3kWp solar panel systems: Price, power output, and return on investment

by James Martin II on December 4, 2012

3kWp solar systems

3kWp (kilowatt-peak) solar systems have become one of the smartest investments for both homes and businesses across the UK.  With the price of solar power systems falling generally, solar PV systems of all sizes are becoming a more and more attractive investment for homes and business-owners. 3kWp systems, however, are very popular thanks to their affordability–with a typical price mark of around £4,200 for a fully installed system at the time of writing. The following article details the usual price ranges, expected power output, and returns on investment for 3kWp solar PV systems across the UK.

3kWp solar systems: Typical pricing in the UK

Solar panel system prices have plummeted in the UK in the past few years for a number of reasons, including massive increases in solar panel and inverter production from China, and falling incentives in the UK that have lead to fiercer competition between solar installation companies. Rising electricity prices also contribute to the improved value proposition of solar PV systems.

In the UK, the average price of a solar PV system is about £1.40 per watt. This means that at the time of writing, the average cost of a 3kWp solar system of decent quality is less than £5,600, which is less than half of what it would have been 12 months ago.

Solar panels are, of course, pieces of electrical equipment, and as such there is a wide range of quality levels to choose from–low-end products tend to be cheaper, whilst more durable and efficient high-end products tend to come with a bigger price tag.

3kWp solar systems: Power production

Wait…what does kWp mean?

kWp stands for ‘kilowatts-peak’. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panel system capacity is rated in kilowatts (kW), and ‘peak’ indicates that this is the maximum possible power output, although the system may sometimes produce less power when conditions are less than optimal (e.g. under cloudy skies). In the UK a 1kWp system can be expected to produce 2.35 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in a day, averaged throughout the year. (If you look on your electricity bill, you will see that the units that you are billed for are typically displayed as kWh.)

A well-installed 3kWp solar PV system will therefore generate power as follows:

- 2.35 x 3kWp = 7.05kWh on an average day (more in the summer, less in the winter)
OR
- 9.4kWh x 365 days = 2,573kWh per annum (858kWp per kWp)

Keep in mind that these are relatively conservative estimates, however, and systems may actually produce more power than this. For example, a Solar Selections customer in the north of England owns a 4kWp system that has produced over 4,120kWh per annum–an average of 1,030kWh per kWp.

Although the average power output across the year for a typical 3kWp system is approximately 7.05kWh, the actual power output of a 3kWp solar system on any given day of the year is influenced by a number of things, including:

-The system’s geographical location (read more about solar irradiation levels across the UK)

-The time of year (more sunshine in summer = greater output, and the converse is true for winter)

-How your solar panel array is orientated and what tilt angle it is installed at

-The presence or absence of shading on the array throughout the year and seasons

-The operating temperature of the solar panels–overheating (usually not a huge problem in the UK) can compromise solar system output

-How well solar panel array capacity is matched to inverter specifications

-The quality of the solar panels and inverter

3kWp solar systems: indicative return on investment (ROI)

The actual returns for any solar PV system will depend on the price paid for the system, its actual power output, and on the feed-in tariff rate available at the time of installation. The UK’s feed-in tariff ensures that PV system owners are paid a premium rate for each kWh of power that their system produces, plus an additional amount for each kWh exported (sold) to the electricity grid. Homeowners and businesses also stand to save money by ‘self-consuming’ a portion of the power that their systems produce–thus reducing the need to purchase power from the electricity grid.

(Read more: Solar system payback and return on investment.)

Download a 3kWp solar power system ROI Calculator*

How to use the calculator:

1. Download the Solar Selections 3kWp solar system ROI calculator (Excel spreadsheet file)

2. Request a Solar Quote Comparison of the solar system installers in your area to obtain system prices,

3. Check the current feed-in tariff rates

4. Alter the variables in the light blue boxes in the spreadsheet (system size, system price, feed-in tariff etc) in column B to reflect your situation and estimate your system’s Return on Investment (ROI).

(You may also open the file in Google Docs if you have a Google account.)

*Calculator outputs are indicative only–please keep in mind that electricity rates and Feed-in Tariff rates may change over time.

© 2012 Solar Selections Ltd

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