Solar energy is not just something for people living in sunny climes like Arizona or California. Solar panels can glean energy from the sun even in climates that are not traditionally considered sunny. Solar can be beneficial to residents in the UK, and British residents may well wonder what Tesla has available for them.
In October of 2020, Tesla initiated an energy plan for residents of the UK. This plan includes special pricing for those who add a Tesla Powerwall to their solar unit. It enables them to become part of a Virtual Power Plan. Residents can store energy for use in their homes or by the utility company.
Similar to plans Tesla has initiated in other places, the energy plan in the UK is a way for British residents to get the most out of their solar system by storing power for their home use when the grid goes down or for use to be leveraged by their utility company when the grid is under strain, all for a significant decrease in their energy tariff. Read on to learn more about Tesla Solar and the Powerwall in the UK.
The Tesla Energy Plan for Solar and Powerwall
As of October 26, 2020, if you are a resident of the UK, you can now take part in the Tesla Energy Plan and save money on your kWh pricing as well as make money by giving power back to the grid. This is a great way to leverage your solar system to power not only your home but to help others within Tesla’s Virtual Power Plant.
A virtual power plant is what you get when you have enough Powerwalls linked together to a community of users. It allows those users to contribute and take energy as Tesla sees fit to regulate it. To be a part of the Tesla Energy Plan, you need:
- Tesla Powerwall
- Solar Panels
The guiding purpose of the plan is to put clean energy into use while saving customers money, so you cannot be a part of the energy plan if you do not have solar panels. Fundamentally, you have to produce solar energy in order for the plan to be effective.
Also, the key to the success of the energy plan is that you are able to store the solar energy that you create. This is why you have to have a Tesla Powerwall. With one Tesla Powerwall, you can store up to about 14 kWh of energy which you can use to power your home:
- At night
- During a blackout
- During peak hours
Or you can give stored energy back to the grid, easing reliance on the grid and earning further discounts. The idea is that you help the grid become greener by being green yourself.
Tesla Energy Plan Pricing
Tesla offers very competitive pricing for their energy plan when compared with the Big 6, a conglomeration of the largest utility companies in the UK. When you are part of the Tesla Energy Plan, you pay:
- 11p per kWh
- No standing charge
This compares favorably with the typical price of 16p per kWh found among any of the Big 6, along with a standing charge of 20p a day.
It gets better. If you give energy back to the grid through this plan, you will receive 11p per kWh, compared with an average of 5.5p from one of the large companies. Also, if you have a Tesla electric vehicle (EV), you will:
- Receive 8p per kWh
- Pay 8p per kWh
- Pay no standing charge
Finally, if you have a non-Tesla EV, you will receive 11p in place of the 8.
Tesla is able to offer these discounts because of the Virtual Power Plant that they create through the energy plan. Because this includes both a give and take kind of approach, they are able to balance the energy supply and demand of the plan’s customers across that network for money savings for everyone.
Tesla Solar and the Energy Landscape in the UK
In the UK, energy is dominated by six large utility companies, often referred to as the Big 6. Up until recently, if you wanted energy in the UK, you had to get it from:
- E.ON UK
- RWE power
- Centrica plc
- Scottish and Southern Energy
- EDF Energy
In previous years, the energy market has been dominated by these companies. But in recent years, smaller energy companies have emerged in the market to push the use of cleaner energy. One such company is Octopus Energy who is now Tesla’s retail partner in the energy plan.
Much as in the United States, Tesla has the goal of disrupting the traditional energy market with a clean energy approach that allows groups and small communities such as businesses and collectives of residential homeowners to act, at least in part, as their power plants. It is the iconoclastic approach that has earned Tesla its reputation.
Tesla has achieved this in the United States in Vermont with the Green Mountain Power company (which saved users three million dollars in 2020 alone) and on the island Ta’u in American Samoa, which now relies almost entirely on solar energy thanks to this approach.
Tesla Solar Panels in the UK
Since you need to be set up with solar panels in order to be a part of Tesla’s Energy Plan, it is probably best that you educate yourself on solar technology in the UK if you haven’t already taken advantage of the opportunity to go green.
Tesla currently installs solar panel systems in the UK with benefits to their customers that are similar to benefits that customers experience in the states and other places throughout the world. It is the same technology applied to the same problem and, in spite of Great Britain’s rainy climate, has similar results.
Utilizing Tesla solar panels, customers in the UK can generate enough clean solar energy to run their homes and save money in the process. This can result in:
- A lower energy bill per month
- A lower carbon footprint
But how do solar panels work, and what is the process like of getting panels installed?
Do Solar Panels Work in the UK?
Solar panels in the UK work about the same as they do in other places. On cloudy days there is a reduction in how much solar energy the panels are able to generate, but panels are still able to generate energy. So even in Great Britain, where there is an abundance of overcast days, solar is still a viable source of energy.
For most residential applications in the UK, solar panels are installed on the roof of homes. While there are installations on the ground, those are typically for larger industrial applications such as solar farms. For homeowners, there are several reasons why the roof is the best place for your solar panels:
- The roof provides the stable structure resistant to high winds that solar panels need.
- The roof already has open space and the right pitch for the panels in relation to the sun.
- The roof usually has a south-facing pitch, or near enough, which solar panels will need when placed on homes in the Northern Hemisphere.
In short, the roof is a ready-made structure ideal for solar panels. It has everything they need in order to do what they need to do. Most roofs are open to the sun and free of trees overhanging them. Many are free of trees crowding them. As such, roofs offer structurally sound and abundant access to sunlight.
How Do Tesla Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are structures of glass in metal frames that encase the guts of a solar system: photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are the things that make solar panels what they are. It is the PV cells that collect sunlight and turn it into solar energy, sending it to the home to be used.
Solar panels send energy from the rooftop, in the form of direct current (DC), down to what is called an inverter which attaches to a wall of the home either on the outside of the home or in the garage. The inventor is installed so that it receives the energy prior to the panel that is original to the home, the one that your local utility company uses.
Once the inverter has the DC energy, it changes it from DC into alternating current (AC), hence the name “inverter,” which is what your home runs on. Utility companies supply your home with 230 volts AC (compared to 120 volts in the US).
All things being equal, solar panels are capable of supplying as much solar energy as you need to run your home. But in Great Britain, as it relates to sunlight, things are not equal. So the problem is that your solar panels may not have access to enough sunlight to collect that much energy:
If your panels create more energy than you need on any given day, the extra kWh go to the utility company (if you do not have a Powerwall or Powerwalls to store the excess). If they do not make enough, then you pull more kWh from the utility company in order to have the energy to run your home.
Do All Homes Get the Same Sized Solar Unit?
Solar panel systems do not have a one size fits all approach. In the same way that you would need a larger motor to power a larger car, you need a larger solar system to make energy enough for a larger home. Solar systems come in different sizes ranging from small to x-large and have a power rating that includes:
- 4.08 kW (small)
- 8.16 kW (medium)
- 12.24 kW (large)
- 16.32 kW (X-Large)
The different size systems require an increasing number of solar panels that occupy a greater area of square feet on your roof:
- A Small system is made up of 12 panels that occupy 240 sq ft of roof space
- A Medium system is made up of 24 panels that occupy 480 sq ft of roof space
- A Large system is made up of 36 panels that occupy 720 sq ft of roof space
- An X-Large system is made up of 38 panels that occupy 960 sq ft of roof space
The system that you need depends not only on the size of your home but on how much energy you typically use every month. So Theoretically, you could need a large system if you have a small home but run high-use appliances, but generally speaking, if you have a larger home with a higher energy bill, you will require a larger solar system to power it.
The Aesthetics of Solar Panels
Solar panels may be a great source of clean energy, but sometimes they can look ugly. Solar panels are often in grey or brown colors, and they can stick up above the roof of a home in a way that can look unattractive and industrial. This has not stopped hundreds of thousands of homes from going solar, but for some in the UK, it may be a drawback.
Aesthetics are important to Tesla products, historically speaking, and so it is no surprise that they have worked to create solar panels that are sleeker than other systems on the market. Tesla solar panels have a lower clearance to the roof and come in black so that they look like they are fitted to the roof rather than on it.
Ordering and Installing a Solar System
Ordering and installing a solar system works much the same way in Great Britain as it does in the United States:
- Go to the Tesla website.
- Select “Solar” from the menu.
- Click on the “Order Now” button.
Pro Tip: You save $100 instantly by using a Tesla referral link from another Tesla owner.
The website will then take you to the solar calculator and system designer. Once you put in your address and your average monthly bill, Tesla should have enough information to estimate the size system that you will need.
At that point, you will need to decide whether or not to order your new solar system. Once you do, there will no doubt be a waiting period while Tesla schedules the install. The advantage of going with Tesla is that you will get a certified installer who is familiar with regulations particular to Great Britain and regions within the UK.
The Tesla Solar Roof
The Tesla Solar Roof has been generating interest for the last four or five years. It has presented Tesla fans and proponents of solar energy alike with some intriguing possibilities, not the least of which is taking the static, structural utility of a roof and using it, not just as a platform for solar energy but a generator for it.
The Solar Roof from Tesla is an intriguing notion because it encloses the photovoltaic cells, not in panels, but in shingles that look similar to the shingles or tiles of a normal roof. This means:
- Functioning and nonfunctioning solar shingles create a seamless roof
- The roof can generate solar energy without the distraction of solar panels
All this leads some UK residents to ask, is the solar roof finally available in Great Britain, or is the wait for it on going?
The wait for the solar roof continues. It may be that installations for those who have put down a deposit may begin in 2021, but given the number of times it has been promised and delayed, it is hard to say exactly when that will occur. But with the recent initiation of the Energy Plan, it is apparent that Tesla still has its eye on Great Britain.
The Tesla Powerwall
The other component that you need in addition to solar panels for Tesla’s UK Energy Plan is a Tesla Powerwall 2. The Powerwall 2 is a storage device, essentially a battery geared toward residential use.
With it, homeowners can
- Store energy that their solar system generates
- Add more Powerwalls so as not to watch energy go straight out to the grid
- Maintain control over what to do with excess energy, how to use it to their advantage, and when to send it out to the grid
Owning a Powerwall 2 (or multiple Powerwalls) gives you the ability to manage the energy that your solar system creates. The more Powerwalls you have, the more energy you can store, which means the more freedom you have from the grid, assuming, of course, you have access to that much sunlight.
Think of it this way. If solar panels offer the first step toward freedom from the grid by offering a cheaper, cleaner source of energy, the Powerwall storage device is the second step toward freedom by giving you the ability, in a limited sense, to manage that energy.
How the Powerwall Works
The Powerwall 2 stores up to 14 kWh of energy. About 13.5 kWh of that is usable and has a round trip efficiency of about 90 percent (meaning the amount of energy that is left after the various conversions it makes from AC to DC and back again). Powerwalls can be connected together, so with every Powerwall, you add 14 kWh of storage.
The Powerwall is about 1150 mm high by about 755 mm wide, and roughly 147 mm deep. Relatively speaking, it is slim and sleek. It can be mounted on the floor or on a wall.
It has an impressive operating range that sits between 0 and 30 degrees celsius, though it can operate in the extremes of -20 to 30 degrees celsius, all while staying below a top elevation of 3,000 meters, inside or outside.
Essentially, the Powerwall 2 takes AC energy from the solar inverter, converts it to DC for storage, and then converts it to AC again when it sends it back out to your home or the grid. So the Powerwall is like an energy bank to which you can deposit the energy you want to save and from which you can withdraw it when you need it.
Powerwall 2 and the Gateway 2
The Powerwall 2 cannot function without the Gateway 2. As its name suggests, the Gateway 2 is a gateway to the Powerwall, opening and closing access to and from the grid or the home itself as needed.
So if power is cut off to your home from the grid, the Gateway closes to the grid and allows the Powerwall to supply power to the home or to the circuits that you have selected ahead of time.
The Gateway is also the brains of the Powerwall 2. It is through the Gateway that your app allows you to determine how to use the Powerwall and under what circumstances. Generally speaking, you can use the Powerwall:
- When power from the grid has been cut off due to a blackout
- During peak hours when the usage of power from the grid is more expensive
- During high usage times when the grid is under strain
- At night when your solar system cannot generate electricity for obvious reasons
The Gateway is what enables you to use the Powerwall to your greatest advantage.
Tesla Powerwall Pricing
The Tesla Powerwall 2 costs about 5,400 pounds (which is about $7,400 in US currency), while the Gateway 2 costs around 1,300 pounds (which is $1,800 US).
So the grand total for both the Powerwall 2 and the Gateway 2 is around 6,700 pounds. That is a fair amount to put down for that, especially if you do not have solar panels yet, and you need to add that cost as well.
Tesla Energy Plan and Money
You used to be able to get interest-free loans in Great Britain for solar energy products, but that ended in 2015, so when you consider buying solar panels and the Powerwall from Tesla, you have to bring heavy consideration to the amount of money you would save and how long it would take you to get a return on your investment.
As a straight pound to pound savings, if you went with the baseline savings that you would get with just solar panels and a Powerwall, you could save:
- About 5p per kWh
- About 20p a day on standing charges
Given that the average UK home uses about 3,731 kWh a year, you would save about 259 pounds a year.
You would have to factor in how much you would pay a month for the system and how long it would take you to pay it off. You could be looking at as long as 25 years or as little as five to recover your investment. It all depends. Even if you took an average of about 15 years to recover it, on a 25 plus year life of a system, that is not bad.
But with that amount of savings on an average electric bill, it is easy to see how this could benefit the average homeowner. While you are paying off the system, you are already saving money. It is quite possible that the money you save balances out what you would be paying for the system itself.
The Virtual Power Plant and Tesla EVs
It may occur to you to wonder why it is that EVs are included in the price break for those who take part in Tesla’s energy plan in the UK. The electric vehicle in general and Tesla’s electric vehicles, in particular, are another part of the energy paradigm shift that Tesla has been working to create.
The ideal home is one that creates energy enough to:
- Power the house
- Contribute to the network of homes around it
- Store energy for a rainy day
- Power the family car
In other words, instead of looking to large companies to supply fuel for the car, energy for the air conditioner, etc., responsible homeowners would look only to their own roof for the energy that they need for daily living.
The Tesla vision for solar energy is not just as a supplement to the grid for the purposes of a price break and green pat on the shoulder but as an all-encompassing solution for the energy crisis that we are in. What better solution to limited fossil fuels than the sun, an unlimited supply that homeowners can draw from and manage.
If you live in the United Kingdom, you have the opportunity to put your Tesla solar power system and Powerwall to use when you participate in Tesla’s Energy Plan.
Tesla has created a way that you can have the benefits of solar along with dramatic savings by being a part of their Virtual Power Plant. When you have a solar system together with Tesla’s Powerwall 2, you can have savings of up to 75 percent compared to what the Big 6 offer, made possible by storing, using, and sharing energy on the VPP.
With the ability to harness energy from the sun with your solar panel system, you are participating in green energy that frees you from standing charges and gives you control over the management of energy that your system creates. With the Powerwall, you can decide how to use what you store, whether to the benefit of yourself or others.