2kWp and 4kWp. Larger installations on farm building roofs are generally between 20kWp and 250kWp whilst farm based ground mounted solar PV installations are generally between 50kWp and 1MW.
What Happens If I Sell My Property Or My Tenancy Is Not Renewed?
In the event that you sell your property, the Solar PV installation would normally be treated as part of the property and its value adjusted in line with the expected remaining life of the installation. The residual value of the Feed In Tariff will also be reflected in the valuation as this can be passed to the new owner.
Alternatively you could retain the tariff income whilst not owning the property subject to agreement with the new owner or tenant. In the event that your property is rented then the installation should be considered as "Tenants Improvements” and it would be reasonable for you to be compensated for both the residual value of the installation and the remaining Feed In Tariffs. However, it would be prudent to discuss this with your Landlord and have an agreement in place before commencing with an installation. Alternatively, and depending on the scale and complexity of your Solar PV system there is nothing to prevent you from removing the installation and taking it with you to a new location.
How Will My Property Insurance Be Affected?
The Solar panels and inverters used in a Solar PV installation have a very high value and it would be reasonable to expect that they will increasingly become the target of criminal activity. Whilst every Solar panel and inverter has a unique serial number which is recorded as part of the accreditation and FIT registration process this alone is unlikely to deter some thieves.
As the owner of a Solar PV system you should ensure that your chosen installer incorporates anti-theft mechanisms as part of the mounting system and, where appropriate, unique forensic coding of the equipment during the installation process. Your property insurer may then require an increase in premium or alternatively a separate policy depending on the size of the installation.