The BIG switch - why high efficiency modules are the way forward

The BIG switch - why high efficiency modules are the way forward »

Solar has had little to differentiate products in the industry beginnings but innovation and reduced margins is changing that. Sven Armbrecht, Business Development Manager UK at LG Solar, explores how the UK is facing a solar sea change with consumers opting for quality and efficiency when picking solar modules.

More than 5 million households in the UK have already installed solar panels. This number is set to grow even further in the next few years, with experts estimating that by 2020 almost 40 per cent of the UK’s annual electricity needs could be covered by solar panels. However, to reach this goal in the next few years, there needs to be a shift in the market’s perception of higher efficiency models.

Many installers in the UK still prefer the 250 watt modules and are hesitant to switch to higher efficiency modules. Our conversations with installers have shown that the key reasons for this are:

£   In the UK, the solar incentive scheme supports smaller systems and PV systems with up to 4kWp get the highest feed-in tariffs in the country

£   The solar market is still young (despite being a rapidly growing market), so people stick to what they know -  250 watt modules

£   Price – modules with higher wattage are still slightly more expensive despite the narrowing price gap

These key myths can all be debunked. According to the DECC PV statistics, around 70 per cent of domestic installations within the 4 KWp boundary are in fact smaller than 4 KWp, using less than the required 16 panels.

Consequently, for households with less roof space it would make more sense to go for higher efficiency panels such as 280 KWp to get most out of their system and be eligible for the highest feed-in tariffs. Despite a higher initial investment for these solar modules, they will pay themselves faster.

Throughout the day, these solar modules produce significantly more energy – this means higher pay back if the energy is sold to the grid or lower costs if the households energy consumption is very high.

Apart from return on investment, longevity is usually the most important factor for potential customers when considering buying a solar system. Solar systems are a longterm investment and customers therefore need to be knowledgeable about the best available quality and output. It is an installer’s responsibility to carefully evaluate the best solution for their customers to achieve optimal efficiency and performance with the available roof space.

Finding the best solutions for clients and offering the most efficient solar modules does not only benefit the customer. By adopting the latest modules and switching to high efficiency systems, installers have the opportunity to distinctly differentiate from their competitors. They are offering their customers a better product than the competition and can position themselves as solar experts. Ultimately, it’s all about customer satisfaction – and customers will definitely be satisfied with considerably higher yields over as much as 25 years and longer.

Finding the right solution

In the end, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Choosing a system depends on a number of factors such as sun exposure, roof size or budget. To give you an example, recent studies have shown that solar systems with east-west orientation can be more efficient than panels that are facing south as commonly accepted. With the sun setting in the west, the solar panels produce more electricity when it is most needed: just as the sun goes down. With high efficiency solar modules, users can make most of those last rays of sunshine. As for the roof size: the smaller the roof, the less solar panels you can fit on it. So, it just makes sense to choose higher efficiency panels to make the most of the space you have available.

However, if the circumstances are right, then a higher efficiency system would be a better choice as it produces more energy and generates a higher return on investment. It is not a case of picking the best solar system, but rather enabling customers to make educated choices by giving them options and informing them about the diversity of the solar market.

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