Swedish home retailer, Ikea, is to start selling solar photovoltaic panels at a number of its stores in preparation for a nationwide release of the product by the end of summer 2016. The firm suggests solar panels could be the best investment homeowners make for the long-term and could see electricity bills cut by as much as 50% in some areas. Glasgow, Birmingham and Lakeside will act as pilot for the retailerâs scheme of diversification with Manchester and Southampton following suit in early May and June respectively.
In light of recent cuts to the feed-in tariff, there is some dispute over Ikeaâs claims that homeowners will effectively earn back what they pay out. Where previously homeowners enjoy a rate of 12.92p/unit for energy generation sold back to grid, January saw that rate slashed by almost two thirds to just 4.39p/unit. The return on investment for customers is thus far smaller and it takes much longer for solar panels to pay for themselves or, indeed, start making money.
The average semi-detached house costs around £4,550 to be fitted with ten, 3.1kWp solar panels, the number typical for effective energy generation. Ikea has calculated it would take homeowners around 11 years to be reunited with that initial cash sum though they could, in the meantime, enjoy drastically reduced electricity bills.*
Such a claim from the retailer stands in direct contradiction to the findings of consumer champion and product reviewing body, Which?; the organisation suggests that the initial investment figure is closer to £6,750. Doing the maths with a slightly larger annual electricity bill, Which? in turn, suggests that a photovoltaic system would not, in fact, pay for itself, until 24 years later.
Moreover, it must be stressed that both schemes of solar investment are based on houses which are, in some respect, south-facing. For those without the benefit of year-round sunlight, the amount of generated electricity (and cash) could therefore be somewhat smaller.
UK-based SolarCentury is the primary supplier on which Ikea will draw for its polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels. Despite the retailer working with estimated costs of £4,550 for its research (as stated previously) the panels will cost customers anywhere between £4,875 and £5,150 depending on specification. Prices include installation, Ikea family discount and a six year warranty.
Whilst this isnât the first time Ikea has sold PV solar panels â from 2013 to 2015 it stocked Hanenergyâs thin-film solar panels â the Swedish home retailer will be looking for a more successful release this time around. And as utility bills continue to soar, customers may well be inclined to try the technology out and see the benefits for themselves, as it were.