Free solar panels - too good to be true?We’re all a bit cautious when someone offers us something for nothing, especially if that something is money off our bills. “Where’s the catch?” we all ask in unison. Two companies in particular are hearing this question more often than any other at the moment: A Shade Greener and ISIS Solar. Both of these organizations are offering FREE solar power to residents of the UK.

A Shade Greener (ASG) announced at the end of June that it will offer an initial 2,000 free solar photovoltaics (PV) installations to select regions, with the aim of increasing this figure to 6,000 over three years. ISIS Solar later revealed at the end of July that it would be offering a similar deal – an initial 18,000 free solar systems, beginning in the south of the UK, and working northwards as the year progresses. Both of the offers include a free consultation (to discern whether your house is suitable), free solar panel and system installation, free monitoring of the system, free use of the electricity it generates and free system maintenance.

So how on earth are they able to do this? Well the answer is simple; both companies are benefitting from the UK’s recently introduced feed-in tariff (FiT), which pays out 41.3p per kilowatt hour of renewable energy produced for a period of 25 years (generation tariff), and a further 5p per kilowatt hour for any leftover energy (export tariff) that it fed back into the grid. The FiT is available to any solar PV electricity generator in the UK, and could earn the owner a profit of around £1,239 per annum.

Both ASG and ISIS have cottoned on to a real money-maker here, since, as the owner of the system, their profit is certain (as its payment is mandated by government). They’ve realized that not everyone is able to afford the upfront cost of a system for themselves (between £8-12,000), and so by effectively ‘renting’ people’s roof space, they are able to earn a profit while proving renewable electricity to the ‘host house’ free of charge. By going through one of these companies, you are able to save approximately £360 per year on your electricity bill, by using the renewable electricity generated by the system.

A Shade Greener

Each ASG system is typically comprised of 18 ET Solar mono-c-Si modules at 185 watts (ET-M572185) and an SMA inverter. ASG has begun its first wave of installations, aiming for a target of 6,000 systems in three years. Based on the fact that each install is typically 3.3kW, the company will have installed an approximate 19MW by the end of this period. The company suggests that the customer should take a look at their roof prior to contacting them, to see if it is big enough for 18 panels, and to work out of it is roughly south facing.

ISIS Solar

ISIS, who will be working initially in the region of Oxfordshire, will also install systems of 3.3kW. The company asks that the customer has an area of 24m2, on a roof which must be roughly south facing and relatively unshaded. An ISIS spokesperson named Leicestershire-based Mark Group as its installer, who will be using Mitsubishi 1.85kW modules and Fronius inverters for the installations.

Unsurprisingly, these free solar panel offers are extraordinarily popular, with ISIS telling us that they received 13,000 email enquiries in one day and ASG saying that it was getting five calls per second (they have now taken their phone number off the website). These are just two of an expected many companies who are going to offer this kind of deal. While it is really great to see that you really can get something for nothing in this life, it is important to remember that you can also earn your own profit by installing a system yourself.

Buying your own system

Obviously it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much you can save/earn by installing your own solar power system (since every house’s electricity usage/location/system will be slightly different) the following figures will be roughly what you can expect for a 3.3kW system.

You will firstly pay out approximately £8-12,000 for the initial installation of the system. Once up-and-running, you will then begin to save £1,239 per annum, which will amount to £30,975 over the 25 years that the FiT is paid for. During this period you will also save approximately £360 per year on your electricity bill (based on current electricity prices of 12p/kWh), which amounts to £9,000. Without forgetting the export tariff, which could earn you up to £500 over the 25 year period, in total you will gain somewhere in the region of £40,000. Taking away the initial £8-20,000, you still earn a considerable profit.

If you are interested in finding out if your home is suitable for FREE solar panels, you can contact ISIS Solar for systems in the South or visit here to contact ASG about a system further North.

This blog post was written by Emma Hughes, Editor of the Solar Power Portal.