After my week of absence, I'm delighted to be able to incorporate a guest blog by Evo Energy for our frugaldom readers. I hope some of you will find this both interesting and informative.
Conventional energy costs seem to be on the rise once again with 5 out of the UK's 6 biggest energy suppliers raising their energy costs within the last three months. If, in your frugal household, you think you’ve already gone as far as you can with limiting your energy consumption and your bills are still coming in too high, it might be time to start looking at free energy sources. In this article I’ll be talking about how solar power has, within the last few years, become a realistic way to save on your energy bill and the various options to consider when switching to solar.
Up until relatively recently, Scotland’s slightly dreary climate meant that when it came to considering renewable energy for any household item more demanding than a calculator, solar power would not be one that leapt to mind. Technology, however, is ever improving, and the latest solar panels no longer need direct sunlight. In fact, on the cloudiest of Scottish days, many new solar panels will work at 40% efficiency. These technological improvements combined with a national need to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we consume has lead to a government scheme designed to encourage the uptake of solar power, the feed in scheme.
What’s the feed in scheme?
If you installed solar panels, during day light hours you will constantly be generating electricity, however, for a lot of this time you may not be using it. Unless you have rechargeable batteries installed this excess energy would normally just be going to waste but with the feed in scheme your spare energy would be bought from you by the government and sent into the national grid, where it can be sold to energy companies and used by other households. Any energy that is sold like this you will be paid for, meaning you can actually make money from your solar panels. The government has guaranteed to maintain this scheme for at least 25 years and buy energy from you at a rate that matches inflation.
Is it affordable?
Solar panels should be viewed as an investment, not only will you be saving money on your energy bills but, as mentioned above, you could actually be making money from your solar panels. Solar panels aren’t going to make you rich, but you can expect to make all your initial set up costs back within ten years (sooner, if energy prices continue to rise). After this you’re in profit, which, as an investment, is certainly a better deal than most savings accounts your bank will offer you.
If this is still out of your price range, there is another option for readers in England; you can still save money on your bills with free solar energy. Many companies that offer solar panels are actually prepared to cover the cost of the panels and installation in return for any profits made from feeding in your excess energy. You still save all the money you normally would on your energy bills by using free energy, you just don’t get paid for feeding energy back in. This means anyone who meets the land requirements can afford to switch to solar power. The success of this scheme means it is likely to be available in Scotland in the future.
What are the land requirements?
Different companies will have different requirements; if you're in England, to get free solar panels from Evo Energy, you need a minimum roof size of 23m² with an orientation from south-east to south-west. Other companies are likely to want something similar. Evo Energy does not currently operate in Scotland, unfortunately.
And when it’s not sunny?
As we’ve covered, as long as it’s light outside, modern panels still run at about 40% efficiency, but at times when your energy requirements are particularly high this won’t be enough. For this reason most people choose to stay connected to the national grid, this way when they need extra energy they simply top up from their normal electricity supplier. This also means you can run all your electrical appliances at night.
For those wishing to become totally self-sufficient it is also possible to install rechargeable batteries that can store energy for use when there is no sun; however, these batteries are costly and only really appropriate for households that have particularly low energy consumption.
If you think you might be interested in switching to solar energy there are a number of companies to choose from, some native to Scotland, all of which are worth taking a look at. For readers further South, Evo Energy has been voted renewable energy supplier of 2011 by The Renewable Energy Association and the Renewable Road show. It was also recently selected as the best provider by Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert and offers free solar panels.
Guest blog for NYK Media