Solar Panels: going green is no longer the sole preserve of militant eco-warriors

solar panelsIn these environmentally troubled times, not a day goes by without another scheme promising to drastically reduce our impact on the environment being unveiled. Buzzwords like “eco-friendly” and “green” are frequently bandied about, and even the most environmentally unaware of us are familiar with the concept of the carbon footprint and the need to minimise it. “Going green” is no longer the sole preserve of the drippy hippy and the militant eco-warrior; green is in, and there are now a wealth of ways in which to contribute to the environment without having to compromise on lifestyle. Switching to solar power is a simple and effective way to join the struggle against global warming while also benefiting from significally reduced energy costs. This has been recognised by the European Union; although renewable sources currently generate less than 7% of energy across Europe, Brussels has announced bold targets of a 20% overall increase in renewable fuel increase by 2020.

It is clear that in the UK, which is the object of constant international ridicule on account of its lack of sunshine, frequent rain and generally dismal weather, the widespread introduction of solar panels would meet with somewhat limited success. In the south of France, however, which enjoys up to 12 hours of sunshine a day during the summer and up to 5 hours a day in midwinter, it is not only a viable option, but also a lucrative one. France is currently taking drastic steps to address the issue of climate change; President Sarkozy is determined to make the country “the world leader of non-carbon energies, by developing renewable energy and drawing on its industrial know-how”, and, to this end, recently announced plans for a controversial new “carbon tax” which aims to penalise those with excessively high carbon emissions. Although these proposals have met with widespread opposition, the French government has followed them up with an altogether more enticing scheme – it plans to increase the generous incentives which are offered to businesses and individuals in return for switching to solar power. The regulations are currently still in the drafting stages, but are expected to be put into practice by January 2010. The sums of money awarded to new converts to solar power could be as much as 30 cents per kilowatt per hour for private residences, meaning that France would enjoy one of the most generous solar incentive schemes in the world. The proposed incentives will be calculated in relation to geographical location – areas enjoying the highest levels of sun will offer significantly lower tariffs than those with a cloudier climate. Jean-Louis Borloo, French minister for energy and the environment, has grand plans for France’s future, aiming for 23% of French energy to be generated by solar power by 2020, in compliance with EU obligations.

Although some may have previously rejected the idea of installing solar panels on the grounds that they are bulky and unattractive, this is no longer a valid excuse. Technological advances have rendered them slim, sleek and unobtrusive – even stylish – and new-build developers have been quick to recognise the potential environmental and economic benefits. It is becoming increasingly common for new developments to list integrated solar panels as one of their major selling points, illustrating the fact that an ecologically sound lifestyle has become a priority for buyers. The energy required to manufacture a solar panel is cancelled out after two or three years of use, and each panel has a life span of a number of decades, so it is an entirely carbon neutral method of generating power. As the name implies, solar panels harness the the immense natural energy of the sun; solar rays are a completely renewable, entirely non-polluting form of raw energy, creating electricity cleanly, simply and silently without the harmful by-products associated with the use of fossil fuels. At first sight, the cost of installing the photovoltaic panels can seem prohibitively expensive – equipment generating the recommended amount of electricity for a family of four would initially seem to set you back around €15000. There are, however, a number of other incentives that could be taken advantage of, and which would drastically reduce the overall installation costs. For example, the installation may be eligible for a local or regional grant, which could bring initial costs down to around €10500. Additionally, the benefits of drastically slashed electricity costs make the idea of switching to solar power both viable and enticing.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 3:15 pm and is filed under French New build . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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