Solar energy

15 Replies



I’ve been contacted by numerous “solar panel”companies recently. Last week I caved and someone came round to do an assessment. Lovely chap, but I thought the prices he was quoting for solar PV, hot water and some heat exchange thing were a bit on the high side. I would like to have solar energy. We have a large, south-facing roof so we are in an ideal position. I know I could get an eco loan for the hot water bit and that there is some kind of cash back thing from EDF for each converter for the panels, and that somehow there is money available for energy production but if you go through EDF direct they don’t buy your spare back from you. Tbh, I’m a bit confused about the whole thing. I have tried reading up on the French websites about this but, whilst my spoken French is ok, I am struggling to get my head round the written info. Can anyone help? Is there a company out there who can fit solar panels without this whole business about borrowing money and “guaranteeing” it will pay for itself over the next eleventy billion years? Any thoughts or advice/recommendations very gratefully received.

Featured Classified


barryandpat-550891 1509110958

We have a south facing roof, which is unsuitable for solar reception, it needs to be facing west, as south only gets the sun in the mornings.

Get some more devis before you choose, have a look at Connection?

rollerboy 1509113131

Hello kath68 - it depends how you look at these things. A solar panel for heating water is a useful thing and does work - it will cost you an exorbitant €5000 or thereabouts, and will save you about €300 a year in EDF bills. That's a return of 6% and tax free, which is pretty good. But it will take about 17 years to 'get your money back' which is not so good, and of course your original capital is gone. 

Photovoltaic cells are totally different, producing electricity from sunlight, and come in 'panels' producing usually 80 or 120 watts. So if your house is rated at 6Kw you would need 50 of the larger panels. Prices vary a lot, but generally a return of around 6% is likely, but the length of time to 'get your money back' is likely to be nearer to 20 years as the sun doesn't shine all the time. The EDF buy-back scheme is entirely dependent on EDF policy, and I would place no reliance on it. Aim for self-sufficiency. Photovoltaic cells are more reliable than they used to be, but guarantee claims usually end up as a 3-way fight between manufacturer, supplier, and installer. You just suffer ... 

RobCin 1509119631

Hi Kath,

Looked into doing this last year!  

First barryandpat are right, south facing is not ideal, but not impossible.

 I spoke with many companies and basically the amount they wanted, made the project unviable.  Now that EDF have cut the feed in tariffs there really is not much to be saved going that route.  EDF BTW limit all domestic installations to 3Kw arrays.  

There is an English company installing ECO stuff, but again for me it would take too long to make a return.  The new system out there is a plug in one, off grid, it is nothing to do with EDF and they don't get involved. Unlimited in size, the panels are mounted, cables run to inverter/battery pack then plug in to the board with a standard plug.  So pretty much any competent person can do it. Down side is what you give to the grid you get nothing for, but thats where a battery pack comes in.  

You can buy a 3Kw kit which includes everything you need for about 2500 €. (bit more when you add battery store/lightning protection ).  Thats the route I will take when funds are available.  Other points to note, it is requirement of some insurance companies to declare solar panels, and there may be an additional premium to pay, in our case the solar pack cover was 50 € PA.  Also in our area we would require permission from the Marie to put panels up, they can dictate size of the array and also the fitment method.

Hot water - this is going to be the first I sort, rollerboy is right, about 300 € to be saved there, which is not a lot less the panels would achieve (depends on array size).  They now produce tanks with heat converters attached to the top, installation is simple, nothing on the roof, hot water sun or no sun. In this area between 1500 and 2000 € for a 270l tank, top end is sauter. So you should make a return farely quickly with this, particularily if you need to swap out the tank anyway.


frog 1 1509176464

None of these companies work for edf they may have some sort of agreement to use there name but aren't part of edf.

When these people ring up  say  you are renting the house ,or the person they ask for isn't in, they soon put the phone down!!

RobCin 1509177692

Whilst the companies are not part of EDF, any on grid system, will require new meters and isolators. These will have to be fitted by EDF and this is where the price jumps.  Only way to avoid EDF is going offgrid.

Kath - Meant to be in the details for the English company

Sustainable Fish 1509179730

Things might have changed by now but when I did my research a while ago the stated useful service life of solar panels was 20 years maximum.  Then you have to play the game again to get new ones.  Unless solar panels drop in price by at least 50% they make no sense at all to me.

RobCin 1509181100

Just an example of the 'average' panel on the market.  Bisol European Panel 340w @ 235 €. Guaranteed output 85% at 25 years.

barryandpat-550891 1509184753

Something to think about.

About 5 years ago I decided that our old camping-car needed solar electricity.

So we looked on ebay, found a Chinese fellow named Thomas who sent us 

€300 worth of solar panel DIY kit which i assembled into 4 panels within 8 pieces of glass bonded on the edges, all connected in series.

In the summer period with a clear sky I can get 6 KW of power connected to 4 solar type 12v batteries. This goes to an inverter which drives fans, tv, toaster, some tools and lights, etc. We intend to get a 3000 w pure sine wave inverter so we can use the microwave oven next year.

Don`t know what the kit is worth but it took 3 days to solder everything together.

And it works fine.


borjastick-512278 1509198436

The theory behind this is all well and good but...

I have a friend who lives high up in the Brecon Beacons and thus is almost entirely off grid. While he is a rich eco warrior he readily admits that the kit probably won't last long enough to be serviceable for the pay back period.

kath68 1509483168

 Hmmmmm. It just seems such a waste not to use all this lovely sunshine, but unless we DIY like Barry, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the hassle. 

Thanks all!

Intheshed 1509487578

I had an outfit come and pitch the idea. Since I have a bit of experience in the solar field, I asked a few questions on the tech side. They had no idea.. And, suggested our roof was close to ideal with 95% orientation. Not so.

The price was around 24K euros, but, financed by a cheap loan from their 'partners' who happened to be our bank.. So nothing to pay, as EDF would pay off the loan until, at 10 yrs,all the savings would revert to us. 

The same kit would cost us around 5K euros in UK, but, unless fitted by an agreed installer, would not qualify for the EDF rebate. So a 'no go' unless off grid.

After looking at the sums, I refused the deal. Queue a barrage of rude calls as to how I was an idiot to not accept their offer, along with assorted others from people who had been sent our détails.

But later, it appears they went bust, but 'might' be still around offering similar stuff. Meanwhile, I get offers to maintain the system I didn't buy, from assorted outfits who had access to the files. Smells, you betcha..

CharlieS 1509550444

I have to admit I have always been sceptical re. solar panels. The costs and payback aren't that attractive and a diagnosticien told me that getting rid of them at the end of their useful lives is expensive - and usually a nasty surprise for whoever is currently resident in said house!

However, a random thought/question: can they be used to charge up electric or hybrid cars? If you think of the fuel costs that would be saved it might transform the economics totally......

Intheshed 1509557873

The only catch with charging a car, is one would want to do that at night.... Friends have a Tesla with the 90KW battery pack, so a 3KW panel set up would, ignoring losses, take 30hrs. Electric cars don't yet make economic sense, apart from the charging problems, compared with IC engines. Couple that with the question of where all that electricity is going to come from when they force us into e cars. One could have two battery pack, one on charge and one in use, but that makes the economics even worse, apart from the hassle of changing.

Sustainable Fish 1509560342

Oh, and you haven't mentioned the actual cost of the wonderful new electric cars.  Most people I know couldn't afford one, and aparently the battery packs don't last all that well so there's another expense.

chèvrefeuille 1509571260

Buy a Renault Zoe, a year old one. They are a bargain after the first year depreciation then you lease the batteries from Renault.

Join the discussion