Beware the new Solar PV cowboys!!!
Unfortunately during the boom times when solar PV installations were through the roof the market was plagued by cowboys, the ones you get in most businesses, vastly inflating prices and pressuring people to go ahead on the day. We heard some horror stories, when we were selling 4kWp systems for £12,000 the cowboys were selling the same or lower spec systems for £20,000, when the price for systems had dropped down to £7k they were still convincing, unfortunately usually vulnerable, people to buy them for £14k.
Well it seems as though they are back in force now selling people solar PV upgrades, usually Solar-Edge to help their system generate more power and earn more income, especially compelling for people who have the highest FiT rate.
Solar Edge works, but its not as expensive as the cowboys are selling it for
Solar-Edge is an inverter that also has an optimiser which is added to each panel. As a technology its great, it optimises the output on each panel and so helps the system perform better as each panel produces at its maximum output, unlike a normal inverter which works with a string of panels where if one panel is underperforming it reduces output on the entire string.
Putting Solar Edge on a unshaded system can yield a performance boost of 6% - 10%, and for a shaded system it can be up to a 25% improvement in output. And because it it much more reliable it comes with a 12-year warranty as standard, which can be upgraded to 20-years or 25 years for only a couple of hundred pounds extra. Meaning you can install it and not have to worry about paying out for a new inverter for the remainder of the FiT, as well as earn more income from it.
So how much should it cost?
On Wednesday i met a gentleman who has a 2.9kWp solar PV system and was being pressured into paying £4,800 incl VAT to upgrade to SolarEdge. This dropped to £3,500 before the cowboy left, but he was still getting ripped off. Luckily he spoke to us and one of our installer partners is going to install it for around £2,000 + VAT, giving him a huge saving.
As a technology it is more expensive, the inverters are pricier, and each panel needs an optimiser so all the panels need to be lifted and have the optimiser connected at the back, and if you need scaffolding the price goes up further, but a 16 panel system upgrade with a warranty extension to 20-years, with scaffolding, should be circa £3,000 - £3,500 including VAT. Less if there is no scaffolding and its easy to access.
Is it worth it?
The short answer is yes, in many cases, and definitely if your inverter has failed and needs to be replaced anyway. If you are on the highest tariff, and certainly if you have a little bit of shading, then the performance impact can be really high. Many systems put back in during the boom, when SolarEdge was not as widely used and a lot more expensive, left people with systems where they were shaded by the roof, an aerial, trees or just put in on poor elevations, meaning that many systems are underperforming. And with a Feed-in Tariff of almost 50p per kWh that is significant.
A 500kWh per year uplift would generate an additional £250 in FiT income, £12 in export income, and £50 a year in extra electricity savings (based on 70% consumption and 14p a unit), giving total extra income and savings of £311, or over £6,000 over 20-years. But if we also factor in that you are also saving on the cost of 2 inverter upgrades, at a cost of around £1,000 + VAT, then the net cost works out at around £2,000 - £2,500 to give you at least an extra £6,000.
On top of that with SolarEdge you also get free panel level monitoring for life, which means you can drill down to the performance of each panel and see how its performing, and it alerts you if there is anything wrong with the system. Many systems don't have a monitor and the inverters are often stuck up in the loft, meaning that it can be weeks or even months until someone notices a problem, meaning lost income and lost savings.
Another gentleman that we saw yesterday called us up because his system had stopped generating since August, and when we went out to check it, the RCD had tripped!! A lack of monitoring cost in the peak summer has cost him around £800 in lost income and savings!!
So please don't fall for the cowboys, it works but don't get fleeced and there are more than enough decent installers out there who will help you out. If you would like a price, get in touch and we will look into how well your system is performing and what benefit you can get from installing Solar Edge and arrange for one of our installers to give you a quote.
If you ever need any advice, please drop us a line.
Do you have a renewables horror story you can share with us? Send it in and we will make sure everyone else knows.