Solar panels, another "to buy or not to buy" discussion

Hi all,

I see this has come up in the past. We have just had a visit from SVH Energie, these guys:

We live in the Gard, our house faces practically south and the roof has a 30 degree pitch, no shade, but a windy spot (we're in the track of the mistral). The 'study' suggests we should make about 2,450€/year from our panels. They reckon the theoretical annual output (they are prepared to guarantee) is 8,800 kWh/year from a 5.8kW system. The sales people reckoned that was pessimistic, but they would.

The deal costs €27k, but that includes everything (hooking up to EDF, filing all the paperwork, installing, the associated equipment - "ondulateur", some device for optimising performance, etc.) ... the most interesting thing is it includes insurance that covers any shortfall from that figure of 2,450€/year they've promised (including a 2% increase year on year to account for energy price changes). Plus we get the theoretical TVA back at the end of the installation bonus, so we start with about €5k in the bank.

So, in theory (because of included insurance) we cannot make less than €2,450/year. We know we'll pay about €2,820/year (including all insurance, that's for the shortfall insurance and home insurance top-up of about €10/month) and the equipment is all covered.

The panels themselves are SolarWorld, German company but panels made in Grenoble (not China): ... they have a 30 year guarantee against deterioration of performance (if they deteriorate more than 14% over that 30 years they are replaced for free).

At the end of our 20 year contract with EDF we are told companies can come and take the panels for free (for recycling - they make enough money on the recycling that they don't charge for removal) and it's simple to put the tiles back because the system used makes no modifications to the existing roof.

Now it *seems* they've thought of everything. Sure, I'm not going to get rich with my solar panels, but I shouldn't lose money either - or certainly not very much - because of the guaranteed minimum provided by this included insurance.

What to do....?

Can anybody recommend a company to install a solar - photovoltaic - system to produce electricity who is reliable in the Gers?

Can't seem to find too many electricians who know anything and have heard some hair raising stories about installations by more well known companies.

Help needed!

I think the Insurance agent might have heard this story.

In regards "scheuten PV panels". See,21805.0.html

As you might know in France the powers that be, insist that the PV panels themselves are installed direct into the roof itself. Yes utterly Bizarre and I suspect it was for the savy French folk not to remove them after they were claiming FIT's etc, and then put themsomewhere else and claim, and then just keep moving them.

In the Uk PV panels are installed on rails that are above the original tiles/roof covering.

Anyway about 3 years ago these Scheuten panels were catching fire at the junction box on each panel as some had defective connections, and as they were in the roof fires developed.

To add to the misery of poor old consumers/buyers, the French Law Courts slapped injunctions etc on any one who said anything about these defective panels that were assembled in Europe.

Any way the original Company went bust but was re-formed selling modified panels.

Now a company is specializing in repairing all Scheuten faulty panels with a kit,

In the USA some states now require a special notice and shut down switch for easy access for the local Fire brigades.

Most panels are connected in a string so that they are giving out anywhere between 200vdc to 600vdc.

When I am working on PV panels I tend to disconnect each panel, most are about 40vdc on there own so I can not get a surprise.

Why oh why the French insist on have PV panels installed into the roof, is ,in my opinion a whole new disaster area awaiting to happen....... leaking roofs, bad access, PV panels get mighty hot, etc etc.

Using water on an electrical fire is so obviously not a good idea..........!

bit like the keystone fire brigade in Bayeux a few years ago.... decided to open the trap at the bottom of a 5000W wind turbine that had been bodged and the cable (undersized) had caught fire.... 3ph 120Hz 400V no neutral and no earth... floating potentials.... they blew EVERY electrical part in the fire tender, put three colleagues into hospital and very nearly blinded the rest of the crew when the water made contact with the burning cables and the earth of the tower!!!

Needless to say, I was kept very busy training firefighters in Normandy that year and also sorting out 50+ bodged installations from a very dodgy turbine distributor

except that it pays peanuts (€0,11/kwh) against a roof top at €0,38/kwh

Hi all, the panels themselves are hard wired in place, so the circuit would always be under tension, but, with everyone of the 2500+ installations that I have done (wind and sun) there is a legal requirement for an ac mains disconnect switch AND a dc side (solar side) fuse or breaker to disconnect the panels from the inverter.... so it seems that the insurance man is talking out of his nether regions... as usual!!

When the dc side breaker is opened the panel will produce voltage, but no power.... P = V x I.... no current = no power

I have never had, so far, in 36 years of professional installing, one single system thatr has made copies amounts of black smoke and if the system is installed correctly it seldom needs looking at a again... not like certain other companies now thankfully gone bust who made potentially lethal installations all over the place

That's an interesting one! I can just imagine all of the "tree huggers" sitting down singing Kum Ba Yah whilst their eco house burns down ! Imagine all of the greenhouse gasses that will generate!

Only joking all you eco folk ;-)

Interesting. I would have thought that solar panels could not be switched off, but would continue to generate electricity so long as they were exposed to light. Perhaps one of our experts has an answer?

I know this discussion has petered out but had an interesting morning at the insurance agents. OH and I decided to change our property insurance and toddled off to the new agent. One off the first questions was 'Do you have solar panels'. Turns out that if you do the insurance premium will be increased by a hefty amount because the firemen will not tackle a fire in your home until the panels are disconnected by a trained professional (i.e. EDF). Not something I had considered but makes perfect sense given the conductive properties of water

Also worth bearing in mind that if you have the panels fitted and do not declare them your insurance will be void.

Greg, I have been doing some figure checking this end, and think that the proposed suppliers are pulling something personal there. A standard installation, these days should not go much above E3/Wc and going on official EDF figures, for each KW installed, your target should be 1500 KWh/ KWc so, a 3KWc system should make 4500KWh/yr

In all my years of installing systems worldwide, and here, these insurances are never used if the 6Ps principle is used correctly.... Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

A standard inverter (onduleur) for a 3KW system costs about 1000 euros with a five year guarantee which is extendable with the factory in 5yr lumps, but then again, a 7000W inverter goes for about the same price a market pressures are that the small inverters are morel expensive than the bigger ones

So: 3KW solar should produce 4500KWh, and a 9KW system 13500KWh... in theory... the only difference being the taxation... a 3KW system has 10% VAT here, but a 9KW system.... is at 20%.... and the bigger system, is a taxable income, whereas the small system is NOT

Standard EU made 250Wc polycrystalline plate is available from EU stocks for less than 1 euro per watt, and the roof mounting system with weatherproof sheet (Ubbink etc) is about the same

Personally in your case, I think a reasonably good 3KW solar combined with a wind turbine would make the difference.. the wind turbine produces 24/7 and you use your own greeted power to reduce your ERDF bill, and then have the 3KWc roof mount system to make profit.....

Here's another new idea- a sloar drive or parking lot- none of that rubbish on your roof! Maybe no need for planning permission either!

I have a Buderus dual solar/oil system governed by a computer system that switches between the two fuels depending on the weather. I can't compete/join in with all the technical jargon but I can state : my two large panels cost about 15K (incl installation) and they save me about 1000 l of heating oil a year. So I reckon they'll pay for themselves in about 15 years. So if you intend staying in the same house for 15 years + - get solar panels.

Hello Greg. I've used two small panels for 8 years at my workshop. It's off-grid and I installed them myself, so I can't claim to know a lot about full-sized integrated systems.

What I do know is that whilst PV panels in the late 80's were initially given a 10 year lifespan, the majority of the better quality ones, are proving to have more than twice that lifespan.

I also have a feeling that your fee of 27,000 is far too high, even for the whole service. I think you should do a lot more research and talk to several customers who have the same deals you are comparing, yourself, before you spend all that.

I also know that by far the most energy efficient AND economical on investment/return in home energy, in order of savings are:

insulation,(roof, walls,glazing)

SOLAR WATER Heating,[the energy payback time of a solar water heating system in a UK climate is reported as only 2 years]

Passive solar glazing,

changing an old boiler for a modern, high-efficency one,

and then Solar PV.

So if you haven't already looked at solar WATER heating, instead of PV, I strongly urge you to asap. Water is a great way to store solar energy and even in the UK, two panels can give 40% of a households needs for heating and washing across the year, for as little as 3,000 euro. If you use a registered installer, you can get tax breaks on the installation cost. It's quite simple, and extremely efficient to store hot water in a well-insulated tank.

But, if you've done all the above already, and are now considering making your own electrical energy, I think it's worth the investment for you from the point of view of your building's suitability...especially as it's in a good spot for both PV and wind. You have the possibility to expand by adding panels and/or turbines to it once you've got the grid tie-in.

The more batteries you own, the more energy you can store and use for yourself to save on your use of EDF's electricity.

I realise there's a lot of complications, re: nuclear meltdowns & real costs, cheap and suspect -non fair-trading and sourcing imports from China, importing gas from Russia etc... which put everyon off investing in PV, but for me, if I had the ability to invest, I would certainly take it seriously. I think if we all do as much as possible to try and take control of our own energy supply and use, we stand to be wealthier, safer and happier people.


Thanks for your kind words;

If you have any questions, do no thesitate

As for my charge regime, I charge to try and match the solar generation and target a 0W Net Usage (usage - generation) at all times ... by switching on and off small power chargers (90W each)

Hi Christophe,

Yes, I have been watching your developments with great interest, as both me and our mutual friends in RE in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, German, Holland and US are always keen on simple cost effective battery storage solutions.

As you know I have 65kW of S/h Gel type batteries that are disposed off every 4 years from Big Computer Sever UPS systems, but I select carefully and take great care of my approx. 2 tonnes of batteries.

In away I am re-cycling, but as I have said many times a cost effective solution of energy solution with Lifepo batteries would be less time consuming and less weight.

Our philosophy here is also not to feed EDF, or receive any tariffs, (I have stonking big main changeover switches,) so some times I just let the 9kW of PV just shut down on its own until required. However being Normandy its not so sunny so hence we also rely on 3off 2kW 3.7m diameter wind turbines.

With a bit of careful planning and using ones common sense its possible to get a complete energy system like ours for under 13,700 euros. And yes I am willing to share, open source, all information like you Christophe.

Ps, Seen my latest PV double axis 2kW Solar Tracker, book ? The Trackers are easy to make, very cost effective, simple and yet robust, for some unknown reason I seem to be selling most of them to Australia, LOL.

I look forward to hereing about your charging regime and very soon I will put my toe in the LifePo way.

Best, Leslie.

They do, that's what the feed in tarrif (FIT) is all about. The normal retail price of electricity in FR is about 10c, we installed ours a few years ago and are getting paid 59c !

Have you any knowledge of a French manufacturer of combined PV and water heating panels? (Dualsun in Marseille)

Seems like a no brainer good idea to me in principle if well done, because you cool the PV thus increasing output at the same time getting hot water, practically a perpetual motion machine? It's too late for us, but as we are getting the 0€59/kwh we shouldn't complain.

Any roof panels are banned in our village- suggest you check if you are in a Parc Naturel like us. At my age of almost 69 I'm becoming pretty uninterested in such whizzbang schemes. Look at the people touting insulation and wood pellet boilers. I was quoted 23k euros for a full on scheme and I've costed it myself at well under half. There must be HUGE commissions being handed out. I would not be surprised if you had to change the panels due to reducing efficiency before you'd finished paying for the system!


This is exactly what I do and why I did this - solar + ESS -

I had a pretty small solar system installed, purchased the Uni-Solar PVL flexible panels in the US, had them installed on my building zinc roof - with no modification to the roof,, they just fit in width perfectly - by a local PV contractor

No EDF involved, no contract, I am not interested in selling my surplus, but I started building my Energy Storage System step by step, to use this day time energy that would be wasted; Even changing your habits won't be enough, you need Storage

As of july last year, afetr 6 months of daily charge and discharge of my ESS, in between contract jobs, I had some time to write all the documentation and started selling the Kit to help others people (with minimum skills) to build their own replica of my system at an unbeatable price: 3 kEUR for 5 kWh and 5 kEUR for 10 kWh, far from the market prices for this kind of capacity ...