We've all heard about free solar panels, but there's got to be a catch, right?
Once you understand the motivation of the companies that offer free solar panels it all makes a little more sense. They simply put the panels on your roof and then they take the feed in tariff or NIROCs payments.
You simply provide a roof for them to use and in return you get whatever free electricity the panels produce.
It was actually the introduction of the FiT (Feed in Tariff) and NIROC (Northern Ireland Renewable Obligation Certificate) schemes that kickstarted the use of free panels.
Under the FiT (in England, Scotland and Wales) and NIROC (Northern Ireland) schemes your electricity supplier is obliged to pay you for each and every unit of green electricity you produce from your PV panels (regardless of whether you use it in your home or not).
These schemes also allow the owner of the panels to earn an additional payment for any units that aren’t used. These unused units are exported back to the grid and the owner of the panels then receives a second payment for these exported units.
The payments are so attractive that the photovoltaic companies, and some private companies offer to install photovoltaic panels on your roof and then let you use the electricity they produce free of charge.
Simple, they can still make good profits from receiving the FIT or NIROC payments in addition to the fee they receive for selling any unused electricity back to the grid.
So, just to make sure we’re clear, you get free panels on your roof (installed and maintained) plus you get to use as much of the free electricity as you can.
Don't get me wrong. For many of us who can't afford residential solar panels to produce electricity, this system can be fantastic, as it can (on average) halve the cost of your annual electricity bill.
But, as with most things there's a little more to it.
All the firms offering the free panels will have them fitted by a MCS (Micro-generation Certification Scheme) registered installer, otherwise the installation won't be eligible for the FIT or NIROC scheme and the company won't get its payments.
There are certain criteria you'll need to meet and each supplier will likely have slightly different requirements, so always check with your local companies first, but in general the criteria are as follows:
And that's pretty much it, sounds great doesn't it? So what are we all waiting for? Well as with anything, there are pros and cons you need to be aware of.
You should also consider the general advantages and disadvantages of photovoltaic panels before making a decision as this will have a bearing on whether you think this is the right way forward for you as an individual
As you can see there are benefits to paying for the photovoltaic panels yourself. Namely, you get the benefit of the FIT or NIROC payments and if you sell some of the electricity to the grid you'll get an additional payment.
Both of these payments are on top of the free electricity your photovoltaic panels are producing. Whereas if you go for the free solar panels you can get free electricity but you will not benefit from the FIT or NIROC payments etc.
If you have the money to pay for the PV panels or can get a low rate or interest free loan to buy them, it's likely to be more financially lucrative to buy them yourself.
If you can't afford to buy your photovoltaic panels, free solar panels could be
worth considering as they should reduce your annual electricity bill.