20 year solar panel contract, or not?


(Cat Vizor) #1

I am trying to decide whether to take on a solar panel contract with http://www.soleeco.com On paper it seems like a brilliant deal - almost too good to be true. Does anyone have any experience with solar panel contracts?


The deal is to have 36 panels installed onto our South facing roof. We would sell the electric to EDF at 28cents per watt (the current rate), flat rate for 20years guaranteed. There is a loan organised by Soleeco which would repay the €43,000 needed to pay for the panels and other bits included (permission from the Mairie, installation etc.). The quote said, that as a minimum, we would earn €453 and the loan repayments would be €400 each month, so in effect it wouldn't cost us anything (we'd even make a little bit). With the taxes we'd get back from the Government scheme, as well as the repayments each month, we would have the whole loan paid off in 6years and 3months.


I guess the catch is being contracted with EDF for 20 years, but there is a legislation in place that states that EDF must increase the payment per watt at the same percentage increase as the cost of energy we pay (currently 12cents per watt). Does anyone know of any reasons why I shouldn't go ahead with this deal? My concern is that generally, massive corporations such as EDF, are not usually looking out for their customers interests, but their own profits.


(Jams Iszatt) #2

How is it going with your panels and solar production? I am not sure i understand your post.
You say you are making around €1000/yr? Then you say you are funding EDF and need advice?
So you are not getting the approx. €1000/yr? Are you getting any money from EDF at all?


(Jams Iszatt) #3

I am just wondering how this is inflation proofed? Does this mean they will be paying you 40c/KwH in 20 yrs time? I think i missed any mention of the deal being inflation proof. Because in 20 yrs time 28c (i think the offer is currently about 26c this yr). 26c would probably be worth about 10c or less. As far as i can remember a can of coke used to cost about 50p in the 80s these days it's more like £1.50 if your lucky.
I have just started looking into this and it certainly seems that they are making this as difficult as possible, they don't really seem to want to buy home produced electricity. I could do the connection 100% myself if i was left to my own devices. However they only offer a decent rate if the panels are sunk into your roof, if they are on the ground you get almost nothing in comparison. Well i would like to build a solar gimble on the ground, my roof is west so not ideal.
Now i am looking at constructing a garage or workshop just so i can have my panels on a roof. I'm not sure what planning permission i would have to go through either way but i'm sure it would incure greater costs.
Then there is approximately the €2000 connection fee from EDF (i couldn't find the exact current costs).
All of the electricity companies seem to be hiding details one way or another. There is no simple step by step guide with precise costs listed.
I have calculated that the best way for me to try to profit (if ever built). would be to:

A. Buy dual rate electricity from one of the other fournisseurs (Direct or similar).

B. Install a second solar panel system on the ground that would not be connected for selling power back, simply it would be there to reduce any daytime rate electricity you might consume.

C. Build a 3Kw solar rooftop above a garage or workshop (and make it rotatable and with adjustable roof pitch) No idea how the town hall will consider this rather unusual project. Then sell all of this to EDF. I am not sure if EDF have a maximum amount they agree to buy from you going by what they expect you to be able to produce with an average 3Kw system but if mine can line up with the sun at any time i choose to aim it there, then i can potentially produce twice as much power that fixed panels on an angled roof could produce.

Luckily i can build this all myself but the costs seem to be out of my grasp.
I am just buying my 1st house which is already an ambitious price + it needs full renovation.
Then there are bills bills bills.
I suddenly need to buy building tools and garden tools. The cost of the panels the framework the cables the inverter etc. + the cost of planning permission for a workshop and the materials needed to build such a workshop, then the connection from the workshop to the house and from the house to EDF or workshop to EDF which would incur their (extension fee).

If i am lucky then in 20 yrs i might just have paid all of this off and i will be 61 :D


(Dave Holden) #4

Thanks Julian, I will check all that out as our seem to be performing poorly, so fingers crossed there is something we can do to improve things - will let you know what I discover.


(Brian Milne) #5

Looking down the road toward our neighbours barn, compass in hand, I would say our neighbour's panels are SSW rather than due south. Neither the barn where they are or their house has a due south roof at all. However, that is not so far out as to make an enormous difference from what I have read.


(Steve Hayes) #6

we have 14 panels, practically perfectly located, which produce nearly 2000€ per year (50odd cents per unit), so your production seems low


(Steve Hayes) #7

well you could find someone to say they haven't delivered on their side of the contract.

there must be paperwork which forecasts how much electric you will produce which presumably forecasts something more than 177/month.


(Brian Milne) #8

Dave, no compensation at all, but a neighbour with 24 panels is hopping mad for similar reasons. The company who supplied and installed the panels has not gone bust but simply will not answer questions because they are 'EDF's business'. So, my friend there is saying that what the sales people said and what is now happening constitute a breach of promise and he has been talking to his lawyer about it. I haven't spoken to him for a few weeks but the last straw for him was when there was a problem with the inverter and EDF came out for which he got a bill. Then he looked at what it cost over the year and his wife threw her teddy as well because it had been her initiative to have the installation. As he said, they were assured a return that would therefore reduce their power bill, now they are paying far more than before rather than benefiting. They dissuaded us from having PV installed which we were intending.

Since hearing that story some Dutch friends have told us not to bother for similar reasons.

It seems to be a widespread story and it is only people like our neighbour who still retain a lawyer from when they were in business who can even consider the legal route. I imagine little has happened since I spoke to the people but it would be interesting to hear what the lawyer says about breach of promise. The husband told me that as long as you can prove it, breach of promise is actually the same as breach of contract in France.


(Dave Holden) #9

Hi Julian,

we have 16 panels, but the power goes through the inverter and is sold to EDF straight back to the grid - we don't get to use any of it, so we are paying for the panels and our own electric bills and also for the rental of the metre that tells us how much we are producing. We have wood burners for heating and cook on those in the winter and use bottled gas in the summer. We thought we were doing a good thing - effectively letting our roof be used for the greater good, knowing we weren't going to gain personally by it, but not expecting it to be costing us either.


(Dave Holden) #10

We got Solar panels 2 yrs ago - very well presented info - the production would cover the costs - well at 177€ per month and a production (at 45cents rate) return of 1100 € last year and just over 900€ this year we are clearly funding EDF to the tune of around 1000 € per year for 15yrs ..... and the company who installed the panels have indeed gone bust..... if anyone has any advice (other than don't agree to things you don't fully understand) I'd be very grateful.


(Brian Milne) #11

I think Julian that I am saying the same thing from my grasp of what my friend's son is saying, although his point of view as an engineer designing systems might be biassed. Mine is simply repeating what I have heard since I am not at all technically minded, simply somebody who wants to see energy/green technologies improving people's lives. However, to reflect on your way of saying it, yes prices are scary and somebody is making a terrible lot of money, but then EDF alone is hardly a customer friendly company as many of us know.


(Brian Milne) #12

I have recently, think back in June, talked to a German friend's son who is a designer of PV systems. The first thing he said was "wait". The technology is undergoing rapid change at present. Firstly he said that the PV roof tiles will take over from panels, as much for the aesthetic as anything else at present, but the rest of the systems is changing. Firstly, people in Germany at present are receiving state grants for a portion of the cost, then the electricity company puts in an offer for part of the rest and then a low interest loan covers the rest. This leaves open the option for people who choose to install systems for themselves or part of a community scheme and not be obliged to the electricity company. The storage is changing very fast to accommodate the growing number of independent systems. Now here is another important part of it from his point of view: Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Energy of the European Commission has said, as part of the 'Energy Strategy for Europe' that the EU legislation on energy efficiency in buildings is going to require PV to be incorporated in all new public building initially, followed by private buildings and in the fullness of time in all roof renovations. The idea will also be to have generous support and tax relief.

OK, that is what I remember, he said much more about the technical side which I do not understand very well but sounded as though a 20 year deal is going see you soon with technology already on the way to becoming dated and also with the EC's policy on intervention and support suddenly €43,000 seems to be questionable. I know a French friend who had a solar system for both water and PV installed by an independent company only paid low €30Ks but I think his return from EDF (since they have the monopoly) is lower than the €400 in Cat's question.


(Pam Sutcliffe) #13

Oh my goodness. Steer clear. We have had to take a heating company to court and we have just won for the second time after over three years as they appealed the first decision. Was for solar panels and a pompe a chaleur. The stress has been enormous and we still have no guarantee that we will be paid the compensation and the repayments for the loan that are still due. Taking into account the fees for the lawyers as well I would not go through this again. Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. Ours was a different situation, but please take forever to decide and take as much advice as you can get especially from people who have already had it installed. It is a big decision when you consider the loan is for 20 years. I can give you details of how the loan company missed sending letters to us and once a loan is signed for it is almost impossible to get out of. Please get advice.


(Steve Hayes) #14

Yes they do. But they produce less power when it's hot.

I have an evil theory that, given that I'm paid 58c a unit and I buy electric for 9c, I could afford to have fans running to improve the output. Like a sort of monetary perpetual motion machine really. It just shows how silly FIT rates are.

My proposal would be to make installing pv panels a condition of planning permission on any new build in a suitable area; instead of attracting vulture salesmen they just become a building component at a sensible cost, they get designed into the roof in the first place, the FIT rate would just be the standard rate, a far saner situation.


(Steve Hayes) #15

When EDF are stuck with paying you 28c per kwH inflation proofed for 20 years it doesn't make sense to me to refuse that as an element of the deal unless you are really keen on being independent


(Cat Vizor) #16

Hi everyone, thank you so much for all the time, effort and expertise you have put in to these responses, I really appreciate it. I think I can safely say that I will not be going ahead with this contract. I will look into a self-sufficient solar panel set up to avoid paying EDF at all.

All the best

Cat


(Leslie Bryan) #17

Hi,

We create our own power here, and store 65Kw. We have 5Kw of PV on Trackers, (are new design) 6Kw of wind turbines. And yes we can do it cost effectively

See this Forum;. http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php/topic,20386.0.html

PV prices, I recently bought 2 kw of the best Yingli Panda 250w Mono's cost to me direct from Importer was £1200. There is a French Importer here that will deal with me but they have to get my Buisness Number etc, So I deal with the UK.

http://www.emat.fr/opportunites

Sorry to say there are very few installers that are cost effective, 5kw (best panels) install is about £3000 for the Pv panels, another £2000 for the Inverter etc.

I disagree with the panels embedded into the fabric of the roof, as required in France, and I know of 3 roof fires caused by this installation technique.

Good Luck.


(Howard Perry) #18

I agree with Alan. I had a quote last week for a 5kw system fully installed with quality parts for A$ 8, 500

(Eur 6,000 approx). See this site

http://www.solarquotes.com.au/learn-about-solar-energy.html.

This an honest explanation of the complexities. The quote above I had from an installation company recommended by solar quotes. The salesman made an interesting point, namely that having the highest quality panels and inverter is pointless if the cabling and all the other parts which make it work is the cheapest they can get.

The FiT of 28cts per kwh seems very high, similar to what was on offer in the early days, when Solar was expensive. However, it should be guaranteed for x years, normally 10-20 yrs.

Normally a panel produces 250 watts of power, when the sun shines, so 36 panels should produce 9kw. There should be tables enabling you to work out average hours of sun per day in your latitude. This average is normally a minimum - here it is ca 5/day, so 9*5 = 45kw/day *365 = 16,425 pa @ Eur 0.28 = Eur 4599 pa = 383/per month. According to http://www.the-france-page.com/france/annual-hours-of-sun.html ,annual sunshine hours in France varies from 1550 for Charleville in North to 2899 for Toulon in the south. The closer you are to the equator, the more hours of sun you get. For Dax it's 1920 so that makes Eur 403 per month, so Eur 453 is optimistic. Solar panels will generate power if there is light but no sun but not as much.

The installation cost seems way OTT and the figures for electricity generated a little optimistic. How reliable is the electricity supply? No supply means any power generated doesn't get to the grid, so it's lost.

Another consideration is what will EDF charge you for electricity, which you use, when panels installed - same as now or higher tariff?

There are plenty of gotchas but you can make money out of Solar with a good FiT and eyes wide open for pitfalls.


(Simon Oliver) #19

We did this in 2010 when terms were more favourable - 58cts the Kw - and €8000 crédit d'impôt. The installation cost €16,000 (we shopped around) and our bank - the Crédit Mutuel - loaned the lot (even though I was over 60 and had no income!). The bank loan is a special 'green-écolo-solaire' deal whereby you pay no repayments until you get the first cheque from ERDF and then you can opt to repay chunks of the capital back (without penalty) or just use it to reduce the monthly repayments. In the end we just use the money (a modest €2000 a year tax-free) to pay the taxe foncière (which is sort of expensive here in the city) but the loan will be paid off by the 7th year. Everything works fine: the panels are weatherproof and hailproof, the roof does not leak. Of course the company who installed the system have ceased trading - just like the company who installed our double-glazing - but this is due to see-sawing govt policy on green power - a european-wide problem.

So, in summary, we paid €8000 (16000 - govt credit of 8000) which could have been paid off by next year. No hassle, no bother ... and the panels and the onduleur might, with a bit of luck, last another few years.


(Franck Wallez) #20

I would not do this for many reasons:

  • the initial cost is underestimated by the solar company: Have you been informed about the production meter that you need to install? would you have to rent it? In my case it turned out to be nearly 3000 euros
  • the panels do not have a valid 20 years guarantee. The company selling the stuff won’t be risponsable of any default, moreover this company is most likely to be dead within 5-7 years. You will then owe lot of money to a bank who will ask to the last penny even if you have no income. Most panels today are manufactured by Chinese companies and it is very early to gamble on their long time life. A PV panel is an electronic device exposed to all weathers and if they fail you would be in debt.
  • the production of electricity is dependent of plenty of parameters; they need to stay clean as well. The figure given by the company is discutable but you can consider yourself lucky if the figures match their forecast.
  • Once you have the panels installed on your roof, you start paying the bank, EDF contract or not. The bank will give the money to the pv company as soon the installation is done, without waiting you start selling your electricty. Once the PV commpany gets their money, you will never hear from them and you don’t have any leverage to put them back in play.

In most scanarii, you are the looser, it is a big gamble lasting 20 years and the only company going with you during all these years will be the bank. It is a total madness on my opinion.