Can you really make money from free sunshine? 

Actually you can, but it depends on where you live. 

Some countries (like the United States) allow you to feed excess solar electricity into the grid in exchange for utility credits.  Those credits accumulate, but they are not actually cash.  This is why so many solar customers in the US also buy electric vehicles (EVs).  They need to find creative ways to use up those non-transferable credits.

However, in the United Kingdom, you don’t receive utility credits for your excess solar power – you receive actual sterling pounds.

That’s right.  Thanks to the UK’s highly lucrative feed-in tariff program, you are able to monetize the free sunshine that hits your solar panels.

How much money can you actually make?

Average Solar Power Earnings in the United Kingdom

Before diving into numbers, it’s important to clarify that the feed-in tariff only benefits you if you own your solar PV panels.  Homeowners who lease their installations don’t benefit from the scheme, the leasing company does.  They still benefit from cheaper electricity and a smaller carbon footprint, but they do not generate a passive income from their solar system like they would if they owned it.

Assuming you own your system, what kind of numbers can you expect? Under ideal conditions, a 4 kW installation can generate over £18,000 over the course of 25 years.

However, what are “ideal conditions” in a cloudy region like the United Kingdom?

Broadly speaking, you want a home with a South-facing roof that has little to no shading.  For optimal energy generation potential, that roof should be slanted at a 40° angle (i.e. pitch).

18,000 pounds, however, is simply an average.  Depending on where you live in the UK, your numbers might be a little higher or lower:

  • In northern cities like Lerwick, Inverness, and Kirkwall, that 4 kW system can earn between £16,000 and £17,000 over a 25-year period.
  • In southern cities like Portsmouth, Brighton, and Dover, your solar investment can easily generate earnings in excess of £20,000.

An Important Note about the UK’s Feed-in Tariff

The amount of sunshine that your panels receive is a critical component of your system’s earning potential.  No less important, however, is when you decide to join the feed-in tariff.  This is because the program is a regressive incentive:

  • Those who join the feed-in tariff early receive the highest payouts over 20 years.  They’re grandfathered in at these attractive rates even as the program gets scaled back for everyone else.
  • Those who join the feed-in tariff late receive lower payouts, as the feed-in tariff decreases every three months.  They too get grandfathered in at whatever rate they join.

To maximize your solar earnings, it pays to get started ASAP.  To begin exploring your solar options today, request 3 free quotes from trusted and rated installers in your area.

For a more in-depth discussion about earnings, savings, and ROIs, be sure to read our comprehensive article on the Economics of UK Solar.