London — In an effort to capitalize on the UK feed-in tariff, UK-based HomeSun announced that it will be giving away solar panels to more than 100,000 British households over the next 3 years. The company says it will spend £1 billion on the effort.
According to the company press release, HomeSun asks interested consumers to input information about their home on the HomeSun website and if the home qualifies, it could receive free solar panels that would be owned, operated and maintained by HomeSun for the next 25 years. HomeSun states that in the UK an average solar PV system costs consumers approximately £11,000 and under the FIT the homeowner would see an average rate of return in the 5-8% range after 10 years.
Under the company plan, the homeowner only has to come up with £500 for the installation plus agree to pay a £5 monthly fee for the system. HomeSun says customers will see the immediate benefit of lower monthly electricity costs from the solar energy generated.
Sound too good to be true? It might be.
According to an article in the Guardian UK, consumers should be wary of the free panel offers and enter into transactions like this with their eyes wide open. The article states:
Under the “free solar” model, a homeowner would save in the region of £2,750 on energy bills over 25 years, the length of the tariff offer. By paying for their own panels with a loan at 7.7% interest repaid over 10 years and earning income from the feed-in tariff, they could save around £6,506 over the same period.
Consumer watchdog organization, Consumer Focus, also issued a warning about the potential pitfalls of the plan. The group has published an information sheet on microgeneration that includes 24 questions to ask before signing up for a free solar plan. You can download the factsheet here.