How to get free solar PV installation

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Installing a solar PV system can be a large investment, with typical installation costs for the most common units falling between £6,000 and £8,000. If you can't afford to cover these costs outright, it may be possible to get free solar PV installation directly from energy companies.

How does free solar PV installation work?

If you live in a suitable property, a number of energy companies and solar PV suppliers are willing to fit solar panels on your roof for free. Some companies are even offering homeowners up to £500 to let them install the solar PV systems. In return, you'll get 100% of the cost-saving benefits but will miss out on the more lucrative cash-generating aspects of having a Solar PV system.

How do I qualify for free solar PV installation?

To qualify for free solar PV installation your property will normally need to be in the South of England and have a suitable roof. Before a supplier will consider you for free solar panels, you will have to provide them with details about your property. Generally speaking, the roof needs to be south-facing and have no less than 19 square metres of usable space. It also needs to have a tilt of no more than 40 degrees and must be completely free from shade.

Your property will then have to undergo an inspection to ensure that the roof is strong enough to support a solar PV system. Any modifications necessary to make it suitable will have to be made at your own expense.

What's the catch?

In return for providing a solar PV system for free, the supplying company will claim all of the earnings that your system generates through the government's Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme. At present, this scheme pays 15.44p/kWh generated, plus an additional 4.5p/kWh for any of your surplus power that is sold back to the national grid.

With the average system generating 3,000kWh per year, that amounts to around £465 a year. This amounts to almost £12,000 over the average 25-year lifespan of a solar system. This demonstrates that installing a solar PV system for free can limit its long-term financial benefit, with homeowners only gaining through cheaper energy bills.

Is free solar PV installation worth it?

It depends. If you're keen to reduce your energy bills but can't afford to cover the costs of solar panels yourself, then free solar PV installation is certainly a viable option. However, if you're serious about making a financial gain from your solar system, then there are other options for funding the installation yourself. There are several companies that offer special loans to help pay for solar PV systems, without compromising the benefit of the proceeds from the FIT scheme.

Alternatively, you may be able to take advantage of the government's new Green Deal, which provides funding for a system with loan repayments made through the savings made on your energy bills. For more information on alternative funding options, see our guide to Solar Panel Costs.