Letter to the Editor: the true cost of solar energy

I was interested to read about the report from Infrastructure Management at Sheffield Hallam University stating that solar thermal panels cost around £3500 to install [MBS February 2012, page 8].

That figure of £3500 is typically for retrofit market, not new build.

At Roth we manufacture and sell solar-thermal panels, and we are currently selling a single panel unit to housing associations for around £1000 — complete with pump station, controller, fluid etc., excluding the cylinder. The cylinder cannot be taken into the cost equation as the residence needs one whether it has solar thermal or not.

A roofer normally installs the panels in place of tiles. This work takes on average an hour; all the access equipment is already in place and on site so there is no cost. Plumbing in the system by a plumber already doing the rest of the house is probably two hours. The average installation costs including materials is less than £1500. With the savings this is under a 5-year return.

Solar thermal really is the cost effective solution for producing cheap hot water on new buildings.

Mike Darvill, Roth UK Ltd

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