Are Solar Panel Grants and Free Solar Available?

boy looking at solar panels

QUICK ANSWER: There are currently no grants available for solar PV, but you can get a grant for solar thermal panels via the Green Homes Grant scheme.

Solar panels use the sun's energy to produce free electricity for your home but despite the fact that they could be earning homeowners money through payment schemes and reduced energy bills, the initial costs can still put some people off.

This leaves many people searching for free ways to get solar panels or grants, mainly through government funded schemes, to help cover the cost but are such schemes available? We've put this article together to help you find the best way to get solar panels for your home.

Are Solar Thermal Grants Available in 2021?

As of September 2020 you can apply for a Green Homes Grant from the government to cover two-thirds of the cost (up to £5,000) of installing solar thermal panels on your home. For the lowest-income households, the grants will be up to £10,000 and in some cases will cover the entire of cost of installation. The grants will be available until 31st March 2022.

Find out more about Green Homes Grants for solar thermal here.

Until March 2021, you can also receive payments for having solar thermal panels installed on your home via the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Are Solar Panel PV Grants Available in 2021?

The Green Deal used to offer grants for solar PV panels, but it closed in 2015.

The Green Deal was launched in 2013, offering government grants for solar panels as a way of helping homeowners to make their homes more efficient in order to reduce their energy bills and reduce carbon emissions. Part of this initiative was to provide a loan to homeowners which could be used to install solar panels. This loan was then paid back over 10-25 years using the money that was being saved each month on energy bills. Homeowners would still receive Feed-in Tariff payments. Unfortunately, the government grants for solar panels ended in 2015 after lack of interest from homeowners resulted in the scheme not being able to achieve what it set out to do.

The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) was an incentive scheme for solar PV panels, but it closed in March 2019 and has been replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee.

The Feed-in Tariff meant that owners would receive payments by exporting the electricity generated by their solar panels to the national power grid. So, as well as saving money on electricity bills, they could be receiving payments from the government for 20 years after the system was installed. The FiT has now been replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee. Find out more here.

Renewable Heat Incentive

By having solar thermal panels installed on your home, you can benefit from Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments. These RHI payments come from the government every quarter and are changed each year, with the amount you receive being based on how much heat your solar thermal panels produce.

To be eligible to receive these payments, you'll need to register your solar thermal system within a year of the installation.

The Renewable Heat Incentive for solar thermal panels is not a grant, but it offers long-term payback on the upfront costs.

NOTE: The Renewable Heat Incentive is due to close in March 2022 and will be replaced by Clean Heat Grant scheme. Unfortunately, solar thermal panels will not be eligible for Clean Heat Grants.

Can I Get Free Solar Panels in 2021?

While you might not be able to get government funded solar PV panels installed on your roof, in a few years the solar panels can pay for themselves through energy bill savings and government incentive payments, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Past free solar panel schemes

A few years ago, free solar panel schemes (rent-a-roof) were a common way of getting solar panels installed onto your roof without the upfront costs. Some companies wanted to receive those Feed-in Tariff payments, so would rent your roof for as long as 25 years. During this period, the company would install solar panels and keep them fully maintained.

So, how would this benefit the homeowner? You'd be getting solar panels installed on your roof for free and still get to use the electricity they generated. And what was the catch? The company would receive all Feed-in Tariff payments earned by the solar panels on your home.

Due to the Feed-in Tariff payments reducing year after year and then stopping, this route to free solar panels is no longer available as the companies can't make such a profit.

How to get free solar panels from the government, is it possible?

While you can apply for a Green Homes Grant for solar thermal panels between September 2020 and March 2022, currently, you can’t get solar panel PV grants from the government.

However, you can still ensure you get the best deal on your solar PV installation by comparing quotes from at least 3 installers to ensure that you're getting the cheapest deal. Fill in a form on Solar Guide to get free quotes from trusted engineers in your area.

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