What Is The Best Solar Panel Scheme In The Uk?

What is the best solar panel scheme in the UK?

Solar power has become an increasingly popular source of renewable energy for homes and businesses in the UK in recent years. With electricity prices on the rise and climate change concerns growing, more people are looking to solar panels as a way to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills. This article will examine the best solar panel schemes available in the UK, to help homeowners decide if solar is right for them and choose the most suitable installation company. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of solar panels, go over the factors in determining system efficiency, solar panel types and key terminology, installation and maintenance considerations, costs and payback periods, the government solar schemes and incentives available, criteria for picking quality installers, and provide our recommendations for the top solar schemes in the UK.

Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

Solar panels have become an increasingly popular way for homeowners to reduce their dependence on the electric grid and take control of their energy production. However, as with any major home improvement project, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider before installing a solar system.

Pros of Solar Panels

Some of the main benefits of going solar include:

  • Cost Savings – Once installed, solar panels can greatly reduce or even eliminate monthly electricity bills, providing decades of free renewable energy. The Forbes report shows solar energy systems can offer a return on investment in as little as 5-7 years.
  • Energy Independence – With solar panels, homeowners can reduce reliance on utility companies and external energy sources. Solar allows you to create your own electricity, protecting against power outages and grid interruptions.
  • Low Maintenance – Modern solar panels are durable, require little maintenance, and can last over 25 years. Just occasional cleaning of panels is needed.

Cons of Solar Panels

There are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Upfront Costs – While offering long-term savings, solar systems require significant upfront investment. The average cost of solar panel installation ranges from $15,000-$25,000.
  • Appearance – Some homeowners associations restrict solar installations over concerns about aesthetics and property values.
  • Weather Dependence – Solar panel output can fluctuate depending on weather conditions, time of day, and seasonal changes in sunlight.

Overall, solar energy makes the most sense for homeowners who plan to stay in their home long-term and want to take control over their energy production and costs. The CNET article provides a helpful guide on weighing the pros and cons.

Types of Solar Panels

There are three major types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. The solar panel type best suited for your installation depends on factors like efficiency, costs, space, and appearance.1

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels, also known as single-crystal silicon panels, are made from a single cylindrical silicon crystal. Monocrystalline solar panels have a uniform look with a black hue and visible silicon cells. They typically have power conversion efficiencies of 17-22%, the highest among the major panel types. However, they tend to be more expensive than polycrystalline panels.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels, also known as multi-crystalline silicon panels, are made of multiple silicon crystal fragments melted together. They have a speckled blue color and look less uniform than monocrystalline panels. Polycrystalline panels are less efficient, typically 15-18%, but they cost less than monocrystalline panels.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are made by depositing photovoltaic material on glass or stainless steel substrates. The cells are very thin, reducing materials and costs. There are several main types of thin-film solar panel technologies and efficiencies are around 10-15%. Thin-film panels tend to be the lowest cost option but require more physical space for the same rated output.

Measuring Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is an important metric in determining which solar panels to purchase. There are a few key ways that solar panel efficiency is measured:

Conversion Efficiency

The conversion efficiency of a solar panel refers to the percentage of sunlight energy that is converted into usable electricity. It is calculated by dividing the wattage produced by the panel under standard test conditions by the area of the panel and the intensity of the sunlight (https://eepower.com/technical-articles/how-is-solar-panel-efficiency-measured/). Most residential solar panels have efficiencies between 15-22%.

Temperature Coefficients

Solar panel efficiency decreases as temperature increases. Temperature coefficients measure this change, indicating how much efficiency drops with every degree increase in temperature. Typical coefficients range from -0.2% to -0.5% per °C. Panels with lower coefficients will perform better in hot conditions (https://www.photonicuniverse.com/en/resources/articles/full/7.html).

Performance Ratios

Performance ratios compare real-world energy production to theoretical maximum production under ideal conditions. They account for various losses like temperature, shading, and equipment issues. Higher performance ratios indicate more efficient panels.

Solar Panel Installation

Installing solar panels involves several steps, including proper mounting, orientation and wiring (Source: https://www.energysage.com/solar/solar-panel-installation-guide-what-should-you-expect/). The panels can be mounted on a roof or on the ground. Roof mounting is more common for residential installations and involves installing rails or racks on the roof to hold the panels in place. The roof must be able to structurally support the weight of the panels. Ground mounting is often done for larger solar arrays and involves installing posts into the ground to hold racking that supports the panels.

Proper orientation and tilt are important for maximizing solar production. In the northern hemisphere, panels should face south, and in the southern hemisphere, they should face north. The tilt angle should roughly equal the latitude of the installation location. Wiring connects the solar panels to each other and to the inverter, which converts the DC electricity from the panels to usable AC power. The wiring system must meet electrical code requirements.

A professional solar installer will manage all the steps of the installation process, from permits and inspections to connecting the system to the utility grid. This helps ensure the system runs safely and efficiently.


The cost of solar panels in the UK can range from £5,000 to £11,000 for an average-sized system, according to Greenmatch. This includes the solar panels themselves as well as installation and other fees.

The cost breakdown includes:

  • Solar panels – £2,500 to £5,000 depending on the power output
  • Inverter – £500 to £1,500
  • Installation and wiring – £1,500 to £3,000
  • Scaffolding or lifting equipment if needed – £500 to £1,000

Ongoing maintenance costs are low, around £100 per year for system inspections and cleaning. Replacing the inverter around year 10 costs £500 to £1,500.

The payback period for solar panels in the UK is typically between 7 to 12 years according to MoneySavingExpert. This depends on system size, electricity costs, and available solar incentives.

UK Solar Schemes

Some of the most popular solar panel schemes in the UK include:

Feed-in Tariffs

The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme allowed homes and businesses generating renewable electricity to sell it back to energy suppliers at a guaranteed price for a set number of years. FiTs closed to new applicants in 2019, but existing FiT recipients can continue to benefit until their tariff lifetime ends.

Renewable Obligation Certificates

The Renewables Obligation scheme places an obligation on licensed UK electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of the electricity they supply from renewable sources. Suppliers meet their obligations by acquiring Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). The RO closed to new generating capacity in 2017, but existing accredited stations can receive ROCs until 2037.

Grants and Loans

The government offers some grants and loans to support renewable energy installation, such as the Home Upgrade Grant and the Renewable Heat Incentive. However, direct grants for solar panels are limited. Some councils and community groups offer grants, and the Smart Export Guarantee provides payment for excess energy exported back to the grid.


Top Schemes

Some of the most popular and best reviewed solar panel schemes in the UK include:

Smart Export Guarantee

The Smart Export Guarantee pays homeowners for excess electricity exported back to the grid from their solar panels. Energysage called this the “most exciting solar incentive in the UK right now.” The payment rate varies by energy supplier.


The ECO4 scheme provides grants and funding for energy efficiency improvements like solar panels. According to The Eco Experts, E.ON Energy and Octopus Energy have the best ECO4 solar panel grants currently.


The SEISMIC program from Octopus Energy offers free solar panels, installation, and maintenance for low-income households in certain regions. This is a popular option for qualifying homeowners to get solar for free.

Choosing the Right Installer

When selecting a solar panel installation company, there are several key factors to consider:

Certifications – Look for installers that are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This indicates they have passed exams proving their knowledge, experience, and competence in solar PV installation. NABCEP certification is widely recognized as the solar industry standard.

Experience – Choose an installer that has at least 3 years of experience and has installed systems similar to yours. Ask for references from past customers you can contact. An experienced company will be familiar with all necessary steps and potential issues.

Reviews – Check online reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau. Look for companies with consistently positive feedback for quality installations and good customer service.

Warranties – A reputable installer will stand behind their work and offer strong warranties on products and labor. Aim for at least 10 years on parts and 1-2 years for workmanship as a minimum.

According to this article from the Department of Energy, homeowners should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Work with reputable local installers that have proven expertise.


In summary, there are a few key solar panel schemes in the UK that stand out as the best options currently available. The Smart Export Guarantee provides payments for excess energy exported back to the grid, while the Feed-In Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive offer incentives based on energy generated and used on-site. The size of your roof and energy usage habits will help determine the ideal scheme.

For most homes, the Smart Export Guarantee provides a straightforward way to receive payments from energy suppliers for surplus solar power. The Feed-In Tariff may provide higher returns depending on system size and eligibility. Weighing the long-term costs and benefits can help choose between schemes. The Renewable Heat Incentive is ideal for also installing solar thermal panels.

When selecting an installer, check their experience, reviews, certifications, and warranties offered. Get multiple quotes and ask questions to find the best fit. Aim for a system size that offsets daytime usage but avoid hugely oversized systems that lack self-consumption incentives. With an optimal solar scheme and installer, you can maximize returns on investment in renewable energy.

To summarize, carefully evaluating your usage, roof space, budget, and timeline can help determine the ideal solar panel scheme for your home. Do your research, get quotes, and choose a reputable installer to ensure smooth installation and returns on your investment.

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