Today I’ve spent most of the day trying to get my head around the FIT ( Feed-in Tariff ) with some success but plenty of disappointment.
As the number of solar panels I own starts to rise I decided to see it I could apply for the FIT with my electric supplier British Gas. I’ve ended up ringing them a number of times along with various other companies trying to get to the bottom of the FIT and I’m still awaiting answers!
How to sign up for the Feed-in Tariff
The whole idea of the feed-in tariff is you install some solar panels (or wind turbines) and the energy produced basically feed in to the house. This energy is used by the house appliances but any left over is in a sense fed back in to the grid. This electric fed back in is where you will make the money.
However it’s not as simple as it sound.. nothing ever is! The solar panels need to be MCS certified by a registered company. This certificate basically approves that the panels are save and not dangerous which is good and I have no complains about that.
The panels in my home are in the back garden on A frames, there is nothing to install, I bought the panels, pulled out the legs on the frame and that’s it, the panel is installed.
This as it turns out does not matter they still need to have a MCS certificate. Regardless of how the panels are, so laying flat on the grass, on a A frame or on the roof they need to have this one certificate to say they have been installed correctly .. but my question is how can the solar panel laying on the grass or on a A frame be installed incorrectly?
I understand that panels installed on a roof should be done by trained professionals as it’s a dangerous job but I fail to see why the panels at ground level such as mine should need these certificates.
After finding out this information I’ve contacted a local company in Durham to see if they can help, after speaking to someone late morning I’m still waiting to see whether they can come and issue a certificate (and for how much).
From this point I decided to look at the setup a little different so my idea is:
Using the solar panels and grid tie inverter but NOT applying for the FIT scheme
Sound like a good idea, I can still connect the solar panels to the grid tie inverter which then ‘plug’ in to a normal plug socket in the house which will feed the electric back in to the house thus reducing the electric bill.
Again it sounds good but it seems that all Inverters need to be G83 registered. This certificate is all about protecting the ‘grid’ – for example if the power in my street was turned off so some work could be carried out the correct inverter will know this and turn off the electric supply, this means of course the people working on the electric out side will not get a nasty shock from my solar panels!
I started to think about this a little more and thought I best check with British Gas again to ensure I’m doing nothing wrong. I phone the help line for renewable energy and spoke to someone about this situation. The conversation went something like:
me: I would like my solar panels to connect to a G83 certified inverter, this inverter will connect to the house mains via a plug socket feeding electric in to the house but I don’t want to apply for the FIT scheme, is this OK?
British Gas: errr what
Not quite what I expect from the dedicated renewable team from British Gas!
After the pointless phone call I went back online for more research and I have found that if you are connecting renewable energy to the mains in the house the inverter has to be G83 certified.
It has been quite interesting though today finding out that as always there are plenty of hoops to jump through it you want to try and save money and do things yourself.
I’m now waiting to hear back from British Gas (I sent them a e-mail this time) to see whether I can feed electric back in to my house grid without trying to earn money from the FIT scheme via a G83 registered inverter. I have a feeling this is going to be a while before I get a good answer!
Mastervolt soladin 600 inverter
The inverter I was looking at using is called a ‘MasterVolt Soladin 600w Grid Tie Inverter’ This inverter is G83 certified and has a ‘plug and play’ design. Once you connect the solar panels to the inverter you use a standard 3 ping plug and simply plug the inverter in a standard socket in your home. The inverter does lots of clever things but basically feeds the electric being generated by the solar panels back in to the house’s power grid. The idea is the house can use this power rather from drawing from the grid to power devices in the house.
I did ring the UK office for Mastervolt for some further information but the lady I spoke to basically told me to ring another company which was a supplier. Absolutely rubbish customer care/support from quite a large company!
To sum up all of the above:
If you want to apply for the Feed-in Tariff:
Solar Panels / Wind Turbines need to be MCS approved: Installed by a company with the ability to give you the MCS certificate at the end of the installation
Grid Tie Inverters: The inverters need to be G83 certified for the UK
For larger installations you will also need to have isolation switches, however for the size of the installations I’m trying to use it’s not necessary.
I’m still waiting for companies to get back to me with regards to setting up my idea but I’m not holding out much hope as it seems speaking to someone in the ‘know’ is hard.