Applying for a solar export tariff

The early bird catches the worm they say. The morning dew is a window of opportunity for the smartest birds to prepare themselves for the day ahead, but the morning sunshine will soon close this opportunity. This analogy is similar to buying solar panels today.

Proud to be a solar panel pioneer.

Proud to be a solar panel pioneer.

The smartest got the juiciest feed-in tariff rates, adopters today can still get a reasonable rate while the latecomers will find slim pickings or find that they are gone entirely.

The dawn of the solar panelled century is transcending, but there’s still time to benefit from the feed-in tariffs.

From its conception in 2009, the feed-in tariff scheme has spawned a solar panel revolution that we can all see on the rooftops around the country today. Many of those who opted to invest in solar panels are now sitting smugly (and rightly so) in their solar panelled homes.

It takes a particular type of person to put their head on the parapet, standing defiantly amongst their neighbours when naysayers all around them, scoff and deprecate.

Those early solar pioneers who amongst a chorus of “we don’t get enough sun in this country” have earned their place in the history books, and can proudly declare “they were one of the first.”

Early adopters didn’t listen to negativity, they researched the facts for themselves, and will now reap the rewards for that courageousness for decades to come.

The feed-in tariff incentive lasts longer than your mortgage, meaning you will still be reaping the rewards of your investment in twenty years even thirty years time. Their foresight today will counteract the escalating costs of energy tomorrow.

Being the first to own the latest smartphone is pretentious, but being the first to install solar panels turned out to be astute. The feed-in tariff rates to newer adopters have gradually been reduced over time as take-up increased.

The rate has reduced five times since its conception and currently stands at 14.9 pence per kWh. However, this figure will be reduced further in the new year to 13.88 per kWh and inevitably again after that.

Locking into the current tariff rate today could be the smartest thing you do this decade. The twenty years protracted reward will be benefiting you long after your current car has faded from memory and the current crop of politicians are forgotten.

The longevity of this technology, cannot be understated.

The current government has indicated very strongly that they wish to gradually phase out the incentive altogether for newer adopters as grid parity is achieved. Industry experts speculate that this will arrive sooner rather than later.

When energy prices rise, the incentive to install solar panels increase, leading to a spiral where energy rates keep rising, thus pushing more people to adopt solar technology, leading to further electricity rate increases.

Currently, solar adoption is driven by tariff rewards, but as recently discussed with an industry colleague, once the scheme finally comes to an end – it will be envy that will hit the next stage of the solar revolution. Solar panels are already becoming the new shiny BMW in the drive.

Fear may drive the final stage of solar panel adoption.

Solar panel envy and the jealous neighbour

Any story worth reading has its beginning, middle and end, twists and turns and of course the unexpected ending. And, this story of solar panel envy is no different.

I’m not sure if this is a real story or a modern-day urban myth, but it has all the ingredients of a good story, so I’ll share it anyway.

After installing a new photovoltaic system on their bungalow, our proud homeowners were still enjoying the feel-good factor that such an installation brings. After only a few days, they noticed their system had broken down. Suspecting a fault, they brought back the installers to fix the issue – no problem found.

The installers scratched their heads in confusion, as everything was technically correct, but the panels still weren’t producing any power. At a significant cost, the confused installers replaced the panels with new ones, and power generation resumed.

Again, after only a few days, the panels stopped working, and a very bewildered solar installation company came back to investigate. After yet more head-scratching, the installers informed the panel manufacturers of a potential fault with their batch of newly delivered panels.

Confused, the manufacturers sent an engineer all the way from Germany to the affected bungalow, and the panels were taken back to the Rhineland for further investigation and testing.

After yet more head-scratching in Germany, the penny finally drops after testing the panels outer surface. After taking residue samples to a very expensive laboratory, the German engineers found factor 50 sunscreen coating the panels.

News of the find quickly reached the shores of Blighty, and the shock and awe of the story confused with both the installers and homeowners yet.

All questions were to be answered, when a strange, but familiar figure appeared on the digital recording, armed with stepladders and brush. After further investigation, the man in question was their neighbour who had been deliberately smearing their solar panels with sunscreen.

The neighbour was duly taken to court and found guilty of criminal damage while the costs of the two re-installations plus all the values of the German manufacturer’s investigation. This situation added up to tens of thousands of pounds and many awkward encounters in the garden.

As I said, it’s a great story, but if anyone within the industry can confirm its validity, then please let us all know.

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2014-11-06
Founder of Power My Home.