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Solar panels in Scotland: A guide to costs and installation

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The Scottish climate is unpredictable and can include a lot of cloud coverage. In spite of this, solar panels in Scotland are still highly effective. Solar panels absorb sunlight through the photovoltaic (PV) cells in the panel and this is then converted into usable electricity, but they do not need direct sunlight in order to be effective.

Solar panels are a worthwhile investment for Scottish homeowners who are looking to reduce their energy bills, become less reliant on National Grid energy and reduce their carbon footprint. Though Scotland receives less sun than England, solar panels will still work on cloudy days and will produce up to 25 per cent of their normal power output.

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Benefits of solar panels in Scotland

Solar panels in Scotland are a beneficial investment for homeowners that can improve their financial circumstances. For the eco-conscious, one solar PV system can cut carbon emissions by over 1 tonne of carbon dioxide per year. 

Benefits of solar panels:

  • Reduce your energy bills by up to £475, according to Energy Saving Trust
  • Potential income through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)
  • Reduce carbon footprint

Suitability of solar panels for the Scottish climate

Solar panels Scotland snow
Contrary to popular belief, solar panels will work well in Scotland, even when it’s snowing (Adobe)

It’s a common myth that solar panels are not well-suited to the Scottish climate – solar panels for homes do not need direct sunlight and can work even in low-light conditions. 

Thankfully, solar panels absorb energy from different wavelengths that pass through thick clouds as well as the sunlight that we can see. It’s estimated that solar panels will produce between 10 and 25 per cent of their power output on cloudy days. While Scotland may suffer from low light and a high percentage of cloud coverage more regularly than other places in the UK, solar panels in Scotland will still generate electricity to power homes. 

Naturally, solar panels will generate more electricity during the sunnier seasons – summer and spring – than autumn and winter. This is true for wherever your house is located, however, as previously mentioned, while cloudy weather affects efficiency, this is only to a certain degree. 

Another weather factor that may be of concern is snow – Scotland has an average of 10 to 20 days of snowfall per year. Solar panels are installed tilted, so most snow will naturally slide off thanks to gravity, and the rest will most likely melt from the heat that spreads throughout the panels when collecting solar energy. 

Solar panel installers in Scotland

When installing solar panels, there’s typically a specific process that is followed by your installer to ensure both safety and efficiency of your solar array. Before we outline the step-by-step installation process, here’s what you should consider before choosing a solar panel installer in Scotland: 

  • Any solar panels should be installed by an MCS-accredited installer. Not only does this ensure safety, but it’s also part of the SEG eligibility criteria. 
  • Read customer reviews if you can source them on the internet. Compare reviews for various installers. You could also ask for references of past clients from an installer.
  • Steer clear of sales tactics. Installers might offer limited-time offers or discounts in order to push customers into making quick decisions. 

Step-by-step solar panel installation process: 

  1. Roof inspection and quote: An MCS-accredited installer will visit your property to assess your roof’s suitability. The main things they’ll consider are your roof’s orientation, size and how much weight it can hold. From this information, they can also provide a more accurate quote based on the number of panels you’ll need. 
  2. Set up scaffolding: the scaffolding is used to ensure safety for your installer throughout the process.
  3. Install solar panel mounts: the solar mounting system will support the base of the solar panels. It’s tilted between 30 and 35 degrees (or less if your roof is already pitched somewhere around these angles), which is the optimal position for sunlight exposure.
  4. Install the solar panels: the panels are now installed onto the mounting structure and secured by your installer with tightening bolts and nuts so they stay in their tilted position. 
  5. Wire the panels: your household’s electricity supply is shut off to ensure safety. The panels are wired using MC4 connectors. 
  6. Install the inverter: an inverter is what converts your solar energy into usable electricity. The inverter can be installed inside or outside your home, so long as it’s kept out of direct sunlight. If you’ve chosen to buy solar battery storage with your system, this will likely be installed at the same time as the inverter so they can be connected. 
  7. Connect the inverter to the consumer unit: in order to generate electricity, the inverter is connected to the consumer unit – this controls the flow of electricity into your home. A generation meter is also connected to monitor the performance and amount of electricity being generated.
  8. Test: your installer will test the system when installation is complete. The system is turned on, and your installer will check it is functioning as it should. 

Regulations and permits required for solar panel installation in Scotland

For Scottish homeowners considering installing solar panels, it’s important to know if there are any building regulations to follow or permits required to commence work. 

Thankfully, in Scotland, like in most other parts of the UK, you don’t need planning permission for most domestic solar systems, so long as they’re below a certain size. To err on the side of caution, it’s best to check with your local planning officer – especially if your home is a listed building, in a World Heritage site, or conservation area.

Costs and savings

Installing solar panels in Scotland can shave money off your energy bills, but how much will the initial investment cost you? There are a few factors, such as house size, the number of solar panels and your household’s energy consumption, that will affect the cost of solar panels

We’ve estimated the costs and savings for three different house sizes using an Edinburgh postcode in our solar calculator – though, the exact cost and savings will depend on your individual circumstances.

House size System size Number of panels Cost of system Annual savings The time it takes to break even
One to two bedrooms 2kW 6 £5,500 £563 10 years
Three bedrooms 4kW 10 £6,800 £939 7 years
Four or more bedrooms 6kW 14 £8,000 £1,314 6 years

Solar panels are an excellent way to save money and become less reliant on National Grid electricity. For Scottish homeowners, it can take on average seven years for solar panels to pay back through savings. It also helps speed up this process if homeowners sign up for the SEG scheme – it ensures small-scale solar systems are paid for any excess renewable energy that is exported back to the grid. The main benefits of the scheme include reduced energy bills and in turn, your solar panels paying for themselves quicker.  

The cost of solar panels for some Scottish homeowners may still be relatively high, even though it has decreased somewhat in recent years. The UK government has slashed VAT with its zero VAT scheme currently available until March 2027. In Scotland, there are also a few other solar incentives available, such as Home Energy Scotland, which offers grants or loans, and the UK-wide ECO4 scheme, which helps homeowners who are already claiming some type of benefit.

Scottish solar panel grants and other incentives

Though solar panels are a worthwhile investment for your home when you consider their potential to reduce energy bills and their positive impact on the environment, the initial investment isn’t always financially feasible. 

For Scottish residents, there are a few solar panel grants available, including government grants, free solar panels and a bill reduction scheme. The table below outlines all of the grants and incentives currently available in Scotland.

Solar incentive Run time Potential savings
Home Energy Scotland Ongoing Grant, interest-free loan, or both, up to £7,500 in total (or £9,000 for rural homes)
ECO4 April 2022 to March 2026 Partially or fully free solar panels
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) From 1 January 2020 (indefinite) 1p – 24p per kWh of excess electricity produced by solar panels
0% VAT April 2022 to March 2027 Savings dependent on solar panel cost

Home Energy Scotland 

The scheme is funded by the Scottish government, and you can apply via Home Energy Scotland. As of June 2023, funding for solar PV and solar storage systems will now only be available as part of a package that includes heat pumps or high heat retention storage heaters. The scheme comes in the form of a grant of up to £7,500, an interest-free loan of £7,500, or a mixture of both up to £7,500 – rural households can claim a grant of up to £9,000. 

To apply, you must be a homeowner or building your own home. The exact amount you can claim will depend on your individual circumstances.   

ECO4

The UK government scheme Energy Company Obligation (ECO4), managed by Ofgem, is currently available until March 2026. ECO4 obliges larger energy suppliers to provide energy-efficient measures to UK households – including Scotland. 

To qualify for the scheme, you would need to be receiving any of the following benefits: 

  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support (IS)
  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit (WTC)
  • Child Tax Credits (CTC)
  • Pension Credit Guarantee
  • Pension Credit Savings Credit

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) 

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you could benefit from an SEG tariff. The scheme ensures small-scale generators are paid for the electricity they export back to the grid. To qualify, your solar PV system must be installed by an MCS-certified installer. Payments will come from your energy supplier. Each supplier offers a different tariff, so it’s best to shop around for the one that will pay the most for your excess electricity.

Zero-rate VAT 

The UK government cut VAT from 5 per cent to 0 per cent for energy-efficient systems such as solar panels, heat pumps and insulation from April 2022 until March 2027.

Maintenance and performance monitoring

Solar panels Scotland cleaning
Regular cleaning help keep solar panels in Scotland free of dust and debris, which can impact their output (Adobe)

Solar panels are designed to be low maintenance, and thanks to their tilted position, most rain and debris naturally falls off. However, it’s still a good idea to regularly check your panels for any damage build-up of dirt, and there are some steps you can take to keep them performing their best. 

Ways to maintain your solar panels: 

  1. Solar panel owners can choose to have their solar panels inspected every five to 10 years to make sure they’re performing as they should – but this isn’t mandatory. 
  2. Homeowners should check regularly for any issues. One of the biggest tell-tale signs that there’s a problem is if your power output suddenly drops. 
  3. Don’t forget to clean your panels once per year. The easiest and safest way to do this is to use a hose at ground level with low water pressure – to avoid accidents, steer clear of climbing on your roof to do this. If you feel you cannot safely reach your panels, it is recommended you hire a professional to do so.

Summary

Despite the Scottish climate, solar panels are still beneficial and will even work on cloudy days. By installing solar panels, Scottish homeowners could save hundreds on their energy bills annually, rely less on National Grid electricity and cut their carbon footprint. 

The average cost of a solar system is £6,800 and is estimated to pay back in seven years. There are lots of solar incentives available, including grants and loans for homes in Scotland. Through these schemes, homeowners could receive free or partially free solar panels. On top of this, the SEG scheme allows for a reduction of energy bills when excess solar is sold back to the grid. 

The UK, including Scotland, is working towards a greener and more sustainable future by 2030, and by switching to renewable energy, you can help implement the reduction of carbon emissions while saving money yourself.

Frequently asked questions about solar panels in Scotland

Generally speaking, installing solar panels tends to increase the value of a property in the UK. A home with solar panels already installed is an attractive perk for potential buyers thanks to its energy-saving capabilities. The exact amount that solar panels could increase your home’s value in Scotland will depend on your location and the size of the solar panel system.

To monitor the performance of your solar panel system in Scotland, you could check the meter that was installed at the same time as your solar array. This meter is designed to monitor the performance of your panels and the amount of electricity being produced. Some solar companies have their own apps for customers to monitor their system’s performance; check with your installer if your system allows for this and ask how you can download and use the app.

With a long-term investment like solar panels, it’s important to research installers in your area and get quotes from multiple companies to find not only the best deal, but the best system for your home. Searching for terms like “solar panels near me” on Google should return a list of solar panel installers that service your area, but there are also national installers you can consider. Try to find genuine customer reviews of those companies or ask the firms to provide you with customer references. Ensure they are registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), which is a good indication of their commitment to quality.

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The data used to power this calculator is sourced from various solar companies and industry bodies, including the UK government, the Energy Saving Trust and Ofgem. Please note that costs are estimated and based on a UK average, and should not be taken as the exact price you would pay. If you’d like to get an accurate quote for solar panels, then you can use this form to get an estimate from one of our trusted partners.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.