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Solar panels in Wales: Costs, grants and if they are really worth it

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Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels capture sunlight and convert it into usable electricity, making them essential tools in the global shift towards renewable energy. Not only do they reduce reliance on fossil fuels, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, but they also result in significant energy cost savings for users over time. The widespread use of solar panels in Wales, from residential rooftops to large solar farms, illustrates their versatility and scalability. 

Wales has demonstrated a strong commitment to renewable energy and climate change mitigation by setting a 70 per cent renewable generation target by 2030.

While it may not have the same level of sunlight as England, it enjoys more sunny days than Scotland and Northern Ireland and receives enough sun to make solar power a viable and efficient energy source.

Several solar farms have been installed in Wales in recent years, contributing significantly to the country’s energy supply and reducing its carbon footprint. These projects also represent important economic opportunities, creating jobs and stimulating local economies. The government and local authorities in Wales offer various incentives and schemes to promote the adoption of solar power, making it a more attractive and accessible choice for households and businesses.

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The benefits of solar panels in Wales

Solar panels for homes in Wales deliver numerous advantages, making them a compelling choice for energy generation. As they harness the sun’s power to generate electricity, they provide a clean, renewable and reliable energy source. Unlike traditional fossil fuel-based methods, solar power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, significantly reducing our carbon footprint and contributing to the fight against climate change.

A solar system offers significant savings to household bills and, although there are upfront costs associated with installation, the long-term reductions in electricity bills typically outweigh this initial investment. Installing solar panels in Wales can significantly decrease or sometimes eliminate electricity costs, making energy consumption more affordable for homeowners. In addition, any excess electricity produced can be sold back to the grid, turning your solar energy system into a potential income source. 

Having solar panels installed decreases your reliance on supplied electricity, leading to a more stable supply without the volatile energy prices endured by on-grid households.

The growing solar industry in Wales is a source of job creation and economic growth. Jobs related to manufacturing, installing, and maintaining solar panels contribute to local economies and provide sustainable careers.

The availability of solar panel grants in Wales

Several solar panel grants and other incentives for solar panels are currently available to homeowners in Wales. These financial aids are structured to promote the adoption of renewable energy sources and to help lower household expenses.

Solar grants and incentives Run time Eligibility Potential savings
Energy Company Obligation 4 (ECO4) inc LA Flex April 2022 – March 2026 Homes in England, Scotland, or Wales. Eligibility determined by local authorities Up to 100%
Nest Wales Ongoing Energy inefficient households in Wales, or in receipt of means-tested benefit Up to 100%
Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) Ongoing Homes with a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certificate, or equivalent document. Installation must include an export metre and have a maximum capacity of 5MW 1p – 24p per kWh of excess electricity produced by solar panels
Zero per cent VAT April 2022 – March 2027 Solar panel purchases and installations made in England, Scotland, and Wales Savings dependent on solar panels cost

Energy Company Obligation 4 (ECO4)

ECO4, managed by the UK regulatory body Ofgem, is a government initiative to enhance energy efficiency in the least efficient homes, prioritising vulnerable and low-income households. As part of the programme, major energy suppliers are obligated to install energy-saving measures in domestic residences across Wales.

If you are a recipient of specific benefits, including Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Universal Credit (UC), Child Tax Credits (CTC), or Pension Credit Savings Credit, you could be eligible for free solar panels. 

Local Authority Flexible Eligibility, known as LA Flex, expands upon the ECO4 programme. This scheme allows local authorities to set their own eligibility criteria for energy efficiency improvements, enabling them to pinpoint households that might not meet the national requirements. 

Nest Wales 

The Nest scheme, introduced by the Welsh government, provides free guidance on enhancing your home’s warmth and energy efficiency. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you could also benefit from free energy efficiency upgrades, which include solar panel installations. 

You may be eligible for Nest Wales if you meet these conditions:

  • You own or privately rent your home 
  • Your home is energy inefficient and expensive to heat
  • You, or someone you live with, receives a means-tested benefit or has a chronic circulatory, respiratory, or mental health condition and an income below the specified thresholds

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

Under the SEG, energy providers offer an export tariff to homeowners who produce their own renewable electricity, for instance via solar panels or wind turbines.

Eligibility for the SEG is open to anyone installing solar panels with a capacity of up to 5kW. They must also install an export metre and possess a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certificate, or an equivalent. Although incorporating a solar storage battery into the system isn’t a prerequisite for SEG eligibility, it could be advantageous, preventing any excess energy from going unused.

Zero VAT

The UK’s standard VAT (Value Added Tax) rate is 20 per cent on most goods and services. However, energy-saving materials and equipment, including the best solar panels, qualify for a decreased VAT rate under government incentives.

This lower rate is presently set at 0 per cent and will remain so until 31 March 2027. It applies to installing solar panels in residential properties throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.

Other schemes for funding solar panels in Wales

Several other schemes are designed to help fund renewable energy home improvements, including solar panels.

Scheme Run time Eligibility Potential savings
Barclays Greener Homes Register by 31 January 2024 First time claimers with a Barclays residential mortgage paid by direct debit £1,000
Lloyds Bank Eco Home Reward Register by 31 October 2023 Lloyds Bank mortgage customers £500 cashback
Halifax Green Living Reward Register by 31 October 2023 Halifax mortgage customers £500 cashback

Barclays Greener Homes Reward

Barclays Greener Homes Reward initiative is aimed at Barclays’ residential mortgage customers who wish to install solar panels. Enrolling in the scheme allows qualifying customers to receive £1,000 cashback for installing solar technology. To ensure a high standard of quality, the installation must be executed by a business registered with TrustMark.

Lloyds Bank Eco Home Reward

Lloyds Bank’s Eco Home Reward scheme allows existing or prospective mortgage customers, or those borrowing funds for home improvements, to receive up to £500 cashback for solar panel installation.

Halifax Green Living Reward

Halifax’s Green Living Rewards help mortgage applicants or current mortgage holders pay for energy efficient home improvements, providing up to £500 cashback upon installing solar panels.

Installing solar panels in Wales

The initial cost of solar panels will eventually be off-set by the annual savings. The average breakeven points is about six to seven years. (Adobe)

Generally, the process of installing solar panels is the same whether your property is in Wales, Scotland or England. Getting at least three quotations from different solar panel installers is advised to compare their prices and services. 

  1. Site evaluation and energy use assessment
    A solar professional will evaluate your property’s suitability for solar installation. They will check roof condition, orientation, shading, and available space. They’ll also assess your current energy usage to design a system that suits your needs.
  2. Solar power system plan
    Based on the assessment, the solar professional will design a system specifically for your home or building. This should include determining the type and number of solar panels, their placement, and the need for additional equipment.
  3. Permits and documentation
    The solar installer will usually handle the necessary paperwork, such as obtaining permits from the local government and your utility company. In most cases, roof-sited solar panels are often viewed as ‘permitted development’ in planning law, eliminating the need to seek planning permission. However, it’s always best to check if you’re unsure.
  4. Getting the equipment
    After all paperwork is completed, the solar installer will gather all the equipment required for the project, including solar panels, inverters, mounts, and other necessary materials.
  5. Installation
    The solar panels are securely mounted on your roof or ground mounts, depending on the design. Then, electrical wiring is connected to your home electrical system and the grid.
  6. Inspection and commissioning
    Once installation is complete, an inspection is typically required to ensure the system complies with the regulations. After a successful inspection, the system is commissioned and begins generating electricity.
  7. Monitoring and maintenance
    Most modern solar installations use monitoring software to track the system’s performance. Regular maintenance checks also help to ensure the system’s longevity and efficiency.

Costs and savings of getting solar panels in Wales

The initial investment in a solar panel installation can differ depending on where your property is in Wales, the size of the system, and the electrical output required. Other factors affecting solar panel costs include the addition of solar batteries and the complexity of the installation. However, the costs are generally between £3,500 and £6,000. 

By generating your own electricity, household energy bills are greatly reduced, and any surplus energy your panels produce can be sold back to the National Grid under the SEG scheme, increasing the potential savings. These factors combined can lead to a payback period of approximately six or seven years, after which you’ll be generating free electricity for the remaining lifespan of the system, which could be as much as 25 to 30 years. 

The table below provides an approximate guide to the cost of solar panels, savings, and estimated break-even point on a property in Wales. We used our solar calculator to arrive at these figures. The average three-bedroom property requires a 4kW system, typically comprising 10 panels, each costing between £100 and £500. However, this does depend on where in Wales the property is. The south-west coast receives the most sun, particularly around Tenby, while the mountainous region of Snowdonia has the fewest sunny days. 

Property size System size Number of panels Installation cost Potential annual savings Estimated payback period
One to two bedrooms 2kW 6 £3,300 £515.43 6 years
Three bedrooms 4kW 10 £5,500 £857.41 6 years
Four plus bedrooms 6kW 14 £7,700 £1,200.37 6 years

Maintaining solar panels in Wales

Solar panels are relatively low-maintenance, but a certain level of care is required to keep them functioning optimally and to ensure the system’s longevity.

Debris, such as leaves, bird droppings, and dust, if allowed to build up, can prevent your solar system from working efficiently. While rain will wash most of the accumulated dirt, additional cleaning with a soft brush or a high-pressure hose is sometimes required. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.

While washing the panels, it’s beneficial to check for any signs of damage or wear, such as cracks, loose connections, or corrosion. Contact a professional for further inspection and repair if you notice anything unusual.

While the homeowner can perform most maintenance tasks, having a professional perform a more thorough check every couple of years is a good idea. They can spot and resolve issues that might not be visible to the untrained eye, ensuring your system continues to operate at peak efficiency.

Most modern solar systems come with software that allows you to track the performance of your panels. If you notice a sudden drop in performance or consistent underperformance, it could indicate a problem that needs addressing.

Summary

Despite the diverse weather conditions experienced by homeowners in Wales, residents are increasingly adopting solar energy. While the upfront costs may appear significant, the resultant savings on electricity bills, income from reselling surplus power and possible governmental grants and incentives, make this investment financially rewarding in the long run.

Frequently asked questions about solar panels in Wales

To find reputable solar panel installers in Wales, consider the following points:

  • Certifications: Installers should be certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) which ensures the installer has been appropriately trained and adheres to specific standards.
  • Customer reviews: Check online reviews and ratings on sites such as Google, Trustpilot, or industry-specific platforms. Previous customers’ feedback can provide valuable insights into the installer’s work quality and customer service.
  • Experience: A company that has been installing solar panels for several years will likely be more reliable and capable of handling different scenarios that may arise during the installation process.
  • Warranties and guarantees: Check what warranties and guarantees the installer offers. These can include warranties for the equipment and a performance guarantee for the energy production of your solar panel system.
  • Quotes and comparisons: Obtain quotes from multiple installers to compare pricing. But remember, the cheapest option is not always the best – quality and service are equally, if not more, important.
  • Personal recommendations: Personal recommendations from friends, family, or neighbours who have had solar panels installed can also be a reliable way to find a reputable installer.

The process to apply for the ECO4 scheme is streamlined and straightforward, with numerous companies offering the grant, easily located with an online search. The application process remains largely the same, no matter which provider you select.

Once you’ve completed the online application, you’ll receive an email containing a unique identifier and a consent form, authorising the company to validate your benefits with the Department of Work and Pensions. This form can be signed digitally and emailed back.

Within a week, you should be contacted to book a free survey assessing your home’s energy efficiency measures. The inspection lasts between 10 and 15 minutes and is designed to be as non-invasive as possible.

Upon completion of the survey and subsequent approval of your application, expect a timeline of up to eight weeks for installing your solar panels.

Monitoring the performance of your solar panel system is crucial to ensure it’s functioning optimally and producing the expected amount of energy. 

The inverter converts your solar panels’ direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity used in your home. Most inverters have a display that shows the amount of electricity being produced. If the inverter shows a drop in production, this could indicate something is wrong.

A solar monitoring system is another way to monitor your solar panel’s performance. These monitors connect to your solar panels and track their energy production in real time, providing detailed reports and analytics, showing your energy production by day, month, or year. They can also alert you if the system is underperforming or has any technical issues.

By comparing your energy bills before and after installing your solar panels, you can get a sense of how much electricity your system produces. However, this method doesn’t account for changes in energy usage or fluctuations in the amount of sunlight your panels receive.

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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.

Katharine Allison

Energy Saving Writer

As Independent Advisor’s energy saving expert, Katharine, a keen advocate for sustainability, is an authority on solar panels, double glazing, and cutting-edge renewable energy technologies. Her dedication merges with a commitment to enlighten and steer readers toward embracing eco-friendly solutions and the latest trends in sustainability.

With over 10 years of experience, she has worked with some of the UK’s leading companies and publications, including the Federation of Master Builders, Architectural Digest, and Denon Construction. 

Katharine is particularly passionate about consumer causes and animal welfare and has art, philosophy, and psychology degrees. She lives with her sled dogs in East Sussex.

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.