Ed and Tania Carlisle live in a back to back in Beeston with a difference: they’ve got ten solar panels on their roof. In Climate Week, I went to speak with Ed to find out more.
Ed explains, “We’ve been interested in green living for a while, but it’s an unfolding thing. We started recycling, then cycling and car-sharing, then getting an allotment, then even keeping chickens. Getting the solar panels seemed like a good next step – and it made all the more sense with the government subsidy scheme.”
Put simply, every energy producer in the country receives subsidies from the government; and in the last few years, this has been opened up from industry to individuals – to encourage normal people to produce energy where possible. So as well as generating electricity for your home, you get to sell extra electricity to the government through a ‘feed in tariff’ that they guarantee over 25 years. Instead of paying a bill every quarter, you get a cheque.
The upfront cost is hefty: the panels initially cost about £1,000 each. But estimates suggest that most solar installations will pay for themselves within 10-12 years, and thereafter be profit-making. In these times of low interest rates, that makes for a far better investment than leaving savings with a building society and bank.
Practically, the panels sit on a framework (a bit like a car roof-rack), and don’t damage or replace your existing roof. Installation normally takes about two days. Not all roofs are suitable – and most importantly, they need to be roughly pointing south. (Ed and Tania’s faces south east, which is good enough.) Crucially – and luckily, here in Leeds! – the panels don’t require direct sunlight to function, so produce electricity year-round.
A year on from the installation, Ed’s happy with the panels’ performance: “I wasn’t sure they’d turn out to be a good investment, but they do seem to be on track to pay for themselves over 11 or 12 years.”
“But more than the money, I hope they help shift all our imaginations about how we can live more sustainably here in south Leeds. Together, we face a massive – and hopefully exciting – challenge to discover better, greener ways of living. So – amongst many other things – I’d love to see a growing number of solar and other green energy installations on shared and public buildings and spaces across the community. Done right, these could be set up as community-run schemes to enable everyone to benefit.”
For more information about solar power, visit the Energy Saving Trust‘s website, or simply search for solar panel installation and you will find lots of firms offering their services.