Installed on a house near you, solar panels are back in business. Here, Jess McCabe investigates why PV dropped off the radar in the first place, and how one social landlord in Somerset is bringing it back into the spotlight
The Bournville estate is one of the most deprived in the country. It’s actually in the most deprived 1 per cent, but the casual visitor would never guess. Built to house workers for a chocolate factory that was never built, the estate is tucked a few minutes from the coast in Weston-super-Mare. Clusters of small houses wind around squat tower blocks.
When Inside Housing visits, the pretty houses bask in the sun. Despite some having been built in the 1920s, the homes have a decidedly up-to-date feel. Wherever you look, the roofs are rammed with glinting solar photovoltaic panels, the ultimate symbol of ‘eco-bling’.
In the lead-up to drastic cuts to the feed-in tariff in 2011 – paid to people for generating electricity from solar panels – the Daily Mail’s coverage described the situation as an ‘absurd subsidy bonanza’, illustrating the story with photos of millionaires like Mick Jagger who’d managed to reduce their energy bills with subsidised solar panels.
Wandering around Bournville talking to residents about their PV panels, however, a different picture of the FIT and solar quickly emerges.