Personal Finance

Want solar panels but can't afford them? Energy firm offers 'shared' scheme to save you £8,000

Britain's first shared solar park is being built offering homeowners the chance to reap the rewards of solar panels without the expensive price tag.

Ripple Energy is building a solar park in Derril Water, Devon, with 70,000 panels - enough to power 14,000 homes across Britain.

And it's giving investors the chance to buy their own slice of renewable energy, with access to cheap electricity for the next 40 years.

Homeowners can pay as little as £25 for a stake in the project, although it costs an estimated £3,600 for enough panels to cover up to 120% of the electricity used to power the average home.

This will save investors at least £200 a year, Ripple says, totalling £8,000 over the 40-year term.

The savings come because users pay Ripple the wholesale price for their share of the electricity generated - which is what Ripple would have made if it kept the energy for itself.

This is different to installing solar panels on your own property where any electricity generated is yours to keep for free. However, in that scenario, a homeowner would also have had to fund the full cost of the panels and installation.

Solar panels cost from £6,000 for the average house, with NimbleFins research showing the average time to pay back the cost of solar panels in energy savings was anywhere from nine years to 24 depending on location.

While many companies offer finance, the payment is often out of reach for many families.

With Ripple’s deal, if you move, you take the deal with you, unlike with standard solar panel sales where you leave them on the property.

Sarah Merrick, the founder and chief executive of Ripple Energy, said she wanted the new site to "become a blueprint for solar parks around the world".

Ripple has previously funded two wind farms with the same investment model, with about 6,500 people to benefit from the projects in Wales and Scotland.

Ms Merrick, said the soaring cost of energy means returns on investment are rapidly shortening. She told the Guardian: “When we launched our first windfarm, we were expecting it to take 13 or 14 years for users to get their investment back but since we launched, the prices have gone so high that it’s actually looking like the costs could be paid back through savings in maybe four years instead.”

To benefit from the project, investors buy shares in a cooperative society managed by Ripple and then must ensure their energy is provided by one of its six approved suppliers, which include well-known names like E.On and Octopus.

Users must still pay costs for things such as tax and the grid, and market prices can change wildly within the 40 year term. While energy prices are rising so much, the savings will be greater, but if there is a crash in energy prices the savings may not be so high.

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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