Rooftop solar panels could produce 25% of household electricity, UCC study finds

Homeowners have potential to reduce electricity bills by €450 per year

The first national study of domestic solar potential indicates many householders could reduce their electricity bills by €450 per year by fitting panels and that if this was done at scale Ireland could meet one-quarter of its household electricity needs.

The MaREI Research Centre at UCC examined every rooftop in Ireland using satellite data and found more than one million homes have roof space and orientation suitable for 10 solar panels — equivalent to 3.4kW.

Domestic rooftop solar panels could produce enough electricity to power one in four Irish homes, according to research released on Friday.

If all suitable homes were to avail of this opportunity they would save €450 per year on households’ electricity costs, produce 25 per cent of all residential electricity demand, and meet 8 per cent of the country’s renewable energy targets — eliminating 135,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

The findings coincide with the commencement of the Government’s new microgeneration support scheme (MSS).

MaREI senior research fellow Paul Deane said: “Advances in solar technology and reductions in cost now make it a very attractive prospect for any homeowner. We don’t associate Ireland as a sunny country but there is sufficient sunlight shining on our Irish roofs to make a meaningful impact on electricity bills.”

If every home was to maximise solar potential on every suitable house, it would provide some with savings of over €500 in electricity bills while delivering 19 per cent of our renewable electricity target and producing 36 per cent of all residential demand, he said. About 24,000 homes have already begun the transition to solar but there is much more potential to generate significant amounts of solar energy.

Greater benefits

The study was commissioned by the Irish Solar Energy Association. Its chief executive Conall Bolger said: “Rooftop solar provides a hugely positive route for individuals to support climate action. With energy prices continuing to rise people can take greater control of their costs by investing in rooftop solar. Six solar panels on a suitable home in Dublin, for example, would save €380 on annual electricity bills with the system paying back for itself in seven years.”

The MSS meant even greater benefits with homes compensated for unused solar energy going on to the national grid. “Previously, any unused energy went to waste, now it will travel the network, powering someone else’s home with the green energy your home generated.”

Homeowners could also benefit from a substantial grant from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. “While these grants are an excellent support, investing in solar technology will still be unattainable for people who are currently experiencing fuel poverty,” he acknowledged.

The Government should fund the installation of solar panels for those in fuel poverty as “this would allow them to generate their own clean green power for decades to come and offer protection from volatile energy costs”.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times