Free solar panels used to be commonplace when the Feed-in Tariff scheme (FITs) first began back in 2010. Solar installation companies used to buy your solar panels, install them on your roof for you, and all you had to do was use the free, eco-friendly electricity that they generated. But can you still get this kind of free solar panels?

The answer is, sadly, no.

When FITs ended in April 2019, it signalled the end for free solar panels too. But there are still options available – the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) and battery storage systems can help you maximise the savings you make from installing solar panels.

How did free solar panels work?

If you had a south or south-west facing roof, but you didn’t have the money upfront to buy solar panels, solar panel companies may have offered you free solar panels. They took care of everything – meaning you didn’t need to worry about any maintenance or repairs.

What you didn’t get, however, was the FITs payments. The solar installation companies took this as their fee, since when the scheme started you could earn more than £20,000 over 25 years.

These schemes were often called ‘rent a roof’ schemes, because essentially solar companies were using your roof to help them earn money from the Feed-in Tariff. If you were never going to be in a position to be able to afford solar panels yourself, this seems like a good option, as you could cut your electricity bills by 50% if you’re at home in the day most of the time. But if you could afford to save up or borrow money for solar panel finance, it always worked out better to buy solar panels yourself.

Were free solar panels too good to be true?

image of solar panels on UK houseUnless you were never going to be in a position to finance your own solar panels, getting free solar panels wasn’t going to be the best deal for you.

When FITs started, you could earn up to 54.17p per kilowatt-hour (kWh) your system generated. That meant that you could earn up to £20,000 over 20 or 25 years, depending on when you installed your solar panels. So if you got a free solar panel deal, you’d miss out on these payments.

The cost of installing solar panels in 2010 was around £13,000 – much more than current solar panel costs. But even with this high price tag, you were still set to make a healthy profit from FITs. That being said, the savings you could make by using free electricity generated from the sun are not to be sniffed at – you could cut your electricity bill in half.

Alternative options to free solar panels

Now you can’t get free solar panels anymore, what are your options? There are plenty of ways to maximise the benefits of free, 100% renewable, electricity from the sun.

Get solar panel finance

If you can’t afford the cost of solar panels upfront, consider taking out a loan to pay for them. High street banks will be able to offer loans, but many solar installation companies can help you find finance for your solar panels too. Here at Forever Green, we can offer loans for up to 10 years with no deposit necessary. You just need to fill in a quick application form and wait to see if you’re approved.

Take advantage of the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) came into effect in January 2020 and is seen as a replacement for the FITs’ export tariff. With FITs, you could get 5.38p for every unit of electricity you exported to the grid, which was estimated at around 50% of the electricity you generated if you didn’t have a smart meter in place.

With the SEG, your energy supplier must pay you for the electricity that you export to the grid. But there’s no set rate that they have to pay you – all that the government says is that it has to be more than 0. Only energy suppliers with more than 250,000 customers have to pay the SEG to their customers, but smaller energy companies can opt in.

Install a solar battery storage system

image of tesla powerwall installed in garageOne way to make sure you get the most benefit from your solar panels, even if they’re not free, is to install a battery storage system alongside them. A battery enables you to store electricity that your solar panels generate during the day so you can use it later; if you’re out of the house during the day, this is the ideal solution.

Both the Tesla Powerwall and the SolaX battery storage systems that we install are intelligent systems, so you can have full control over the electricity you use. Do you get a cheap rate for electricity during off-peak times? Use this electricity to charge your battery so you can draw power from it during peak times. Not in for most of the day? Charge your battery with your solar panels so you can use the electricity at night when your panels stop generating.

Is it still worth installing solar panels?

The answer is definitely yes. There are still plenty of benefits to installing solar panels even though you can’t get free ones anymore. Take a look at our top reasons for installing solar panels on your home.

Save money on your electricity bills

Once your system is up and running, your solar panels will start generating free electricity from the sun every day. Solar panels work on daylight, not sunlight, so even on cloudy days you’ll still generate some electricity. You can cut your electricity bills by as much as 50% with a solar panel system alone, but add a battery system into the mix and that figure rises to 80%, because you can store any electricity that you don’t use during the day.

Your biggest savings will come from making sure you’ve got high-efficiency solar panels – we install SunPower panels, which are the most efficient panels on the market. Find out SunPower’s 3 questions they recommend you should ask when you’re looking to install solar panels:

Go electricity independent

End your reliance on the National Grid with solar panels. You might not be able to get free solar panels anymore, but you can still generate free electricity and feel smug that you’re not paying over the odds for your power.

While you might not be able to go 100% energy-independent, you can get as close as possible with solar panels and a battery storage system. As energy bills continue to rise, you’ll have to worry less about how much worse-off you’re going to be, since you’ll be almost completely off-grid.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Installing solar panels is one of the best things you can do for the environment. A typical 3-4kWp solar system could reduce your carbon footprint by around 1.3-1.6 tonnes every year compared to those that aren’t using any kind of renewable energy. Pair them with an electric vehicle and not only will you save money on car tax but you’ll also reduce your carbon emissions even more.

Get a quote from Forever Green Energy

Take the plunge and get a quote from Forever Green Energy for solar panels. While free solar panels might not exist anymore, the benefits are clear – find out exactly how much you could save on your energy bills today.