As we’ve started to see signs of fatigue from the earth, we have needed to start looking into alternative sources of energy. As such, renewables have seen a huge push, with large amounts of investment and increasing signs of support from the general public. A large number of us in the general public do want to show more support by buying only renewable energies from our energy companies; however, the simple fact is, for many of us, it is just too expensive. Until renewable tariffs become that commonplace that they don’t come at a premium, a large amount of regular people are not going to be able to choose the more expensive option as it is now. The alternative that many are looking into currently is creating their own energy through renewable methods. This is not only a great investment over the long term, but immediately reduces your reliance on the energy suppliers. On this page you’ll see the two main ways that you too can achieve this.
By far the most popular method for generating electricity for your home, solar panel technology has seen vast developments over the past few years. In contrast to many of the other home generation methods, solar panels definitely have some of the more aesthetically non-intrusive equipment setups, meaning it isn’t a massive eye saw for your home. In terms of value for money, solar panels used to be pretty low. The panels themselves, along with the installation costs, used to be completely out of proportion to the actual reward that they would bring; however, due to recent developments in panel efficiency, the ROI is coming a lot quicker and each panel is providing much more output value.
The reality for the majority of us is that if we choose to invest in solar panels, they will only provide us with part of our energy. This part, however, can be as big as you would like it be depending on how much money you are prepared to invest. The average solar panel setup in the UK now costs around £3000, which would usually see you make a return on investment after around 14 years, with a 4.8% return over 20 years. Depending on location, average consumption, size of property etc., you may be able to see a ROI sooner, or maybe later, but with an even bigger eventual return. With solar panels, you also have the option to sell some of your electricity back to the energy company if you have generated too much. This has been made even easier with the recent changes to the government Feed-In Tariff, which provides an even better investment proposal.
Types of solar panels
Generally in the UK you can choose from three types of solar panels that are each targeted at different individual requirements. They are as follows:
- Monocrystalline silicon: These are the most efficient of the three, with recent panels reaching an efficiency level of 20%, which is exceptionally high in comparison to previous models. They are also much more durable, claiming a much higher longevity and can harvest and store much more energy.
- Polycrystalline silicon: This panel type is less expensive than the above, but has an efficiency rating of around 15%. They are made up of numerous crystals as opposed to the monocrystalline silicon that is made of just one, meaning it is not as good quality. They are, however, still a quality panel that shouldn’t be overlooked.
- Amorphous/thin film: This type is the least efficient of the three, with an average efficiency level of around 7%, which is pretty poor compared to the other two. They do, however, work in very low light, even moonlight, which is a huge advantage. They are also perhaps the least aesthetically intrusive panel on the market due to their thin structure.
When we say wind energy, it automatically brings up images of the huge wind turbines that are not only a large eye saw, but require huge amounts of land to make them work. This isn’t, however, the primary reason why you wouldn’t have one of these in your back garden: their average cost works out at around £3 million. What we’re referring to when talking about wind energy at home is on a much smaller scale, meaning you don’t need even nearly the same amount of free space.
The average roof mounted wind turbine in the UK currently costs around £2,000 with an output between 0.5 kW – 2.5 kW, the latter with the potential to match the entire average household’s electricity usage (obviously a 2.5 kW output turbine will cost a bit more than £2,000). Free standing wind turbines are a little more expensive but certainly provide much more of an ROI. The price for this kind of turbine varies greatly, mainly dependent on your desired output. A 1.5 kW turbine has the potential to create an average of around 2,600 kW over the year and will cost around £7,000, whereas a 15 kW capacity, that would generate 36,000 kW of energy, more than 10 times the average household’s usage, would cost around £70,000. Like solar panel generation, if you start to produce more energy than you are using, you can sell any leftovers back to the energy companies, which becomes quite a nice little money earner.
One of the main disadvantages of wind turbines in comparison to solar panels is their need for pretty regular servicing. As such they tend to have a much lower life expectancy. This should be taken into account when thinking about long term ROI and time until breaking even in general. Space should definitely be left aside for maintenance work.