Poll: Six in 10 Brits would consider fitting solar panels - 22 Apr 2015

Around six in every 10 Brits who do not have solar panels on their homes would consider fitting the clean energy technology on their properties in the next five years, new research has found.

A study by Mintel outlines the huge popularity and strong growth for solar PV technologies, which it predicts will result in the market growing 30 per cent to hit 7.1GW this year before reaching almost 11GW of capacity in 2018.

In the domestic market, free solar panels installed through "rent-a-roof" schemes are proving to be the most popular option with prospective customers, with as many as 39 per cent of people who do not currently have solar panels installed on their home considering this option in the next five years.

Of those consumers who would consider solar panels, 23 per cent said they would finance them personally while 26 per cent said they would try to use finance through the Green Deal energy efficiency loan scheme, which is seeing increasing interest in solar technologies from customers.

The poll results suggest a shift from current trends: almost 70 per cent of people who had already fitted solar panels have paid for the panels and installation themselves, while 22 per cent have opted for free panels through a "rent-a-roof" scheme.

Such schemes initially took the form of companies providing panels and keeping the feed-in tariff payments they generate, but cuts to these subsidies has prompted providers to come up with new solutions.

Last year, IKEA launched a solar scheme with Hanergy covering the upfront costs of installing solar panels through a loan that is paid back by the customer through the money they earn by producing solar power. And last month, SunEdison launched a similar deal covering the expense of fitting panels, which then sees customers pay the company for the electricity produced at a reduced rate.

According to Mintel, around half of people surveyed have heard of "rent-a-roof" schemes, while 55 per cent are aware of the feed-in tariff and 54 per cent know of the Green Deal.

However, barriers to uptake still remain - around 40 per cent of people who do not have solar panels on their home would not consider fitting them in the next five years, with reasons ranging from not believing their roof is suitable to concern about replacement or maintenance costs and fears they will not live in the house long enough to benefit.

Only 15 per cent of people are concerned about how solar panels would affect the price of their house, suggesting this is only a small deterrent.

"Although the market remains in its infancy, demand for solar panels has exploded since 2010 and there continues to be strong growth potential," said Claudia Preedy, senior industrial analyst at Mintel.

"Despite frequent changes in government policy and other factors, such as the strong drop in installation costs in recent years, the solar industry has proved resilient and has shown that it can reinvent itself within a changing landscape. The industry is expected to continue to do so in the foreseeable future, even with the uncertainties regarding future government policies."

In related industry news, the Ransom Wood Business Park near Mansfield has today switched on a solar farm that should produce enough electricity to power the whole site - making it the UK's first self-sustaining business park. Around 2,000 panels across a three-acre site will provide power to over 75,000 square feet of occupied office space, as well as a restaurant and a nursery.

Meanwhile, UK-based developer Solarcentury has unveiled two solar systems for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) head office in Pretoria, South Africa. Around 1,400 panels have been fitted on the building and specially built carports, which generate clean electricity while shading vehicles. Solarcentury said it is the largest parking structure solar canopy in South Africa and will cut CO2 emissions at the site by 618 tonnes a year.