Gas & Electricity

Why you should consider getting solar panels

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Caoimhe Bermingham
Staff Writer

In this guide, we examine the reasons why investing in solar panels might be the right option for you.

The Irish Government aims for 80% of Ireland’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. In 2020, 42% of electricity came from renewable sources with 86% of this coming from wind energy.

However, with the European Commission recently announcing that all new buildings will be obligated to install solar panels under their new Solar Rooftop Initiative, a new emphasis is being placed on solar-powered energy. 

Seeing that April saw the first solar panel farm in Ireland being opened, we thought there was no better time to examine the benefits of solar panels and to determine whether you should consider getting them. 

But first, let's look at the current status of solar energy in Ireland, and further afield. 

Europe plans to increase its reliance on solar energy 

The impending climate crisis, electricity shortage, and Europe’s reliance on Russia as an energy source, have spurred the European Commission to launch its REPowerEU plan. 

This plan sees the establishment of:

  • An EU Solar Strategy: This aims to double solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2025 and install 600GW by 2030.
  • A Solar Rooftop Initiative: This will include a phased-in legal obligation to install solar panels on new public, commercial, and residential buildings. It aims to cut gas-fuelled power and heating in homes. 
  • Measures to implement solar thermal energy to modernise district and communal heating systems. 

The hope is that these schemes will push countries to use EU funding and launch support programs for rooftop panels and result in the installation of solar energy in all suitable public buildings by 2025. 

These moves from the EU Commission make it clear that the installation of solar panels on public and private buildings is the way forward. 

All that is left to ask is: if not now, then when will solar panels become an expected household feature?

Irish politicians back solar energy

A big win was seen this October for the future of solar-powered energy in Ireland, when the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien signed into law revised planning exemptions for the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of houses and certain non-domestic buildings. 

These new exemptions mean:

  • Houses, regardless of location, may now install unlimited solar panels on their rooftops without any requirement for planning permission (subject to certain conditions)
  • Rooftops of industrial buildings, business premises, community and educational buildings, places of worship, health buildings, libraries, certain public utility sites and farms also no longer need to apply for planning permission

However, certain restrictions on the installation of solar panels will continue to apply to particular buildings such as protected structures, Architectural Conservation Areas and developments near certain aviation sites.

According to Minister O’Brien, the aim of these new exemptions is to remove barriers and to ensure ‘that individuals, communities, businesses and farms can generate their own electricity, reduce their own bills and play their part in creating a zero-carbon future fuelled by renewable energy’. 

You can learn more about these new exemptions here

Green energy movement in Ireland 

According to the CEO of the Irish Solar Energy Association, Conall Bolger, ‘2022 will be the year where solar arrives in Ireland in a significant way’. 

This diversification of Ireland’s renewable energy sources has been seen across the country, as investment in solar farms has increased throughout the year. 

For instance: 

  • Renewable energy producer Amarenco has teamed up with Bord Gáis Energy to build 8 solar farms in Cork.
  • An Bord Pleanála has granted permission to Harmony Solar Meath Ltd to erect a solar farm over 300-acres of farmland outside Kells, in Meath. 
  • Green energy supplier Urbanvolt is borrowing €36 million to further solar panel expansion in Ireland and Britain.
  • AIB has partnered with renewable energy group NTR, to secure up to 80% of its future electricity from two solar panel farms NTR are building in Wexford in 2023. 

Luckily these strides towards decarbonising Ireland with solar panels are not just aimed at large corporations. 

The general population is also able to help tackle our climate crisis and electricity shortage by generating electricity from solar panels. 

Lower your carbon footprint

According to Dr Paul Dean of University College Cork, up to 1 million roofs in Ireland could be fitted with solar panels. So if you’re looking for a way to help the environment then installing solar panels on your home is the perfect way to do it. You’ll even be able to produce free electricity at the same time!

However, with the planning permission for solar panels being removed and the benefits of them becoming more well-known, many households have seen themselves being placed on waiting lists due to solar panel installers being in such high demand.

There are two types of solar panels available:

1. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. These turn sunlight into electricity.

2. Solar thermal (ST) panels. These use sunlight to heat the water in your home.

Due to the Irish climate, many people wonder if it is worth investing in solar panels if we don’t get sunshine every day. 

The answer is yes, it is.

How are solar panels a worthwhile investment in Ireland? 

In Ireland, 75% of the energy you generate from a solar PV system on your home will take place between May and September due to our climate. 

However, that doesn’t mean solar panels are unsuitable for Irish weather; because they are. It doesn't need to be particularly sunny for them to work.

In fact, according to Alternative Energy Ireland, a medium-sized PV system generates about 3,000 units (kWh) of electricity each year, which is enough to cover about 70% of the annual electricity used in an average home in Ireland.

Meanwhile, solar thermal panels are designed to heat enough water to cover 50-60% of a household’s annual hot water requirements. And it is estimated that you can reduce your electricity usage for hot water by 1,500 kWh per year if you install a three-metre square solar thermal panel. 

Installing solar panels allows you to collect energy from the sun, which lowers your dependence on fossil fuels to generate electricity, thus helping the environment as fewer greenhouse gases are released from the burning of gas, coal and oil. 

A low-risk investment

In the last decade, the production costs of solar photovoltaic panels have plummeted by 80%, meaning it is cheaper for you to purchase this renewable energy equipment.

As well as this, solar panels are: 

  • Extremely durable: They usually come with a 20-year guarantee.
  • Easy to install: This is due to their few moving parts. They will need to be set up by a professional.
  • Low maintenance: According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), you’ll only be required to monitor their performance every now and again.

Solar panels gain their energy from the sun, which is an unlimited resource, meaning you will always be able to benefit from them. Further demonstrating how they are a low-risk investment that will ensure you see a return. 

In comparison, fossil fuels such as gas and coal are limited resources, meaning their lack of availability negatively impacts the electricity sector by causing prices to increase as fossil fuel shortages rise. 

Avail of SEAI grants to cut your installation costs

The cost of having solar panels installed on your home will depend on the number of panels you buy, and the company you purchase them from. 

For example, the price to get 6-7 solar panels installed on the roof of your new-build home or home extension could start at 3,500. In older buildings, this could be double the cost. 

To stop this price tag from deterring you from this worthwhile but long-term investment and to encourage households to go green, the SEAI has grants available for all homeowners, including landlords, whose homes were built and occupied before 2021. This is defined as the date your electricity meter was installed. This is different to other grant measures where the home must be built before 2011.

These grants are designed to help alleviate the cost of installing solar panels on your home. Seeing it takes between five to 15 years to get a return on the money you invested into buying solar panels, these grants offer a welcomed financial aid. 

There are also grants of up to €2,400 available for businesses, public organisations and community groups, who want to install solar PV panels on their buildings.

To discover more about these grants, take a look at our guide on the finance options available from SEAI

Get paid for the extra electricity you produce

The Government's Micro-generation Support Scheme will allow you to sell any excess electricity your solar panels produce to the electricity grid for a profit.

According to Eamonn Ryan, the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, this scheme hopes to create opportunities for Irish people to invest in renewable technologies that will help in ‘shaping electricity demand and decarbonising homes and businesses’.  

It will ensure that homes, businesses, schools, and farms will be able to get a fair price at a ‘competitive market rate’ for the excess electricity they produce and sell. You can discover the different rates electricity suppliers will pay you for your excess electricity in our micro-generation explainer guide

With electricity bills increasing, this payback scheme will allow you to reduce your bills even further, as you can make money off the electricity you produce. 

Opting into it will also help other Irish consumers access renewable energy thus lowering their reliance on fossil fuels, and on electricity that is supplied by providers who charge high electricity prices. 

So if you are interested in helping the environment and availing of a passive income, then you should seriously consider installing solar panels on your home. 

Lower your energy costs today!

On bonkers.ie you can compare and find the cheapest electricity rates available from Ireland’s main suppliers with our free comparison tool. 

As well as this, you can cut the cost of your household expenses across gas, broadband, banking, and insurance products with our range of other free tools. 

Take a look at our other articles

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