Solar panel firms in Scotland are struggling to deal with a surge in inquiries from businesses and households, as the energy crisis continues to bite.
Renew Green Energy boss Brian Middleton says his Tweedbank-based business has been “hectic” and “manic”, with inquiries flooding in.
“We have never seen anything like this before, just due to the whole energy crisis,” he explains.
“Consumers and businesses’ costs are going up through the roof.
“We used to be able to order and deliver a project within a week, now it is about three months for delivery of materials.
“There’s a bit of a panic and a rush to do something about their energy costs before they can’t do anything with it really.
“We have gone from five to 10 inquiries a week to it tripling. We are overwhelmed and we had to bring in extra staff just to cope with that.”
It is a similar story for Glenrothes-based RB Grant, which says it is handling three or four times as many inquiries as it did a year ago, and is struggling to keep up with demand.
Director Ronnie Grant says: “We are hearing from people as far apart as Orkney and England who are desperate to have panels fitted.
“We are doing what we can but there are supply chain issues with metals and electrical components used in the panels so people are having to wait longer for installation.”
Ronnie says he knows of firms that have had to turn away business in the face of soaring demand.
Linda Graham and her family decided to have solar panels fitted on her Hawick home in an effort to tackle soaring energy prices.
“We had a projection done and it was quite scary how much the electricity would be up within five years.
“So we decided just to go for it and try and fit as many panels on as possible,” she says.
“We have got 18 on and we are producing energy – more than we need at the moment.
“We are waiting on a (storage) battery being fitted. It is a big outlay but I think in the long-term – we have no plans to move house – it will benefit us.”
Hugo Lee has also embraced solar energy as a way to keep bills at a manageable level.
The farmer, who is based near the border village of Ancrum, says his electricity consumption has “pretty much halved” since he had 200 solar panels fitted a decade ago.
He explains: “We use them for the farmhouse, farm cottages and also for the drying floor – we dry grain – and we also power our chicken sheds with them.
“If we could, we would probably double them in size if we were allowed to.
“When we first put them in it was a five-year payback, now it would be three years.”
Helen Melone, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, says it makes even more economic sense to install solar panels right now.
“The payback period for a domestic rooftop system is around 12 months, compared to many times that when electricity prices were lower,” she said.
Solar power in Scotland
- There are more than 56,000 households with solar PV (photovoltaic) systems
- Solar technologies currently account for enough generation capacity to power about 90,000 Scottish homes
- As a whole, the sector adds about £62m of GVA (Gross Value Added) to Scotland’s economy and supports 2,390 jobs.
- Solar energy has the highest backing of all renewable energy technologies among the British public, with 90% of people supporting or strongly supporting its development
Source: Scottish Renewables
Meanwhile, the Scottish government is being urged to give solar energy greater prominence in its net zero plans.
Industry group Solar Energy Scotland (SES) is pressing the government to introduce “a robust plan of action” as ministers prepare to publish a new energy strategy and just transition plan.
It wants ministers to commit to a minimum target of 4GW of solar energy across Scotland by 2030 and “declare a level of ambition” for 6GW, claiming the move could deliver more than 8,500 jobs.
According to the organisation, installed capacity in Scotland – on rooftops and on the ground – is about 400MW, and lags far behind other parts of the UK and nations like Denmark, which is on the same latitude as Scotland.
The industry argues that ministers have set ambitions for wind and other technologies like heat pumps, but continue to leave out solar power.
“For too long solar has suffered unconscious bias that Scotland’s weather better suits other renewable energy technologies that harness power from wind and water,” says a report issued by SES.
“This has resulted in solar being largely overlooked over the last decade as Scotland seeks to decarbonise its economy.
“The solar resource in Scotland is enormous. If all the sun’s energy that hits the island of Hoy could be collected this would meet all of Scotland’s energy needs, including power, heat and transport.”
A Scottish government spokesman said it recognised the importance of solar power in contributing towards net zero.
“We remain committed to continuing to work with the solar sector to provide a supportive policy framework to help it continue to grow,” he said.
“We have been working closely with industry in recent months to co-design our solar vision which will be published in our energy strategy and just transition plan later this year and provide the certainty needed for investment in our energy transition.”
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