You may or may not remember that some time ago, we were considering going solar. Enquiries were made, quotations obtained, experiences heard. There's a whole number of opinions and a lot to consider. Even knowledgeable friends were split as to what to advise, which didn't make the murky waters any lighter. In the process though, some of our questions got answered:
1. Is there enough sunshine in Scotland to make it worthwhile? Yes, you don't need sunshine, just daytime hours. And a roughly south facing roof. The tariffs are good, and with a decent system (I now know all about kWh and what a decent system is: 2000 kWh) it should pay back the investment after 10-12 years, while it's guaranteed for 25 years (i.e. you'll be in profit after the payback time).
2. Can it go on an old, nail sick roof? Well, all the solar panel sales people said yes. Of course they would I thought. They also all seemed a bit non committal, which didn't exactly instil confidence. Solar panels ARE light, but you don't really want to have to lift them to fix a roof, because slaters may not know how to lift and reinstall them. The cost of such an undertaking may be high.
3. Remember that before you go down the route of generating electricity that the biggest positive impact on the environment and your pocket is to use less energy. Also remember that electricity can be made from a variety of sources, the scarcity will come from fossil fuels - i.e. in the future our gas heating will be the cost factor, not so much the electricity we use. The first move in reducing your carbon footprint (and hole in your wallet) is therefore insulating your home.
So we had 4 quotes, and interestingly, the first quote was for 12 panels, the second and third were for 8 panels, and sales person 4 told us that we could only fit a maximum of 5 panels, which in all honesty was not a good investment (the less panels per installation, the higher the cost per panel and the longer the time until the investment is paid back). Salesperson no. 4 was really different. The only one without a suit and equipped with a real old school measuring tape, he listened as much as he spoke and suggested clever ways of insulating a roof that has limited loft access.
The bottom line is that you need a few things and we don't have them all.
-roughly south facing roof (tick)
-unshaded roof (tick)
-decent size roof (nope)
It also only makes sense if you are sure to stay put for the next 10 years. You can't take the investment with you and there is a question mark as to how it affects the value of your house, especially if installed on a nail sick roof with questionable cost and effort to repair such a roof. Unless you're happy just to invest in a green future without wanting to get at least your investment back.
We won't be having solar panels for now then, instead, insulation is our new solar. (and I know T., you told me so!)