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You can now get 30% grants for Solartwin in Scotland!

Filed under: Latest News

Dear Reader, great news! We have just established that installations of Solartwin solar water heating systems are now eligible for a full 30% grant in Scotland. But only, at present, in Scotland, not in the rest of UK. This is because the Scottish Grants and Building Regulations on solar panels are more up to date than elsewhere.

Solartwin’s solar panels are now fully accredited across all of Europe – with Solar Keymark, the highest solar panel accreditation available. Our solar collector is based on a Scottish engineer’s sudden insight on how to avoid the problem of frozen pipes in solar panels bursting in winter – by just letting them freeze – flexibly! Invented and patented by Kerr MacGregor at Napier University, Edinburgh, and developed in conjunction with Solar Twin Ltd,

To comply with the Scottish grants rules, if you want a Solartwin solar thermal system, then you will need to fit an additional thermostatic blender valve (usually £300) in addition to the normal installation costs. The costs for a full Solartwin panel installation in a 2 storey home will typically be: £3999 less 30% grant bringing the price you actually pay as low as:£2799, inclusive of VAT and a five year warranty. One storey homes cost £200 less. Your home’s pricing needs to be confirmed following a survey which takes place by phone.

The solar grants only apply to professional solar thermal installations: unfortunately DIY solar installations are not covered. If you feel strongly about the exclusion of the most cost-effective form of solar heating from grant aid (or the fact that DIY solar is taxed at 17.5% VAT while installations are taxed at only 5%) do please contact your MP / MSP – and send us copies, please.

Why are Solartwin solar panel installations not yet grant eligible in the rest of UK at present? The answer: strange rules. First of all, to get a grant in UK, not one, but two things (panels and installers) need to be accredited to get grants from the UK government. Solar Keymark on the panels makes them grant eligible. The challenges start with the installer accreditation.

Over the years we have observed quite a few funny things about the UK solar thermal grants regime. It still seems to be geared towards a rather old fashioned view of what solar heating used to be – about 20 years ago. One crucial technical anomaly is that the English and Welsh (but not the Scottish) solar grants rules apparently require us to lift the backup heat exchanger off the bottom of the hot water cylinder, leaving about 70 litres of water below it which may not be properly heated by solar in winter – for months at a time.

Unfortunately in England and Wales the solar grants authorities will not give grants to any customers of Solartwin solar water heating unless we adopt this odd practice, which brings three problems. One problem is that doing so requires the unnecessary installation of a new hot water cylinder. This is a wasteful thing to do in our supposedly green industry but I guess it makes the hot water cylinder suppliers happy. Secondly this new cylinder costs more than the grant, which at £400 is the size of the grants in England and Wales anyway. So here, unless this strange rule can be deleted, you’d be better off installing Solartwin without a grant than with one.

Thirdly, the most important reason of all: your safety. As a business which aims to take the the lead in areas such as the environment and safety, we are simply not prepared to implement this change anyway. This is because our safety risk assessment (which is backed up with independent expert opinion) concludes that the Solartwin approach of keeping the backup fuel heat exchanger (usually connected to the gas boiler) at the bottom of a cylinder is inherently safer from a bacteriological perspective – across all solar heating technologies, not just ours. To be clear: we are not compromising safety at all, just for the sake of getting you a grant. Sorry.

If that’s not enough, on top of these three issues come the further issues of the fitness for purpose, when it comes to installing Solartwin, of UK’s existing installer training material. The problem is that while there are dozens of installers who have been trained by us and who are perfectly competent to fit Solartwin, very few of them are actually permitted by the UK grants regulators to fit Solartwin for customers who want to get a grant. This is because the UK’s main official syllabus (called BPEC) for solar installers which the grants authorities recognise as being valid for training solar installers, and which was written using £86,000 of state funding by our competitors, did not cover Solartwin system properly in the past.

Indeed, early drafts of their material were so dreadful that even if installers had not been put off by its blatant misrepresentation of the Solartwin technology, they would have misinstalled it anyway if they had followed the BPEC “old solar” way of doing things. This is because Solartwin operates on different principles than conventional solar.

Which matters most: the competence or the accreditation of installers? We say competence. Here’s why. It is ironic that right now there are plenty of great Solartwin installers whom we have trained, and who are 100% competent to install Solartwin, but they are not specifically BPEC trained as well. So most of them are not allowed to install solar panels on the homes of customers who want grants. Of course, given the taxpayer’s subsidy and further state assistance with BPEC’s roll out across UK, there are even more BPEC trained plumbers than Solartwin plumbers even though we run training courses every 2 months, but few BPEC solar installers will actually be competent to fit Solartwin. The fact is that unless we have actually trained them ourselves, we would be cautions about letting them near you, our valued customers.

There is also a further problem that one of the UK’s trade associations has apparently banned all their members from installing Solartwin! Although we regard this ban as an unreasonable restraint of trade, we have stayed away from taking legal action on the matter because we do not want to alienate potential future solar installers. Instead we are explaining the errors as best we can are asking for this ban to be lifted and communicated to all members.

So are there any grant eligible solar installers in UK? Yes, some. Firstly, there are a few BPEC solar training institutes who actually include Solartwin properly in their syllabi, such as Inverness College, even though all of the BPEC exams that we have seen (having sat them as BPEC candidates ourselves) do not appear to cover Solartwin properly. These particular colleges’ graduates will probably be competent to install Solartwin. There are several solar panel installers nationwide who are already working for Solartwin who are both BPEC trained and Solartwin trained.

You may ask why we have not addressed these numerous issues earlier. Well, we have. But we have largely failed. Over the years we have raised issues of the competitor stranglehold as an exclusionary issue with UK regulators, but in many cases the very people who have caused the problems in the first place have seats in the committees which we have had to ask to solve them. We have even raised these matters with the Office of Fair Trading but their priorities, as a busy agency, are with much larger fish than us as a minnow. Our approaches did not result in them taking up our case.

But if any readers are prepared to communicate their concerns to their their MP’s and MSP’s or to BPEC, and, if possible, to copy their comments to us, we would be most grateful.

But please tell all your friends in Scotland about the 30% grants first!

Thank you and best wishes from Barry, Imran and colleagues at Solartwin: the solar water heating people.


Written and published by -
Genfit - 0844 567 9032

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