Consumer: Solar's sun kind of wonderful
Retired toolmaker Kenneth Hanna and his 66-year-old wife Rita live in a three-bedroom detached bungalow in Newtownards.
They had solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed at their Co Antrim property five weeks ago at a cost of £7,750.
Although the initial price is high, Kenneth (67) said he hopes to reap rewards from the 5KW 1500 combined savings system, which he sees as an investment.
"It's too early to tell what our exact savings will be but I expect my electricity bill to be around 40% less," he said.
"The solar panels only work in daylight so the electricity produced during the day is used to run the dishwasher or washing machine etc.
"Then at night we only use electricity for lighting and TV."
The Hannas, who have lived in the Co Antrim property for 35 years, have oil fired central heating and a multi-fuel stove.
Their main reason for installing solar panels was to decrease their electricity bill and to make a healthy profit from his savings.
"Interest rates on many savings accounts have dropped so much recently, there's just no point leaving your money in the bank," he said.
"We're not big electricity users but I believe in getting value for money and I think I'll get a better return on my savings by putting it into solar panels than I would from the bank."
He was also attracted by the ability to make money through the Government Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme.
"I'll get 17.64p for every unit of electricity I generate for the next 20 years and I can sell every KW I don't use back to the grid for a further 5.41p," he said.
"I'm expecting between £1,200 and £1,400 each year so I'm hoping the system will pay for itself within six years."
Mr Hanna said he opted for supplier BlueBuild Energy, a Northern Ireland renewable energy company.
"I looked at other systems and other types of PV panels but I made my final choice because of the German solar panels they use," he said.
The panels, made by German company Antaris, come with a 30-year performance guarantee and a 12-year labour and parts warranty, which BlueBuild Energy boss Ewan Melvin described as "market leading".
"Our customers are making a long-term investment and we want to support them by giving them the best quality available on the market."
How to... cut your bills using alternative energy
The majority of the world's current electricity supply is generated from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.
However, these traditional energy sources face a number of challenges including rising prices, security concerns over dependence on imports from a limited number of countries and growing environmental concerns.
As a result, governments, businesses and consumers are increasingly supporting the development of alternative energy sources and new technologies for electricity generation. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, have emerged as potential alternatives and that's one of the reasons why the Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with BlueBuild Energy to give away a solar power system worth £13,470.
Managing director Ewan Melvin said: "These panels generate electricity as well as a tax-free income which will cut your energy bills".
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of going solar:
ROC – the government's Renewable Obligation Certification scheme guarantees a 17.64p payment for every unit of electricity generated for 20 years.
FREE – You can use the electricity that you generate at no cost, therefore reducing your electricity bill.
RESALE – Surplus energy is sold back to the grid and you get a further 5.41p per unit.
BOOST – If you own the system its cost will be reflected in an increase in the value of your home.
PROTECTION – It allows you to protect yourself against future energy price increases and gives you a good return on your money.
PERENNIAL – Solar panels don't need direct sunshine – they can work in cloudy or overcast weather.
INVESTMENT: Solar energy isn't cheap and initial outlay is high.
NON-OWNERSHIP – Where you don't own the system the value of your home can decrease.
CHECK – If you agree to have free panels fitted you may need to sign up for a 25-year commitment so read the contract carefully.
HAZARD – Hazardous roofs are not suitable.
NIGHT – You may need to invest in other sources of electricity during night-time hours.
RULES – Regulations can sometimes pose a problem if you live in a listed building or a conservation area.
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