Photovoltaic Panels and the Feed- in-Tariff


Photovoltaic panels are becoming a more common sight on the rooftops of our towns and cities.





Photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of a Birmingham Church


The technology was first developed in the 1950’s for use in space, but over the last decade it has increasingly been installed back on Earth as we realise we must find answers to the growing energy crisis that is resulting from peak oil and climate change.

There is lots of information available on the internet about how photovoltaic panels work, as any quick search will reveal.  Here are a couple of paragraphs from the Energy Saving Trust’s website:


How do solar panels (PV) cells work?

PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced.  Groups of cells are mounted together in panels or modules that can be mounted on your roof.

The power of a PV cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp). That's the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer. PV cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on top of an existing roof, but you can also fit solar tiles.


By converting energy from the sun into electricity, we are able to continue making use of it without adding to the
amount of carbon that is in the atmosphere – clearly it is a great bonus that we can carry on enjoying all the benefits
that electricity brings to us with much less environmental cost.

In recognition of this, in April 2010 the government, following the examples of Germany and Spain, introduced the
Feed-in-Tariff in order to encourage the development of the photovoltaic industry in this country.  This means that
for every kilowatt hour of electricity that is produced by the panels, a fixed amount is paid to the owner for a period
of 25 years. Initially this was set at 43p, but, amidst great controversy, it was reduced to 21p in March 2012, for
domestic arrays of less than 4 kW peak, and lower for larger arrays.  This is not as large a reduction as it may at
first seem,because the costs of installation have also come down enormously.  In August 2012 the FiT rate was
reduced again to 16p.  The rate will be stepped down every three months for the foreseeable future.

Larger arrays yield lower rates of FiT per kWhour, but because of economies of scale, the return on investment can be higher.  The table below is from a consultation paper produced by the
Department of Energy and Climate Change


 Generation tariffs for new solar PV installations from 1 August 2012

 Band (kW)

Standard generation tariff (p/kWh)

Typical ROI (%)

Multi-installation tariff (p/kWh)

Lower tariff (if energy efficiency requirement not met) (p/kWh)

•4kW (new build)

16.0

6.3%

14.4

7.1

•4kW (retrofit)

16.0

6.3%

14.4

7.1

>4-10kW

14.5

7.2%

13.052

7.1

>10-50kW

13.5

7.2%

12.15

7.1

>50-100kW

11.5

6.8%

10.35

7.1

>100-150kW

11.5

6.8%

10.35

7.1

>150-250kW

11.0

7.4%

9.9

7.1

>250kW-5MW

7.1

7.9%

N/A

N/A

stand-alone

7.1

 

4.6%

 

N/A

 

N/A



Column 3 gives a typical ‘return on investment’ if the panels are well-sited.  In addition to FiT’s the estimate is also
based on export payments and savings on electricity.

Column 4 is the FiT rate that is paid to individuals and organisations that own more than 25 arrays – the lower rate
is paid on subsequent installations


Column 5 shows the lower rate of FiT that is paid to buildings that fail to meet the required energy efficiency rating,
or a ‘D’ on an Energy Performance Certificate (an EPC).  This requirement is being discontinued on community
buildings, although they still need to have an EPC.

The government appears to be actively supporting community energy projects such as ‘Power for Good’.  One way
in which they are going to do this is by allowing ‘preliminary accreditation’ for the Feed-in Tariff.  For ‘Power for Good’,
this means that once an exclusivity agreement has been signed with a place of worship, and an EPC is in place,
we can send a letter of intent, and the Feed-in-Tariff that is current at that time will be guaranteed, even if the
installation doesn’t take place until the after another rate reduction. Click on this link for more information.