Part 4: Performance and FIT payments

Photograph of photovoltaic panels on a roof

Our 22 panel 3.96 KWp PV system was commissioned on the 20th April 2010 and at the time of writing has been generating electricity for a little over 6 months, through a beautiful summer and a reasonably sunny autumn. We are delighted with the performance so far. The output has exceeded our expectations. Already 3000KWh of electricity has been produced against a forecasted annual production of 3200KWh. Our best week's output was 174 units in the last week of May, whilst our lowest week was 65 units during the last week of August. We are exporting close to 80% of our production even though we are at home most days and have changed our habits to use our electrical appliances during the day wherever possible.

We have received one Feed-in Tariff payment so far, and another is due in November. To get the FIT payment we had to register our system with an electricity supplier, in our case Ecotricity. We had to provide Ecotricity with our MCS Installer Certificate which proved that both our installer and the solar panels were approved by the Government. Then Ecotricity registered us with Ofgem, the electricity industry regulator and provider of tariff payments. This paperwork only took about a month to come through and was very simple to do.

In an earlier part of this case study we looked at the theoretical economics of installing PV. Now we have some firm data ! Up to the 29th September we generated 2576 units and exported 2033 of them. This will have produced an income of £1064 from the generation tariff and £61 from the export tariff, a total of £1125. We have also used 543 units of our electricity which would have cost us £67 on an electricity bill. So the total benefit to date is £1192. Our system cost`£16000, so we have seen a 7.5% annual return based on less than 6 months performance. You can't equal that in any bank or building society account.

Our recommendation if you are thinking of having PV installed is to go ahead as quickly as possible and start to reap the benefits. The Government has confirmed in the spending review that the FIT scheme will continue as planned and they will not look at it again until 2013, which is what was originally planned at the outset. The schemes where you rent your roof to a company and have panels fitted for free do not seem to us, and independent advisors like the Consumer Association, to be good value, so if you can afford the investment or can get a low interest loan, have panels installed yourself.