Since 2008, when the solar pv feed-in-tariff was introduced, having a solar pv array has been seen as a money-maker: something that we are entitled to make a profit on. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is entitled to make money for producing electricity that they are going to use themselves. The feed-in-tariff mechanism though made this a great selling point (I may even have used it myself from time to time!) and so people got used to the idea of solar making you money.
That became the priority.
This is changing though. Increasingly, people are prioritising two other things. The first of these is lessening their reliance on the energy companies and the second is doing their bit for climate change.
Let’s just focus on the second of these. Can having a solar pv array installed really make a difference to climate change? The easy (and cynical) answer to this is no, of course not. What difference can you make while China and America (and us for that matter) are doing their best to destroy the planet? But then, why do anything that’s right? Why not rob a bank? Its not going to affect the profits of Barclays! Why not go on a murdering spree? The world population won’t be affected!
The truth is that everyone of us consumes an unreal amount of energy simply by being connected to the electricity grid. While our grid is pretty efficient, there are certain inefficiencies which just can’t be got around. Overall, the electricity that gets to your plugs has gone through approximately 60% losses. If you consume 8000kWh per annum, that means 20,000kWh have been used to keep you going. That’s a lot of CO2!
A 4kW solar pv system will produce around 3200kWh a year. That means that you’re saving the climate 8000kWh a year. If 1000 people do this that saves the climate 1 gigawatt-hour a year.
Of course, there are inefficiencies in solar pv too. But for a normal domestic household the losses are more like 20% between the panel and the plug. Also, the energy produced isn’t from fossil fuels but from good, clean sunlight. There are no nasty CO2 fumes given off with these losses.
So, I ask the question again. If your considering solar, what’s your priority? There’s nothing wrong with making a few quid with your solar but let’s prioritise helping the poor old planet first.