Why you should consider getting solar panels
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, in 2022, a new emphasis was placed on solar-powered energy after the European Commission announced that all new buildings are obligated to install solar panels under the Solar Rooftop initiative.
In light of this, 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?
Green energy movement in Ireland
This diversification of Ireland’s renewable energy sources has been seen across the country, as investment in solar farms increased throughout 2022 and continues into 2023.
- In 2022, Renewable energy producer Amarenco teamed up with Bord Gáis Energy to build 8 solar farms in Cork while planning permission was granted to Harmony Solar Meath Ltd to erect an over 300-acre solar farm in Meath.
- AIB partnered up with renewable energy group NTR, securing up to 80% of its future electricity from two solar panel farms NTR is building in Wexford in 2023.
- In January 2023, Irish developer Power Capital Renewable Energy secured €100 million from European leaders to fund local and international solar projects, with the potential of another €140 million being added to the fund in the future.
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
Currently, 50,000 homes in Ireland have solar panels installed, with 17,000 solar installations being connected to the grid in 2022.
However, according to Dr. Paul Deane, Senior Research Scientist in Clean Energy at 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 in 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.
If you’re still unsure whether to invest in solar panels, use the SEAI’s free solar electricity calculator which will calculate the savings you could make on your electricity bill and when you will have a return on your investment.
A low-risk investment
In the last decade, the production costs of solar photovoltaic panels have plummeted by around 80%, meaning it's become far cheaper to purchase them.
And in May, the Government reduced the VAT on the supply and installation of solar panels to zero. This could see the cost of getting panels installed reduced by almost €1,000, provided solar panel suppliers pass on the VAT reduction to customers. However, as suppliers are not obliged to do this, Dr. Paul Deane recommends consumers get at least three quotes from different suppliers before committing to getting any solar panels installed.
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 still need to be set up by a professional though.
- Low maintenance: According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), you’ll only be required to monitor their performance every now and again.
You can learn more about purchasing solar panels by listening to our podcast episode on solar panels and micro-generation with Dr. Paul Deane.
Avail of SEAI grants to cut your installation costs
The cost of having solar panels installed in your home will depend on the number of panels you buy, and the company you purchase them from.
For example, the price to get six or seven panels installed on the roof of your home 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.
The SEAI offers grants of up to €1,200 for the installation of solar water heating systems and up to €2,400 for Solar PV panels.
There are also grants of up to €162,500 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 allows 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 or our micro-generation podcast with Dr. Paul Deane.
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!
Take a look at our other articles
Check out these pieces to learn more about how to lower your electricity usage and bills:
- Read our energy Quickstart Guide to see how you can lower your energy costs.
- Here are 15 ways to use less electricity and save money.
- Discover 10 ways to heat your home for less.