Out of the Usual ZILF Loan – working well

 In Home Loans

Robert Owen Community Banking’s Zero Interest Loan Fund (ZILF) loan client Michael Johnson, who lives on the Welsh side of the border near Kington, has contacted us to tell us about an unusual project which involved installing solar pv panels on a carport.

He writes:

“We have a bio-disc water treatment plant that has a constantly running electric pump. The plant costs more to run in electric power than our home. The solution for reducing this cost was to generate our own electricity, and the easiest available source was solar pv. The house roof was not available because it already had solar panels; neither was a ground based system appropriate. So we decided on solar panels installed on a carport.

To be honest, we were thinking of having a carport installed in any case. After looking at what was available we decided on buying a wooden carport kit with six posts, and modifying it with a long lasting rubber roof and weather proof post legs that are embedded into the ground. Including installation this cost a bit less than £5,000. The well-built carport allowed for 4 kw of solar panels, connected to the meter at the treatment plant by an underground cable. The system cost just over £5,000 and was installed in December 2013.


The first noticeable benefit was that our annual electric bill fell by about a third. Combined with the feed-in tariff income, we save about £650 a year and will do so for 20 years. In pure financial terms, everything including the carport structure will be paid off in about 15 years.

Our main reason for undertaking the project was to have some control over the electric bill for the water treatment plant. We are delighted both with this aspect and with the look and use we get out of the carport. The loan from Robert Owen Community Bank and the sympathetic approach you have toward renewable energy systems made all the difference.”

Much has happened in the solar pv market since Mr Johnson installed his panels. The rate of Feed in Tariff (FIT) has ‘degressed’ markedly, diminishing the rate of return on such investments and reducing the incentive to fit solar pv. However, as Mr Johnson demonstrates, it is not just the FIT that needs to be taken into account when considering the pay back from solar pv, but the savings that can be made from using the electricity generated on site.

At present, any electricity generated by solar pv not used in your home is exported to the grid and you receive a payment of 4.8p for every kilowatt hour (kwh) of electricity exported. If you use the energy yourself, you lose the 4.8p, but at the same time you save 15p per kwh from not having to buy in electricity at the retail price. The more of it you can use yourself, therefore, the better. How to maximise the return on solar panels in this way is going to be a key issue going forward now that the FIT has been cut to 4.39p (from 12.47p before Christmas), and this is a subject we will return to in this blog very soon.

For now, our thanks go to Mr Johnson for telling us about how well his project is paying off. We are always keen to hear about how our loans have helped, so please get in touch and let us know about how your project has performed, and hopefully your story can encourage others to invest in renewables and improve the sustainability of homes in Powys.

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