What are the Potential Downsides or Challenges of Residential Solar Panels in Ireland?

Raj Singh
February 28, 2024

Are you thinking of installing solar panels on your roof to save money and reduce your carbon footprint? Solar energy is no doubt a clean, renewable, and affordable source of power that can help you achieve your sustainability goals. But before you make the decision, you should be aware of the potential downsides or challenges of residential solar panels in Ireland.

This blog sheds light on ten key challenges you might encounter while shifting to solar energy. Understanding these downsides can help you make an informed decision. So, without any further ado, let's get started.

10 Downsides or Challenges of Residential Solar Panels in Ireland

Solar panels have many benefits, but they also come with some drawbacks and difficulties. Here are the 10 most important ones that you should consider before investing in solar energy:

1. High Initial Cost

One of the main disadvantages is the high initial cost of purchasing and installing them. Depending on the size and quality of your system, you can expect to pay between €2,200 and €8,100 after the SEAI grant. This is a significant upfront investment that may not suit everyone’s budget. 

However, you should also consider the long-term savings and returns as well, as they can reduce your electricity bills by up to 70% and increase the value of your home by up to 10%.

2. Weather Dependence

Ireland is not known for its sunny climate, and solar panels can produce less power on cloudy or rainy days. This means that you may not be able to rely on solar energy alone to meet your electricity needs, and you may still need to use grid power or a backup generator at times. 

However, solar panels can still generate electricity from daylight, even when the sun is not shining, and they can produce more power in the summer than in the winter. You can also store excess solar energy in a battery or sell it to the grid to maximise your solar output.

3. Roof Suitability

Not all roofs are suitable for solar panel installation. Some factors that can affect the performance and feasibility of solar panels are:

  • Orientation: A south-facing roof is ideal in Ireland for maximum sun exposure. However, east-west facing roofs can also work well, as they can capture more sunlight in the morning and evening. North-facing roofs are not recommended, as they will receive very little sunlight.
  • Pitch: An optimal pitch is between 30 and 45 degrees. However, panels can be installed on various roof slopes, as long as they are not shaded by trees, buildings, or other obstacles.
  • Size: You will need at least 10 square metres of roof space for a 1 kW solar system, which can produce around 800 kWh of electricity per year. However, the actual size and number of panels will depend on the type and efficiency of the panels you choose.
  • Condition: Your roof should be strong, stable, and durable enough to support the weight and wind load of the solar panels. Roof repairs or replacements prior to installation also add to the initial cost, but are crucial for long-term viability.

4. Maintenance and Repair

Solar panels are generally low-maintenance and easy to operate, as they have no moving parts and require little cleaning. However, they are not immune to wear and tear, and they may need some maintenance and repair over time. Some of the common issues that can affect solar panels are:

  • Dirt and dust: Over time, solar panels can gather dirt and dust, which reduces their efficiency. It's advisable to regularly clean your panels, particularly following storms or prolonged dry periods. A soft cloth, hose, or squeegee can be used for gentle cleaning. It's important to avoid harsh chemicals, abrasive cleaning tools, or high-pressure water, as these can damage the panels.
  • Bird droppings: These are more problematic as they can obstruct sunlight and cause hot spots, potentially degrading the panel cells. You should remove bird droppings as soon as possible, using gentle cleaning methods. To minimise this issue, consider installing bird deterrents like spikes, nets, or wires.
  • Cracks and leaks: Solar panels, wiring, and mounts can be vulnerable to cracks and leaks caused by weather, accidental damage, or vandalism. Such damages can lead to electrical issues, potential fire hazards, or water damage, impacting the system’s performance and lifespan. Regular inspections are crucial to identify any signs of damage early on.

5. Aesthetics

Some people may not like the look of solar panels on their roof, as they may think they are too bulky, conspicuous, or unattractive to affect the architectural style and character of your home, especially if you live in a historic or listed building. 

However, the variety available in solar panel designs offers a solution. You can also opt for integrated solar panels, which are built into the roof tiles or shingles and blend in seamlessly with your roof. 

Alternatively, you can install them on a ground-mounted system, or on a garage, shed, or pergola if you have enough space and sunlight in your garden.

6. Planning Permission

In most cases, you do not need planning permission to install solar panels on your roof, as they are considered exempted development under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. However, there are some exceptions and conditions that you should be aware of, such as:

  • Listed buildings: If you live in a protected structure or a conservation area, you may need planning permission to install solar panels, as they may affect the character or appearance of the building or the area.
  • Roof size and height: The size and height of your solar panels should not exceed certain limits, depending on the type and location of your roof. For example, on pitched roofs, solar panels should not exceed 12 square metres or half the roof's area, and should not extend beyond 15 centimetres above the roof surface.
  • Visual impact: The solar panels should not have a negative visual impact on the surrounding area, especially if you live in a scenic or coastal location. They should be positioned and designed to minimise their visibility and glare, and to blend in with the roof and the building.

7. Grid Connection

Connecting your solar panel system to the grid offers the advantage of exporting surplus energy, potentially earning you revenue. However, there are some challenges and costs associated with grid connections, such as:

  • Application process: The application process can be lengthy and complex, as you will need to provide various documents and information, such as your metre point reference number (MPRN), your solar panel specifications, and your installation certificate. You will also need to comply with the technical and safety standards and regulations set by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and the Distribution System Operator (DSO).
  • Connection fee: Depending on your system's size and type, you may have to pay a connection fee, varying from €50 to €2,000. This fee is for metering and wiring upgrades necessary for grid connection.

8. Battery Storage

Installing a battery storage system alongside your solar panels can significantly enhance your energy self-sufficiency. This system stores surplus solar power for use during non-sunny periods. However, it's important to consider:

  • Cost Implications: Battery systems, ranging from €3,000 to €10,000, add to your initial solar investment, impacting the payback period. Nonetheless, the long-term benefits, including increased energy independence and reduced reliance on the grid, are substantial.
  • Maintenance Needs: Regular upkeep is crucial as batteries degrade over time, affecting their efficiency. Replacements might be necessary every 5 to 10 years, adding to ongoing costs. Opt for systems with robust warranties for better performance assurance.
  • Environmental Concerns: Batteries, often made from hazardous materials, have environmental impacts. Choosing recyclable or environmentally-friendly options and adhering to safe disposal practices is crucial.

9. Solar Panel Recycling

Solar panels are designed to last for 25 years or more, but they will eventually reach the end of their life and need to be replaced. When this happens, you will need to dispose of your old solar panels in a responsible and sustainable way. However, solar panel recycling can be a challenge, as there are not many facilities or regulations for it in Ireland. Some of the issues that can arise from solar panel recycling are:

  • Lack of infrastructure: There are not many facilities or schemes for solar panel recycling in Ireland, as the solar industry is relatively new and the demand for recycling is low. This means that you may have difficulty finding a place or a service that can take your old solar panels and recycle them properly. 
  • Lack of legislation: There is no clear guidance or requirement for how solar panels should be recycled or what environmental and health impacts they should avoid. You may have to rely on the voluntary initiatives or codes of conduct of the solar industry, and check if they comply with the best practices and principles of solar panel recycling.
  • Lack of awareness: Many people may not know or care about the importance and benefits of solar panel recycling or how to do it properly. You may have to do your own research and advocacy, and spread the word about solar panel recycling to your friends, family, and community.

10. Solar Panel Theft

Solar panels, while valuable, are susceptible to theft, which can be financially and operationally disruptive. To reduce this risk:

  • Strategic Installation: Place panels in less accessible or visible locations, such as high or concealed roof areas, and avoid ground-mounted systems when possible.
  • Secure Mounting: Use specialised anti-theft locks and bolts to secure the panels firmly, preventing easy removal.
  • Enhanced Surveillance: Installing alarms and surveillance cameras and integrating them with your home security system or smartphone can deter theft and facilitate prompt detection.

Conclusion

Opting for solar panels is a commendable step towards renewable energy and sustainability. While there are challenges, such as initial costsweather dependence, and technical considerations, the long-term benefits often outweigh these hurdles. This blog has aimed to equip you with a detailed understanding of what to expect when installing solar panels in Ireland.

If you're considering this eco-friendly transition, NuSolas Energy is here to assist. With our expertise in custom solar solutions, we can help you overcome these challenges and utilise the sun's power efficiently. Reach out to us for a seamless experience!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does Ireland’s weather affect solar panel efficiency?

Ireland's variable climate means solar panels may produce less power on cloudy or rainy days, requiring supplemental power sources. However, they still generate electricity in diffused daylight.

Are all roofs suitable for solar panel installation in Ireland?

Not all roofs are ideal. Factors like orientation, pitch, size, and condition of the roof affect the feasibility of solar panel installation.

Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance and repair?

Solar panels generally require low maintenance, but regular cleaning and occasional repairs for damages like cracks or leaks are necessary.

Can solar panels impact the aesthetics of my home?

Solar panels may alter the look of your home, but there are various designs and integrated options that can blend with your roof's architecture.

Is planning permission required for installing solar panels in Ireland?

Usually, planning permission isn’t required, but it's necessary for protected structures or areas, and there are certain size and visual impact considerations.

What are the challenges of connecting solar panels to the grid in Ireland?

The grid connection process can be complex and involves fees, along with compliance with specific standards and regulations.

How does Ireland’s weather affect solar panel efficiency?

Ireland's variable climate means solar panels may produce less power on cloudy or rainy days, requiring supplemental power sources. However, they still generate electricity in diffused daylight.

Are all roofs suitable for solar panel installation in Ireland?

Not all roofs are ideal. Factors like orientation, pitch, size, and condition of the roof affect the feasibility of solar panel installation.

Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance and repair?

Solar panels generally require low maintenance, but regular cleaning and occasional repairs for damages like cracks or leaks are necessary.

Can solar panels impact the aesthetics of my home?

Solar panels may alter the look of your home, but there are various designs and integrated options that can blend with your roof's architecture.

Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance and repair?

Solar panels generally require low maintenance, but regular cleaning and occasional repairs for damages like cracks or leaks are necessary.

Is planning permission required for installing solar panels in Ireland?

Usually, planning permission isn’t required, but it's necessary for protected structures or areas, and there are certain size and visual impact considerations.

What are the challenges of connecting solar panels to the grid in Ireland?

The grid connection process can be complex and involves fees, along with compliance with specific standards and regulations.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
About Author
Raj Singh
Founder @ NuSolas

A seasoned professional in the solar industry, Raj Singh is dedicated to illuminating Ireland with the power of the sun. His passion for renewable energy and commitment to sustainability shine through his work in the solar industry.