back to article Solar panel selling scam shown up by sting

Solar panel sales cowboys are - surprise! - exaggerating the benefits of the energy technology, a sting operation by consumer magazine Which? has found. Which? invited 12 solar companies to survey a house and produce cost and benefit estimates for a solar PV system. Seven out of the 12 recommended putting the panels in the …


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  1. Tom7

    Because we've never seen this strategy before

    A Great Leap Forward for the energy supply.

    Mine's the one with the little red book in the pocket.

    1. LaeMing Silver badge

      Joking aside, you may have hit the nail.

      The whole home-PV thing smacks of exactly the sort of thinking that had Mao's legions melting everyone's cookware down to kick-start the local steel industry instead of, say, opening more mines.

      I am a pretty strong environmentalist, but no matter which way I run the numbers, without subsidies the grid will (or at least should) always be cheaper for me to buy PV power from. The grid suppliers have the sort of bulk-buying power that I will never have, not to mention economies of scale for in-house maintenance, and far better scope for load-balancing. They would be smart to more widely distribute their source-generation (which PV makes much easier than with fossil) to save on line-losses, but otherwise I can't see how I could supply my own power cheaper than the grid (again, not counting subsidies, of course).

      For now, and likely forever, at the personal level it is cheaper (actually my main motivation, TBH) and more environmental for me to keep finding new ways to cut my consumption at the sink-end of the circuit, but source from the grid (preferably with more and more renewables supplying the grid).

  2. Refugee from Windows

    Shows the benefits of instant experts

    So how much training do these experts get? Do they have good data for daylight and likely energy yield? Thought not. Maybe they ought to "borrow" some of the Open University material.

    I wouldn't want this to sell the leccy, I'd like it as a backup for when, in the face of underinvestment, we face the prospect of power cuts.

    1. Alicia

      Comment here

      Cowboys won't bother accessing the appropriate data, but anyone who has a PV or ST Installation Qualification (they do exist, I worked on a project that developed them, but they're very new) will know how to do the calculations and where to get their data from. (The courses are 4 - 5 days, but you're required to be a qualified electrician before you can take it)

      I don't think the qualifications are mandatory for installers yet, but I believe they will be in the near future.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Its not the tax payers directly funding the TIF its from a small extra charge on everyones energy bills.

  4. gerryg

    Before anyone says it isn't a tax...

    I thought I'd repost from 11 May

    Why are levy funded subsidies taxes?

    Levy funded subsidies count as both tax and spend in the National Accounts drawn up by Office of National Statistics. This is because they involve Government-mandated transfers of value between individuals or entities. A payment (such as a levy) is a tax if it is:

    Compulsory – relevant individuals/entities have no choice but to pay; and

    Unrequited – those paying receive no direct commensurate benefit in return.

    In addition, even where a scheme is obligation based, these entail a payment to other parties that is mandated by Government and so represents a tax. So levies count as tax even if no funds are actually received, or paid out by, the Exchequer and even if there is no option to pay a charge rather than meeting an obligation (a buy-out option).

    1. gerryg

      technically - it's a tax...

      That's why HM Treasury published the note and it's deposited with Parliament.

      Is that technical enough for you or did I miss something?

      For your economics class you could try this:

    2. Anonymous Coward


      This "small" extra charge currently adds 14% to your electricity bill and will only get larger.

    3. Apocalypse Later

      "Why are levy funded subsidies taxes?"

      Because of bureaucratic double-speak?

      The important distinction here is that the feed-in tariffs are set in stone by long term contracts between the panel owners and the power companies. They are not subsidies that can be withdrawn by the government when they become unpopular. Very likely the terms of these contracts, for NEW contracts, will be altered soon, but the government is not a party to existing PV contracts already entered into.

  5. jay_bea

    Pressure Selling?

    A few houses near us have sprouted PV Panels recently, often on east facing roofs. East facing placement is not ideal but better than one nearby house which has a bank of 5 panels fixed vertically onto a south-facing wall, in the shadow of the house next door. I suspect that the sun might go out before the end of the payback period on that one.

    1. handle

      Solar facts

      As far as I understand it... east-facing roofs will produce between 10-15% less electricity than south-facing roofs. The difference is not enormous because of the sinusoidal drop-off and because sunlight, when averaged, does not come from a point source - it moves around. Certainly comparing two estimates I have for different parts of my roof, there is an 11% pro-rata drop-off for the east-facing one (although it is incorrectly described as west-facing which may or may not be in the calculation).

      Vertical surfaces produce about 30% less electricity - at least south-facing ones, compared with ideally-sloping (20-40 degrees) south-facing roofs.

      Shading, even a small amount, is Very Bad, because it can affect many more cells than the ones shaded, due to the way they are wired up. I would think that any panels installed in any area where there is shade would have been put in by cowboys.

      1. Alicia

        Interesting title

        Shading is very bad, but if it only occurs when the sun is low (and therefore the radiation available to the panel is low) it's worth the pay off when the panel is unshaded and there are high levels of radiation.

        The drop off in East/ West facing is 10-15% at the optimal tilt (roughly 30 degrees from horizontal in the UK) but can increase to 40 - 50% as the tilt varies. In the UK it's optimal to point the array slightly East of South, so a West facing array would have less exposure than an East facing array. However, you can split your array across an East and West facing roof surface. The arrays need to be tracked seperately, but you'll get a better performance overall (although the reduced number of modules per string means you need to be sure each string is within the tracking range of the inverter)

        Which icon means pedant alert?

  6. Barrie Shepherd

    More Spin

    Seems that the Double Glazing salesmen have retrained as Solar Panel salesmen.

    As for the FIT this is currently a debacle in the New South Wales Government , who have a similar too lucrative scheme, where they are desperately trying to reduce the payment having discovered that it costs a lot.

    The domestic solar "initiative" is nothing more than a wealth redistribution system!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Seems that the Double Glazing salesmen have retrained as Solar Panel salesmen"

      Bet you didn't think Everest 'would be doing that'

  7. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Solar is over rated

    Geo-thermal is the sensible option IF you can afford to install it

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ... but can anyone suggest a supplier to deliver me a tankerload of red-hot magma to keep mine going?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Do you know what are you talking about?

      Have you tried getting a drilling permit in the UK? It is not like we are in Sweden or Norway ya know.

      This is for a reason by the way - most of the UK is sedimentary rock so pumping water into it (for the usual non-hot-spring geothermal method) may actually be a very bad idea.

      1. JaffaMan

        Drilling permit?!

        Drilling permit?! What's that? Coming from someone who drills hundreds of holes a year, the only permit you need to drill is from the Coal Authority if you're drilling into coal measures.

        Unless of coarse you're talking about regulator approval for abstracting/dumping heat into an aquifer and making sure it doesn't get over done in a local area....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ian, were you talking about... ?

      Ground source (aka geothermal) heat pumps are relatively popular in some areas of the states. They use the ground, which at a relatively shallow depth is pretty stable in temp as the average annual surface temp, as a heat/cool sync for winter/summer respectively. They are more expensive than a standard HVAC but at the same time much more efficient.

      As someone said earlier, improving efficiency is really much more efficient (dollar wise and otherwise) than trying to compete with the grid.

    4. Naughtyhorse

      IF you can afford to install it...

      Same can be said of nuclear

  8. sisk Silver badge

    Good grief

    " whereby the taxpayers subsidises the 'surplus' electricity for a domestic solar installation by paying several times over the market price "

    No wonder so many Brits are down on renewables. You have systems in place that artificially inflate the price of both wind and solar power.

    1. handle

      Better to have solar power...

      ...than not. Consider the long-term environmental (and hence financial) costs of burning fossil fuels and a bit of a subsidy on solar power (which will, with luck, help to reduce its price by encouraging research and mass-production) may well be a small price to pay. This subsidy for new installations, by the way, will reduce by 8% per year from next April, if that makes you feel better, and of course the price of conventional generation is forecast to rise steeply, meaning that the proportion of your electricity produced by these means will rise in cost accordingly. If that proportion is reduced due to solar power being fed into the grid, the rise will be smaller.

      So, as usual, there's a lot more to it than a headline whinge about "tax".

      PS the article is wrong - it's not the 'surplus' electricity that's subsidised, it's all the electricity. The amount generated is metered; the amount fed into the grid is not.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        @Handle - Both are metered, both are subsidised to slightly different degrees.

        It's a truly heinous scheme, even if you do want to force generation away from fossil fuels.

        By paying the 43.3p for all generation, plus 3.1p on anything exported, this means that the 'real cost' of PV electricity is truly astounding.

        Let's say that on average you use 90% of the generation and export 10%.

        This means you'll get 43.3p generation plus 0.31p export tariff, a total of 43.61p per mean generated kWh.

        You're only putting 0.1 kWh onto the Grid, which means *everyone else* is paying you an astounding 436.1p per Grid kWh.

        Now the other way of looking at it is to say that you are part of the grid. That way, you are being paid between 43.3p and 46.4p per kWh, depending on how much you export.

        Eitehr way, could you afford to pay that much for your electricity?

        1. Mark 65

          @Handle, @Richard 12

          Bejeebus, at least where I am in Oz they only pay for the net i.e. if you use 90% of what you make then good on you but you're only getting paid for the 10% you export. Their tariff is also around 3 times the retail rate for feed in but that's only just over 50c (35p). To pay so much for gross production is truly heinous. If I lived in the UK I'd be replacing the roof tiles with panels that's such a money maker.

          What's the payback period for say a 1.5 or 2kW system? Over here it is about 6-7 years on our house with our usage (11-14kWh/day depending on the time of year).

      2. Alicia

        Another title

        "The amount generated is metered; the amount fed into the grid is not."

        Actually the amount fed into the gris is metered seperately to the amount produced. Because as well as the FiT, you get "reimbursed" by your electricity supplier for every unit you send their way. I think it's about 3p per unit

        1. handle


          No, the amount exported into the grid is NOT metered (at least for domestic installations), even though you do, as you say, get paid 3p a unit. The installation only provides one extra meter. It is simply assumed that you will use 50% of what you generate, and export the other 50%, so as well as the 43.3p/unit Generation Tariff so you get paid effectively 1.5p/unit Export Tariff.

          This might sound odd, but considering that the Generation Tariff is 15 times the Export Tariff, you can see why the initial and ongoing cost of an extra meter to measure how much is exported might not be justifiable.

          If you tailor your electricity consumption to use as much as possible of you own generated electricity, you will reduce your electricity bills without making any difference to the amount you are paid for generation and export.

        2. Apocalypse Later

          The amount generated is metered; the amount fed into the grid is not.

          They can separately meter the amount fed to the grid, but in domestic installations they usually don't bother. My tariff contract simply "deems" 50% to be fed into the grid, regardless, and I get paid on that basis.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Bloody hell, then it is even *worse* than I thought.

            And I thought it was bad already!

            So you're being paid 44.8p/unit generated, even if nothing whatsoever leaves the house?

            1. Apocalypse Later

              So you're being paid 44.8p/unit generated, even if nothing whatsoever leaves the house?

              Yes. And it is index linked. The rates went up in April.

              I was thinking about pre-heating the water for the hot water system, by fitting an extra hot water tank with an immersion heater, coupled to a photo-electric sensor that would turn it on only when the sun was pouring down. That would avoid wasting the free electricity on the grid and save me a lot of central heating oil, and I would still get the same money from the FIT. The electricity companies don't care; they just want the credits for the renewable generation.

              1. Phillip.

                Problem with the system?

                So what you are saying, ApocalypseLater, is that the system is rigged to reward you for being more energy efficient?


                1. Apocalypse Later

                  Title request denied- resubmit with detailed reasons

                  "So what you are saying, ApocalypseLater, is that the system is rigged to reward you for being more energy efficient?"

                  I'm saying that a pragmatist doesn't care whether the system is "rigged" or why. Turn the handle the way it goes.

  9. Scott Broukell

    Something should be done ....

    Unabated Gas - I suffer from bouts myself, usually after a mixture of curry and lager!

    (It had to be said ........ ah! that's better.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correct me if I'm wrong but -

    Aren't there solar technologies that can happily produce even when not in direct sunlight? IIRC they cost a little more than the other types.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Allow me to correct you:

      These things convert light to electricity - more light = more juice.

      "not in direct sunlight" = in shade = much less light.

      So they won't happily produce, they'll "sort of produce", at a (small) fraction of what they would do if they were pointed directly at the sun as intended.

      But at least the person who's house they were on would be scamming us for less subsidy (although I think the installer still gets their bung at our expense).

  11. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    30 year anniversary

    They should cut the subsidy then all the middle class homeowners could come out on strike to defend 300years of solar panel capacity.

    IT would be nice to hold the 30th anniversary of Corton wood in St Johns Wood

  12. Paul 139
    Thumb Up

    Not all bad...

    At least the FIT is tied to power production (rather than just a plain old grant to install) - inappropriate installations will take decades to pay back, whereas genuinely useful ones will recoup costs in perhaps 10 years.

  13. GBE

    My solar panels will never break even.

    I've got a 1KW photo-voltaic system that was on my townhouse when I bought it. According to everything I've read, it cost $8000-$10000 to install such a system.

    Over the 8 years it's been there, it's generated an average of about $75 worth of electricity per year. Assuming maintenance costs are zero, it would take 100-130 years to break even. The expected lifetime of the panels is 20 years.

    But, the "SunnyBoy" brand inverter contains relays that (according to the service people) have a life expectancy of about 7 years. Mine failed at about 7-1/2 years right on schedule. A factory reconditioned inverter cost $550-$600 (installed).

    Even if the original installation cost was ZERO, the system can't even pay for its own maintenance!

    The net is: $8000-$10000 in installation, and then an average _loss_ of about $5 per year for the expected lifetime of the panels (about 20 years).


    A much better idea is the remote control switch that the utility installed that allows them to remotely limit the duty cycle of my central air conditioning unit during peak demand periods. For letting them do that, I get a 15% rate reduction during the summer months.

    My cost: $0. My savings: $75 per year.

    1. handle

      Not applicable for a UK article

      We are talking about the situation in the UK (and similar in other European countries), with government subsidies. This makes it financially as well as environmentally worthwhile. Learn about it here:

      1. Mark 65


        Townhouse, $, and Sunnyboy inverter - my guess is they're in Australia. In which case the systems are subsidised alright. $10k system for about $2.5-3k with FIT 3 x normal rate. That's a subsidy in anyone's book which is why I'm interested in what the UK payback period is for different sized systems on your average 3 bedroom house.

        I'm not sure it's ever going to be environmentally worth while. I don't have any figures to hand but these things have tops 14% efficiency and probably take a fair bit of juice to created (hence the $10k normal cost). Environmental they ain't.

        1. handle


          Yes, they may be in Australia, but usually Australians realise there is more than one type of dollar and mention it. Poster said nothing about subsidies either, talking about the full costs of installation. One of my quotes also mentions Sunny Boy inverters, if that's of interest. German company.

          One quote I have is for a 1.15kWp system for just over £6k, which estimates income/savings of about £440 a year (~7%) . There are an awful lot of variables though, such as:

          - interest rates on the money, if invested instead

          - depreciation on the money due to inflation, if invested instead (the generation tariff is index-linked so does not suffer from this)

          - rises in the cost of grid electricity, making the savings larger

          - drop-off in efficiency over time, equipment failure, etc, making the savings smaller

          Savings are of course based on the Standard Assessment Procedure, which Which? apparently doesn't like.

          I am convinced that it will be environmentally worthwhile. The efficiency of the installation is not important so long as you get more out of it than the embodied energy. (Sharp panels are indeed about 14% although you can get different technologies that are 19%, both minus inverter losses of about 10% of course, but then you can offset that against losses in transmission which are virtually nil.) Apparently you get something like a 10:1 advantage, though I don't know who told me that figure.

          If I were doing it just for the money, I probably wouldn't bother, which may please those who think they are victims of an extortion racket.

    2. GBE

      Townhouse w/ SunnyBoy is in US (Minnesota)

      Sorry, I forgot to mention my location. It's in the US (Minneapolis, Minnesota) about 1/4 mile North of the 45th parallel. Yes, I'm told that the original builder got some sort of subsidy from the state. But even if the state paid for half of it, it's all still money down a rat-hole. Generating $75 of power per year with equipment that has $80 per year maintenance costs is a complete scam. Some of my neighbors have identical systems and get even less power due to shade from trees.

  14. Magnus_Pym

    Collect it.

    burn it in some kind of personal power generation system. You could probably power your iPod with it.

    I don't know why but that seems kind of apt.

  15. handle

    On snide "middle class" remarks

    Companies are offering to rent your roof from you, paying you the feed-in tariff while they pocket the generous generation tariff. Yes, you still have to be a freeholder, and the overall payback is less, but it won't cost you £6 to £12k+ either.

    There are all sorts of tax anomalies about. Consider how disproportionately small is the tax on aviation fuel, for instance.

  16. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Slight correction- the FIT pays for everything you generate, not just the "Surplus"

    You get paid the generation tariff of 43.3p for every kWh of electricity you *generate*, regardless of whether you use that yourself or not. (<4kW systems)

    The Surplus (export tariff) is paid at an *additional* 3.1p per kWh on top of the generation rate.

    See - it's even worse than you thought!

    The FIT scheme really is genuinely the worst possible idea anybody could come up with.

  17. David Kelly 2

    Who is surprised?

    Government steps in to tilt market balance and the result is not as expected. This is exactly what happens every single time and no one should be surprised.

  18. Anonymous Coward



    UK's carbon emissions from heat

    that it is maned by a batch of talking heads

  19. Luther Blissett


    > Such projects can engage individuals, neighbourhoods and communities in becoming involved with generating local heat and power.

    I know the sentence following is the obvious screamer - real BS (not short for Big Society, or even busted-flush symbolism), but this one is interesting in an unusual way.

    Suppose we are freshly arrived from Mars and baggage-free. In other words, we have no preconceived ontology of life forms on Gaia, only enough knowledge of the English language to be able to understand the denotations of words. What model under Kripke semantics yields the broadest application of that DECC sentence (defining 'broadest' in terms of straightforward denumerable set membership)? In other words: makes it most true.

    The answer surely is the Plant Kingdom. This ontological set is intimately dependent on solar power, comprises individuals growing in proximity to each other (neighbourhoods), that in many (perhaps all) cases form interdependent communities (aka eco-systems). And it contains (observe the democratic connotation here) the largest group of individuals.

    The conclusion therefore is that you are being invited here to consider yourself, epistemologically and ethically, for all intents and purposes, as equivalent to a plant. Do you accept the challenge?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Engaging to empower to engage

      Don't sweat it, Luther - remember it's only a "symbol" of the Big Society, not an expression of it, nor an instance of it in action. Wearing a {insert colour here} ribbon to show your concern for {insert cause here} is also a symbol, although remember to choose yours carefully, because some symbols clash.

      From that exquisite passage it seems that a lot of civil servants employed during the NuLab era are still hanging around Whitehall, illiterate and unemployable.

      When can we expect a real government to come in and give them the boot?

      1. Graham Dawson


        They're too busy stamping on our collective heads.

  20. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The real thieves

    are the industry.

    Thirty years ago it took 20 years for a PV setup to pay for itself. Now electricity is considerably more expensive in real terms but it still takes about the same time for a PV setup to pay for itself.

    So in the time when the cost of microelectronics has almost evaporated the real cost of PV to the home owner has risen to make it still a good investment ... just. And tarifs just mean big business wants to keep it to itself.

    If 1/10th the money wasted by this tariff lunacy was invested in a 1980's style polysilicon PV production plant the fact that the PV would be cheaper than the tiles you currently use to just keep the rain out would more than ameliorate their supposed inefficiency - a whole roof running at 5% is better than a couple of m2 at 15%.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Maybe the figures where wrong.

      > Thirty years ago it took 20 years for a PV setup to pay for itself. Now electricity is considerably more expensive in real terms but it still takes about the same time for a PV setup to pay for itself.

      Perhaps 30 years ago they were exaggerating how long it would take to pay for itself and the real figure was significantly longer.

      Perhaps today they are exaggerating how long it would take to pay for itself and the real figure is significantly longer.

      They real problem is that the industry hasn't improved its exaggeration abilities.

      1. Ian Emery Silver badge

        We are getting royally ripped off (as usual)

        I took a long serious look at solar power about 10 years ago, when I was renovating my current house; I had several companies come and survey and give quotes, ranging from £12,000 to £18,000 pounds for a system that would only heat about 40% of my hot water requirements.

        I then did a bit of digging around, using the equipment specs, brands and model numbers being quoted at me and found I could buy EVERYTHING needed in the US for about £800-£1200 to heat ALL of my hot water requirements and generate a bit of electricity as well.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Does that kit include....

          little American workers to install it all?

          You know the roofers, scaffolders, electricians, plumbers, labourers etc?

  21. Anonymous Coward


    You wouldn't be working for one of the companies offering to rent the roof would you?

    1. handle

      Nope, guess again

      I am simply a householder keen to reduce my carbon footprint and getting quotes for installation of PV on my roof, using my own money to pay for it, rather than renting my roof out for someone else to get the generation tariff. But thanks for the compliment - obviously I am making a good case for solar power or I wouldn't be being accused of astro-turfing. :-)

      I guess that makes me middle-class and thus evil.

      El Reg - your hacks' pathetic attempts to stir up tribal hatred are quite depressing. Why don't you leave it to professionals like the Daily Mail, eh?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        I hate you then

        You're not being environmentally friendly, you're stealing money from me, my family and everyone I know.

        You're making electricity more expensive, making electric runabouts less economically viable.

        You're putting more people into fuel poverty, spreading further misery around the country.

        And you're doing that while thinking you're full of unicorns and rainbows.

        The worst part is that it's not even your fault - it is the logical thing to do given the utter insanity of the Labour government that set this lunacy up, and the fatal lack of vision of the Coalition not to kill it with fire.

      2. JP19

        I am simply a householder

        Installing PV and taking advantage of the ridiculous feed in tariffs makes you a jerk. The same way that finding a wallet in the street and pocketing it would make you a jerk.

        Laws made by idiot politicians which force people to have holes in their pockets so wallets fall out for jerks to pick up is no excuse.

        1. handle

          Touchy, aren't we?

          Sigh. To pick but one example: do you ever fly on holiday? In that case may I have the honour of bestowing on you too your splendid title of "jerk" for taking advantage of the the ridiculous tax dodge that allows you to use huge amounts of non-renewable energy whilst only reimbursing the exchequer (who can then spend it on the poor) with a fraction of the amount that you would have paid if you had used that precious resource in other, far more necessary, ways?

          The same way that stealing items from a shop would make you a jerk.

          In other words, the same as your analogy of finding a wallet, except that instead of you *acquiring* money you *shouldn't* have, you are *not paying* money that you *should be*. Pretty stupid analogy though it is, as you generally don't have to invest large amounts of money to find a wallet.

          Actually, may I use "knee-jerk" instead? It is far more appropriate.

          Seems to be a pretty clear case of "he who is without sin..." I'm sorry, but life's not nearly as black and white as you like to think it is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            So what you are saying...

            ... is that because the chancellor does not add as much tax to aviation fuel as he does to petrol then its just the same as a tax dodge or stealing?

            Are you seriously that stupid or just pretending to be?

            1. handle

              No, Anonymous

              ...I am simply illustrating that there are tax anomalies all over the place and that I am no more stealing by installing panels on my roof than is someone taking a flight.

              Thank you very much for highlighting the stupidity of JP19's accusation.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No Anonymous

                Its a strange fantasy world you live in.

                You see paying tax as being the same as receiving a subsidy (sorry, should have said feed in tariff).

                1. handle

                  Same anonymous?

                  No, I don't see paying tax as the same as receiving a subsidy. A subsidy is income, and tax is expenditure, or reduced income if you like. They have opposite signs.

                  Even though you won't log in or register, these comically inept attempts at erecting straw men (or simply the inability to understand written language), not to mention the inability to spell "it's", are certainly forming a pattern, so I assume you are the same person.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Yes, I do fly.

            However, I also know that aviation is a tiny source of CO2 and has made greater improvements in efficiency over the last ten-fifteen years than anything else.

            The aviation industry is also putting quite of lot of their *own* money into low and zero net-CO2 emissions research.

            Air travel is being used a beating horse - and it's not even a notable source of CO2 (approx. 2-3% of the world output in 2006/2007)

            I also know that politicians taking money away from actual research and instead handing it out to householders is going to make the situation worse.

            Now if the FIT money went to research and test plants, maybe we'd have more than one solution ready soon.

            Large wind plants, large number of solar PV installations *should not be subsidised*. They must stand or fall on their own merits. It's pretty clear that they'll fall.

            If we want to reduce our CO2 output, then the *only* currently viable method of baseload generation is nuclear fission.

            If we don't like that idea for whatever reason, then we should be spending that money on research and test plants to find an alternative.

            Instead, we're pumping money into white elephants.

            1. handle

              Come on now

              Your (unqualified) assertion about the increase in efficiency of air travel compared with "anything else" merely means it is slightly less dreadfully wasteful now than it was 15 years ago. And Michael O'Leary's excuse that it is only 2-3% of emissions doesn't wash either, both because of the wasteful way in which it is consumed (air travel is never going to be anything other than very energy intensive) and also because it is growing rapidly due to our growing addiction to unfettered air travel.

              You are contradicting yourself by complaining about subsidies on solar power whilst stating that research into aircraft efficiency is entirely paid for by the airlines. Tax breaks on aviation fuel are just as pernicious as subsidies on solar installations. The only difference is that one is money being given out, while the other is less money being taken away. Both apply to the same pot of money. So why are you reserving all your ire for solar subsidies whilst ignoring airline tax breaks entirely?

              If the airline "subsidy" were removed it could well have a triple benefit of raising more revenue, curbing the increase in (mostly unnecessary) air travel and stimulating the research into efficiency (subject to fundamental limits) you are so supportive of.

              And this brings me on to your either/or stance on solar grants vs solar research. Firstly, how do you know that the FIT money is displacing research grants? And secondly, surely the subsidy is helping to get the market going? I would suggest that Sharp's investment in manufacturing panels in Wrexham, for instance, would attest to that. This in turn will feed into research budgets. Surely this cannot be making the situation worse? Open-ended research grants - hand-outs from the politicians you despise, in other words - do not offer the same incentive to produce real results as ones driven directly by competition.

              I am not saying that you will get exactly the same result per unit of investment if you put it into subsidy rather than research directly. But you are trying to paint a black and white picture, and that is unfair.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Tax breaks?

                > Tax breaks on aviation fuel....

                Aviation fuel does not receive tax breaks. It is taxed just like any other fuel. Just like petrol and diesel are different fuels and are taxed at different rates, so to is aviation fuel. It isn't petrol, it isn't diesel and, like petrol and diesel, it has its own tax rate.

                You might not like the rate of taxation on it and you might think it should be higher, but that does not make it a tax break.

                1. handle

                  Zero tax is a tax break to me

                  Thank you for a sensible post this time, or apologies for confusing you with another AC...

                  Unfortunately you've still got it wrong though.


                  The tax on petrol and diesel (and bioethanol and biodiesel) is exactly the same per unit volume (shame it's not the same per unit energy). The tax on LNG etc are about half, which is a tax break to encourage their use, just like there used to be for diesel.

                  The tax on aviation fuel is ZERO.

                  So it is patently NOT taxed just like any other fuel, and if that isn't a tax break, then I name you as the chairman of Vodafone and claim my 50p.

                  1. Apocalypse Later

                    The tax on aviation fuel is ZERO

                    As it should be- this is public transportation after all, just like the trains.

                    1. handle

                      @Apocalypse Later

                      Two things wrong with that posting:

                      1) The tax on train fuel is not zero, so by your logic, aviation fuel should be taxed.

                      2) Aviation is not like trains. If you don't understand why, read my previous postings.

                      1. Graham Dawson

                        Not like trains?

                        You're right, aviation is not like the trains: it's run cheaply and efficiently, without any need for huge government subsidies to keep it going. And no, a low tax rate is not the same as a subsidy, before you try and make that argument: subsidy requires taking money from one entity and handing it to another. Low or zero tax means the government never gets its hands on it in the first place.

                        And, as explained, aviation is taxed on the demand - that is, on passengers flown. It's a sales tax rather than a resources tax, which is a much more equitable solution for all involved. If it were taxed on fuel it would simply source fuel where the tax wasn't applied. It can't source passengers were there is no tax, because there aren't any.

                  2. Richard 12 Silver badge

                    Zero on the fuel, yes

                    The tax is instead on taking off, landing, and putting people and cargo into the planes.

                    Why? Because if we taxed aviation fuel much, they'd simply buy it somewhere else (eg France) and burn more bringing it here and back - the plane going London to New York could easily have just done a Paris > London hop right before, and it could have plenty of fuel on board.

                    "Not taxed" is not the same as "Tax break" - we charge them the tax on the things they can't avoid doing, like landing, taking off and putting things into the planes.

                    So calling this a tax break is wrong - taxing aviation fuel would be stupid, because it would actually cause the airlines to burn *more* fuel.

                    Air Passenger Duty is one of the taxes for airlines, along with taxes on the charges for landing and for flying in our airspace.

                    BTW - do you call the untaxed fuel in diesel trains a tax break as well?

                    1. handle

                      OK, you win your battle of semantics

                      ...I'll drop the term "tax break", not that it matters though, because the point is that it is an anomaly (as I have also called it before - may I use that term instead?), and a major one - the form of transport which guzzles fossil fuels like no other (per passenger mile etc) gives nothing back for that profligate waste. I'm a little surprised that you are focusing so much on this tangential point when there are far more important things to discuss, such as (Richard) my rebuttals to your earlier post.

                      BTW - according to el Wiki, diesel train fuel is not untaxed: "UK train operators do not receive a general fuel duty rebate, though in 2006 the duty on biofuels was reduced from 53p to 8p to encourage the its introduction for train use."

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solar panel scams?

    So solar panels are the new tarmac?

  23. Alfie Noakes
    Thumb Down


    Can somebody please explain exactly where the electrons from the Feed In Tariff actually go? Surely, unless someone else on your "local electricity subnet" needs them at that exact (and we are talking about "speed of light") time then they will just heat up your underground cables?

    As far as i am aware, you can't pump electricity up through your local sub-station (transformer) and back into "the grid" itself?

    40-odd pence a unit to heat up your pavement seems like an incredible waste of money!

    1. handle

      Yes You Can...

      ...feed electricity both ways through a transformer. It will happily send energy in either direction. But the supply authority does need to be informed about your installation to avoid the grid becoming "unbalanced". This may be to do with phases, it may be for overall planning of supply, it may be to ensure that the generation capacity is always less than the base load (meaning that what you export is always consumed locally), or it may be something else - I'm guessing.

      Whatever happens, it won't "heat up the pavement" - trying to do that would cause far more serious problems as well as being a waste of energy. What you export really does help to reduce the total amount needing to be generated by other means.

    2. Mark 65

      @Alfie Noakes

      I would guess that the feed-in results in less being drawn from the grid locally. Seeing as pretty much every house has a fridge plus other items on standby there is always a localised need for power. Our base load is around 0.275kW, your mileage may vary, so times this by the number of premises on the local subnet.

    3. Stu_The_Jock

      Heating the pavement ?

      After the UKs wonderful attempt to deal with the last 2 winters where they actually got some "winter weather" maybe using under-pavement heating would be a GOOD use of money. Oslo (That's in Norway) have under-street heating for a lot of central footpaths, although I believe that's run off hot water systems.

      1. A J Stiles

        Pavement heating

        Most probably uses the waste heat from power stations, which burn the non-recyclable portion of rubbish. The exact sort of thing Friends of the Earth don't want installed in this country, even though it would mean that councils could realise revenue from it by selling it to an electricity company instead of paying to have it buried in landfill as they currently do.

  24. JP19

    tackle the non-financial barriers

    You know when they say 'tackle' they are talking shit.

    The non-financial barriers to microgeneration are that is mostly crap and doesn't work. How are they going to 'tackle' that?

    I am reminded of an article by some Scottish bint politician moaning about how difficult it was to get real facts and figures about costs, performance and savings of microgeneration schemes and how that problem needed to be 'tackled'. Well given true costs, performance and savings figures for the majority of microgeneration schemes no one in their right mind would install one, not without huge subsidies anyway (mental note - Cameron has/had a windmill on his house).

    It takes about 1.9 million 'micro' PV installations costing 10-15k each to replace one small old knackered nuke and they won't replace it anyway because they only produce power during the day and mostly the summer.

    "the Coalition’s intention to become the greenest Government ever"

    We are paying through the nose for a political willy waving competition. The tossers should wear their own hair vests instead of forcing us to.

    1. handle

      So what do you propose instead?

      Burying your head in the sand is the expected answer, but it would be good to hear something more useful.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Erm, going solar PV *is* burying your head in the sand

        Tackling the issue means *tackling* the *issue*, not throwing other people's money into a pit.

        We'll start assuming that man-released CO2 is going to cause enough climate change worth worrying about.

        So, what do we do about this?

        - Reduce usage of energy by improving efficiency of everything we do. Start with the big consumers which are heating and transport.

        - Reduce the amount of carbon emitted by our energy generation systems, *full lifecycle*. Note that big plants of a given type are considerably more efficient than small plants, require less materials to manufacture than a lot of small plants with the same total output.

        Now, does it make sense to push domestic solar PV using massive subsidies? What will that do?

        - Note that Solar PV does not generate at night, and has the least output during winter. Those are the times when we use the most energy for heating and lighting, and that cannot be changed.

        Aside form that, Solar PV has a pretty poor energy budget for full lifecycle - that's why it still costs so much. It's energy-intensive to make, impossible to repair*, has a relatively low output and is very difficult (maybe impossible) to recycle at the end of lifetime.

        In a domestic situation it's even worse because it's in hard to access and easily damaged location. When a builder knocks a brick out of your chimney or drops a tool and smashes a tile, he'll fix it and it won't cost him much. If he smashes a PV panel, replacing it will cost him a fortune - so he'll charge you accordingly for any roof work, or maybe outright refuse to do it.

        *When a cell dies in a PV array, it can't be replaced and it turns from being a generator to a resistor, radically affecting the rest of the panel. You can either leave the panel generating a lot less than it used to, or replace the whole panel.

        1. handle

          A challenge

          Some lovely rhetoric there, and you make a lot of good points, but you really do exaggerate for effect, and I don't think that helps your case at all.

          The likelyhood of builders dropping bricks on my panels is probably about the same per unit energy produced as a tsunami hitting a nuclear power plant :-). Energy consumption is not inversely proportional to light level (Economy 7, anyone?). One failed cell writing off a panel sounds nice and scary but is irrelevant if the chances of that cell failing are sufficiently small. And the cells have bypass diodes, so while a faulty one might be a resistor, it takes far from the full current of the array, so presumably having less "radical" an effect than you say (but then "radical" is not a quantitative term).

          I'm with you all the way on reducing consumption. I could talk about the ways I have done this without using one penny of government subsidy, but the sad thing is, it would merely get me dismissed as a "tree hugger", so I won't.

          Here's my challenge: convince me that putting solar PV on my house will not generate something of the order of ten times the amount used in manufacture and installation, and I won't bother. I am doing this because I am a "tree-hugger" after all - whoops!

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            @handle: Go on then

            The builders comment is to do with maintenance. Unless the panels are maintained, the output will drop significantly as stuff covers them.

            Maintenance at least means going up there and cleaning them, and you'll also need to fix your roof from time to time.

            So the chances of somebody breaking your PV cells are much greater than somebody breaking my roofing tiles.

            On the energy budget front, there's very little data and all of it is suspect.

            The summaries I could find (very bad meta-study, my apologies), indicate a manufacturing-only energy payback period of somewhere between 3 and 7 years*.

            That would imply that your panels would recoup between 2.8 and 6.7 times their construction energy budget over a twenty year lifetime.

            As that's from 1989 study and I've only got the abstract, I'll assume that current models take half the energy to make and are twice as efficacious** - thus between 11.4 and 26.6 times.

            However, these studies were of the panels themselves, and assuming maximum continuous rated output as per manufacturer and 100% efficiency of the associated electronics and ignoring all energy related to transport and installation.

            So bear that in mind when you find out the load factors of your proposed install.

            However, 10 times is still really very poor. For it to be really worthwhile, then you'd want at least a hundred times or a thousand times, if only because you know for certain that the energy used to dig up the bits and manufacture it came from a coal plant in China.

            It is rather disappointing that so little manufacture energy budget data exists for anything, and there's almost no full-lifecycle data at all.

            My real bugbear is that all this taxpayer's money is being thrown into a pit instead of working on actual solutions.

            To be honest, I don't really blame you for accepting the handout - I blame the politicians.

            I would caution you to ensure that you get a system that pays for itself in under ten years, because it will not be very long before the pendulum swings the other way and the FITs are cancelled.

            There is some really exciting work ongoing, like diesel fuel from plant cellulose - put a bit of the FIT money there and a lot of transport could be running on biodiesel made from the waste paper, card and food that currently ends up as compost or in landfill.

            * G. Hagedorn, "Hidden Energy in Solar Cells and Photovoltaic Power Stations", Ninth European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, 542 (1989).

            ** I like that word.

            1. handle


              Thank you for your measured and comprehensive response.

              I've heard figures from 6% to 10% drop-off if you don't clean them.

              Sharp panels, the type that seem to be flavour of the month, are made in Wales. I agree that they could be assembled in Wales from bits made in China. I'm sure most of the inverter comes from the far east too.

              It would require legislation to cancel the FIT. I feel it unlikely that this will happen, although I am not naive enough to believe that it is guaranteed. And it won't stop my panels working if it is.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        The sane proposal is improved efficiency and low-carbon big plant generation.

        The former is already partly being done, by helping insulation, and for some reason ground and air-source heat pumps are being covered by the FIT despite them not being generation.

        CHP is a good idea, except that it's being done wrong - we should not be building a gas or coal-fired power plant where none is needed to send its waste heat into homes, we should be adding waste heat capture to existing plant requirements. (Yes, that'll often be a new-build as retrofit is quite difficult)

        We should be building nuclear to take the baseload away from the existing coal.

        We could be zero-carbon electricity generation in ten to fifteen years if we built the right plants.

        Right now we're building lots of wind, some solar PV and *lots* of gas to cover when it's not or too windy and when it's dark.

        We should be investing in research and test plants for wave, solar and anything else we can think of. Wind has already proven that it can't go large-scale regardless of the plant type due to large-area doldrums. Wave might suffer similar issues, I don't know yet.

  25. ken jay

    Why does the government not step in

    The electric supply problem would be easily fixed if the government gave all the low income families solar panels and the money generated went to pay for the systems over say 10 - 15 yrs after the 15 years the panels would be old and need updating but at least in that time there would of been locally sustainable electric added to the grid.

    only problem i see is what would we do with all the tile makers and slate quarries.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "Double Glazing salesmen have retrained"

    "the Double Glazing salesmen have retrained as Solar Panel salesmen."

    Anglian (as in Windows, not Water) are the first name on the Which list. Everest (as in Ted Moult and the new Oirish bloke whose name I forget) are in the business but not on Which's list.

    Also featured are the well known energy experts, Homebase and Sainsburys (no longer part of the same empire, though they used to be)

    1. Apocalypse Later

      Also featured are the well known energy experts, Homebase and Sainsburys

      I got my panels through Tesco. Double clubcard points (30,000) which I then doubled again in their voucher doubling scheme (certain departments only) to buy £600 quid worth of kitchen appliances.

    2. Barrie Shepherd

      Double Glazing salesmen have retrained

      LOL - I'm in Sydney Australia and had no idea that the predators of the past had moved onto solar!

      The solar argument is raging here based on much the same issue about the buy back of kW - People's panels are not generating what they were sold - and we have a bit more sun than the UK!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    "CHP is a good idea,"

    "CHP is a good idea."

    Of course it is, and has been for decades - e.g. Woking Council did their first in 1992. But CHP makes most sense on the MW scale (a fraction of a MW to quite a few MW). CHP doesn't fit so well with the corporate vision of generating the nation's electricity from a smallish number of GW-scale power stations.

    CHP might fit well on the scale of office blocks, shopping centres, and factories (and hospitals) on the MW scale.

    CHP also doesn't fit particularly well with "the market", which has people managing gas and oil and electricity (etc) usage independently based on individual and short term prices, rather than having an integrated medium term energy plan (either at corporate level, or, for the public sector, at government policy level).

    Bit late to take CHP seriously, but maybe better late than never.

    Domestic-scale CHP is (mostly) a joke, just like domestic-scale PV and wind. Domestic solar for space heating or hot water? Maybe it makes sense.

    Meanwhile, when I go into my local supermarket, in the chilled goods area the heaters are clearly blowing hot air from the ceiling outlets. I've even pointed this madness out to the manager who politely told me how proud he was of their energy efficiency, but couldn't see how mad it was (financially and environmentally) to be actively heating a chiller aisle while it's 20C outside.

    Domestic combi boilers are the product of a similarly limited thought process as has inhibited the use of CHP. Combi boilers may be high efficiency when they're operating, but they require their energy input to be available at the exact time the hot water (or hot radiators) are needed. Hot water cylinders, and their big brothers historically called calorifiers, allowed the heat input to be done at a different time from the heat output. Overnight off peak tariffs and their modern equivalent, smart meters, and the like. Energy storage, right where it's needed.

    But never mind the bigger picture, everybody throw your hot water cylinders away and install a combi boiler, they're more efficient.

    And definitely don't think about the possibility of CHP-based district heating, that's an old Commie trick, totally irrelevant to the modern world. Isn't it?

  28. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    What *would* be a good alternative energy source in the UK?

    Probably something quite hard to understand by Cameron's standards.

    Anaerobic digestion?

    Micro hydro?

    Tidal (not *necessarily* involving an estuary barrage)?

    Wave? In fact some of the systems the *Scottish* parliament are trialling around the Scottish coast.

    Sadly most of these are a *bit* complicated to explain (in a sentence of less than 10 words and words of less than 2 syllables) and lack the oh-look-at-us-we're-doing-something quality that a bunch of *huge* windmills have.

    Even if some of those windmills spend <6% of the year doing *anything*.

  29. Martin 37

    Monitoring is vital!

    I got a system from a company in Wimborne, and it came with a little Wattsure inverter monitoring thingie that sits in the loft. It's no good waiting to read your meter every three months; you want to know how well the system is performing and more to the point if is stops working or is producing under expectation. As well as getting graphs, it notifies me if there is a sudden change in output.

    Seems like all PV systems should have something like that.

    And yes, SAP procedure is based on irradiation levels in Bromwhich which is where the BRE are based - the company that develops the SAP procedure. So anyone south of there should be doing better than expected, anyone north is likely to do worse.

    1. handle


      One company who supplied an estimate/quote talks about supplying a remote (wireless) monitor. Another is trying to flog one for £400.

      One company reckons they can get four panels on one part of my roof. The other company reckons they can get six - of the identical panel...

  30. ChilliKwok
    Thumb Down

    Dodgy Graph

    Some problems with that graph comparing the estimated cost per KWH in 2030:

    First - I wonder why do they chose such a big Y-axis. It has the effect of making all the options look much the same cost.... hmm.

    Are they comparing like with like?

    A gas power station provides electricity on-tap - with near 100% reliability (allowing for scheduled maintenance). By contrast wind and solar are completely unreliable; with low to zero output for 70% of the time when it's too dark or cloudy, or when the wind is too slow or too fast. This means they require 100% conventional backup. Are these backup costs factored into the graph?

    Also wind often produces when there is no demand (if a storm blows up in the night). When this happens the grid pays the wind farmers to shut-off. Is this factored into the wind costs - or is this unusable power counted towards the wind total?

    How about the costs of "upgrading the grid" to accept the highly variable wind and solar output - including miles of new pylons to ship the leccy to cities. Are these additional costs factored into the renewables totals? I seriously doubt it.

    Remember this graph was produced by a government department who's job is to justify the massive subsidies and stealth taxes now being inflicted on the UK population. I suspect they've used every trick in the book to give the false impression that renewables are cost competitive with conventional power.

  31. Nigel R

    in Japan

    and increasingly in China, almost every rural house roof sports a solar water heater - a set of rooftop pipes. They store the hot water and every KWh stored replaces hot water usage in the home. I suspect this IS logical by financial and energy accounting standards.

  32. Dave 15

    Some thoughts

    My understanding (and it would need checking)) is that the CO2 used to make the solar panels is not paid back by the energy they produce in most of the UK (dubious in most of Europe). The cost in te UK is never realistically paid back even if letting the other tax payers 'print money for you'. In terms of energy efficieny widfe spread adoption of things like ground source heating.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    i'm in

    So I can sell extra electricity generated back to the grid at 'several times market rates'?

    That sounds like an open invitation to fraud.

    How can they tell this is solar energy coming from my panels and not just me sending them back electricity purchased at market rates and selling it back to them at several times market rates?

    Please tell me the politicians have thought of this, and have some clever system in place to stop it.

    1. Nigel 11

      Fraud unlikely

      Provided (a big provided) the system is set up for someone to check, it would be easy to police. They just need to know the kWp (peak) of your array. The average annual generation for the locality will allow them to normalize out the effects of weather variation. Any household generating significantly more units per kWp than its neighbours should be selected for further investigation as a potential fraud. An array might under-perform, but no manufacturer is going to understate their kWp, nor be allowed to get away with overstating it. The best a fraud could get away with is "making up" the effects of local shading, and he'd have to be quite technically competent to get it "right".

      The only criminal exception I can think of is pot-growing. They could run their internal lighting off PV solar (*not* grid-connected) and thereby avoid having the electricity utility detect their illegal activities. Oh well, at least it'll be greener pot.

  34. peter 45

    Done the financials?

    I have heard several estimations that it will take between 10-20 years to get payback on the original investment.....not including any cleaning/breakage/maintnance charges. I have also asked around various estate agents of what premium you get for selling your house with a bank of solar panels. Their universal answer was 'next to nothing, maybe a few grand if you get a green buyer'. So this is only a long term investment.

    So assuming you do not sell your house in the next 10-20 years, you 'might' have got your original investment back and be actually starting to make a profit. There are some tax advantages to calculate in, but I think that investing a lump sum for 10-20 years worth of compound interest is still a better bet.

    Not planning to live in your house for the next 10+ years? Don't bother!

    1. Apocalypse Later

      compound interest?

      Current rates of interest are below inflation. That doesn't stop the government taxing them as earnings, though. It is hard to see into the future, but the way western governments have been printing money, I see inflation rising rapidly, and expect interest rates to lag behind.

      I have had my PV panels for half a year. The first quarter that they affected my electricity bill, it came in at about £75 less than usual, and the first quarter's FIT payments (tax free) came in at £460. These are not quite the same time periods, but overlap. If this continues, I would expect to get over £2000 back per year, on a £15,000 installation, so payback in 7 or 8 years.

      That is not to say that I don't have money in other investments, including on deposit. But I worry a lot more about those other investments than I do about the panels.

      1. handle

        @AL: what size installation?

        Would be interested to know if you're happy to tell us. Presumably quite big for £15k. How is it performing compared with the estimates? What are of the country are you in?

        AJ: you seem to be criticising solar installations on the basis that electricity costs will rise to make the FIT proportionately smaller. But as they rise, the amount you save on your electricity bill will also rise, making the panels more worthwhile, not less. Sorry if I missed your point.

        1. Apocalypse Later

          what size?

          I went for the practical maximum, as my roof is big enough. The feed-in-tariff for domestic installations drops sharply if you go over a design maximum of 4kW, so mine is rated just under that (3.96kW). I have seen as much as 3.7kW on the meter, and over 22kWh (units) in a day.

          Incidentally, it seems that my installer has rated the "Estimated Annual Generation" very conservatively on their official certificate. Annualising my first quarter would indicate that I could be getting almost 50% more output than the estimate. Of course, we had a very sunny April.

      2. peter 45

        Compound Interest

        Say insetad of puting your money in solar panels you put it in a Cash ISA at 3.35% (chosen for the sake of this example is as it is tax free and therefore simplest to compare.) Say from your solar panels you do get £2000 per year and put that into savings on the same rate.

        After 7 years of compound interest at 3.35%, you will have in your pocket £18,890. From solar panels you will have (16,000-15000) = £1000.

        After 10 years £20,854 and (24,000.36-15000) =£9000 respectively

        After 15 years £24,589 and (39,445-15000) = £24,445 respectively

        Of course none of this takes into account, changing interest rates, maintenance/repair charges, nor changes to feed-in tarrifs and the rising costs of electricity, and the degredation of solar panels etc etc.....

        but basically, comparing like to like today, you will need to keep your solar panels for 15 years before they start out performing compound interest .

    2. handle

      You're right

      I am planning to live in my house for the next 10+ years; I'd certainly think twice about installing panels if I weren't.

      It is a little depressing that this thread is focussing so much on payback. Of course I want to avoid losing huge amounts, but the prospect of fitting panels to the roof and generating some electricity renewably, even if there could have been better ways of doing it, will give me a great deal of satisfaction. I probably said earlier that if my motivation was merely the amount of money to be made out of it, I would not be bothering. Of course you can laugh all you like at that, but it is no more or less laughable than spending money on any other hobby - even beer.

  35. A J Stiles

    Ah, but

    Fossil fuels will eventually run out.

    Some time before that happens, though, you'll be remembering "43.3p per kWh" as fondly as you remember "£1 per litre".

  36. Anonymous Coward

    That's not how the Reg works

    "Even though you won't log in or register"

    Anonymous posters *are* registered and logged in (they *have* to be or they can't make posts here), but they've chosen to put a checkmark in the "Post anonymously" box. See that checkbox just below the "Post your own message" line? That's how it's done. If people don't log in, they can't post.

    You're not a newbie (you've been around since June 2009, it says), so I'm surprised you didn't already know that, but whatever.

    If it makes you feel any better, the esteemed Moderatrix (or whoever's in charge there at the Reg) presumably knows who all the legions of a/c posters are - I base that statement on the fact that *after* you're logged in and you click your "My posts" link, it will show you *all* the posts you've made with that login info, even the ones where you'd selected to post anonymously. So the info is stored with your account but, AFAIK, only visible to that one logged-in user and, one would presume, admin types.

    - A/C because I'm too tired right now to figure out a proper diplomatic way to word all of the above, and wouldn't want to spoil my nice polite bland boring non-controversial public image. ;)

    1. handle

      Sorry for my wording

      I do know that you can post anonymously while logged in; I just got the words wrong, sorry, and that explains why it looked odd that I didn't know that!

      I didn't know you couldn't post without registering, but the end result is the same to anyone except the anonymous poster, so no, it doesn't make me feel any better that moderatrices know who they are! In fact it's depressing that so many postings are deliberately made anonymous rather than just being the result of someone not bothering to register. And of course it makes it impossible to link postings. Perhaps they should automatically be assigned numbers within a thread? That would make life a lot easier I think.

      By the way, I see that the site has moved to post-moderation, at least some of the time - postings appear instantly at all times of the day, even though you are still told they will be checked. And I saw my first "this has been withdrawn by a moderator" recently.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Post moderation?

        Certainly not!

        Just try posting something that breaks the rules, and see whether it actually appears.

        Sometimes things get through, and you see a "Rejected by moderator" on the thread, but normally they just don't get through.

        It just shows that the Register has dedicated moderators.

        My bug-bear is that sometimes, when I post something that I don't think breaks the rules, I still get a post rejected, and I cannot find out which of the rules the moderator thinks I broke. I know it is down to the moderator and their decision is final, but just a single "Rejected because of rule X" would be useful. I had a public exchange with Sarah about this on the comments thread of the news item announcing the rules.

        And I have one recent post (which was critical of the Reg. using an inappropriate stock picture appearing on the revolving marquee headline) that did not appear, and was eventually rejected, but it took two weeks for it to be rejected. Strangely, for that two week period, it's status was neither accepted nor rejected, nor was it in 'limbo' (no status). It actually said "Updated on...." This was a new status to me!

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    An alternative energy source for the UK #2

    Is called Geothermal Energy Extraction System Organic Rankine (GESSOR)

    Thought up by a Lecturer at Reading U in the late 70's and of course completely ignored by generations of civil servants because it's too "small" scale.

    A relatively little known fact about boreholes is that *all* of them are quite hot, ranging from roughly 50c to something like 350c. It 's driven by the Earths' natural radioactivity and will last for several billion years.

    Standard SOP is to take over a field which is releasing hot(ish) water, run it through a heat exchanger with a low boiling point fluid on the other side (isobutane seems popular but I'd guess the flourocarbons would be safer) to drive a turbine then re-inject the fluid back into the ground

    BTW The "fluid" is *not* water, it's hot brine, which is nasty, with dissolved things like sulphides, which makes it *much* nastier and you would not want them being vented to the atmosphere.

    Ormat inc seem to be world leaders ( ). Their turbines even run slow enough to generate normal 50-60Hz mains power *without* the tricky power electronics usually seen in small directly connected turbine/generator systems. Probably a *very* smart move when they started 30 years ago , but I suspect there is much less of a price advantage today.

    GESSOR eliminated needing 2 wells by *not* taking anything out of the ground. It inserts a heat pipe down the well and boils the working fluid in situ, In principle it needs more of the fluid (which is likely to be a bit expensive) but like other systems is closed cycle. The target were North Sea oil wells. 1 Platform (in the 1970's) could drill 20 holes and each well was anticipated to generate 0.5-1.0 MW.

    There is a UK GS map of UK geothermal resources.

    An oil field about 50miles outside LA has 9000 wells of which c900 are still active. The other 8100 would generate roughly 4GW (about 6% of the UK electricity demand).


    For the next several billion years.

    The Dept of Energy and the CEGB probably found this all a bit complicated in the 1970's (We're not interested unless it's at *least* a GW on 1 site).

    How about a 1 MW power source in your back garden?

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