Cost of Solar Panels in the UK: Running a Solar Farm

Topic: solar projects Read Time: 6 mins
Landowner type:
Independent landowners | Institutional landowners
Energy: Solar
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Have you been looking for a detailed rundown of the cost of solar panels in the UK? Join us as we run through the costs of running a solar farm (and putting panels on residential rooftops).

If you plan to put a solar project on your land, you might wonder just how lucrative it’ll be. So, you’ll need to know exactly how much solar panels cost before diving straight in. After all, it’s all about measuring your investment against potential profits.

To help you get started, we’ve created a short (but comprehensive) guide on the cost of solar panels in the UK. From the cost of an average panel to the average expected income you should expect from a solar farm each year, these figures will help you out.  We’ve also split this guide into commercial-sized panels and residential to get you the most relevant information for your needs. Plus, we’ll even touch on essential considerations like maintenance costs, cleaning costs, and anything else that might reduce your profits. 

Once you’ve given these figures a once-over, you can decide whether a solar farm is worth your time and effort. Now, let’s get to it.

If you’re trying to determine the cost of solar panels in the UK, you might be considering a commercial-sized solar farm on your land. So, let’s break down the potential costs involved. Developers usually need to account for the average acreage cost and add this to the total cost of leasing the land for the panels. If you’re a landowner-developer, you won’t need to worry about leasing, as the land belongs to you.

Aerial view of a solar farm

The average cost for leasing acreage is between £7,500 and £10,000 per acre for developers. This depends on the sunlight levels and the part of the country that you’re looking at. But these figures tend to represent the average.

When you combine these two factors, solar farms can cost upwards of £50 million for very large commercial projects, according to EON. While this is an extreme case, it shows just how large these projects can get.

You’ll also need to consider feasibility studies, topographical surveying, application submission fees, and other necessary costs. In short, the startup costs can be expensive.

Once you’re running the farm, the costs are:

Once your solar farm is up and running, you’ll need to think about a few running costs. Maintenance costs are around £12 per kilowatt. Cleaning the panels usually costs between £4 and £15 per panel. So, if you’re dealing with thousands upon thousands of panels, this can quickly become significant. Most solar panels won’t require yearly maintenance, which can dip these costs considerably. However, you must account for damaged panels, arc faults, and inverter issues throughout a solar farm’s life.

Oh, and don’t forget about:

  • Insurance
  • Admin costs
  • Powering the project
  • Any operational costs/paying site operators
  • Grid connection costs
  • Feed-In-Tariff costs
  • Any costs associated with decommissioning

Let’s look at a 5MW solar farm in Wiltshire and dig further into these costs. Running a large-scale solar farm usually costs around 1% of the initial startup costs per year, which might seem considerable. But when you account for the fact that a single 3.5MW wind turbine costs upwards of £174,000 to maintain, it’s certainly less than the alternative.

For obvious reasons, you’ll also need to consider the size of the solar farm in question. A larger farm will naturally have higher running costs than a smaller one. However, the larger project’s ROI is always likely to be higher. So, it’s swings and roundabouts when it comes to most running costs.

If you’re a landowner or developer looking to host a solar project, you might wonder how much a solar farm makes a year. The answer is – it varies, as there are quite a few things that can affect the efficiency of solar panels.

Generally, the output of a solar farm (and its profit) depends on a few factors, such as:

  • The amount of sunlight in an area
  • The size of the solar farm
  • How the panels are tilted and how often they’re maintained
  • Weather in the area and resulting cloud cover, ice, hail, or snow

However, the general ROI on a solar farm tends to be between 10% and 20%. So, any investment you make on a solar project should be recouped relatively quickly. If you’re looking for figures, you can expect around £31,386 per megawatt capacity installed. This can vary based on overall output and area, but it’s a reasonable estimate to get you started.

For residential solar, the average cost of a 350-watt solar panel is between £150 and £300 (though this can vary depending on suppliers). As of 2024, a 4kW solar panel system costs anywhere between £6,000 and £8,000 for residential properties. This is based on 250-watt panels that cost approximately £400 – £500 per piece. With savings of up to £729 a year from solar panels, you’ll probably break even within ten years.

It’s tricky to find precise figures for the cost of solar panels in the UK as they’ll always vary between suppliers. But this should give you a decent overview of the expenses for the system size you’re looking at.

Photo of solar panels on a residential house.

We will only touch on this briefly, as we’ve already talked about maintenance and running costs earlier in this article. However, what we will say is that you’ll only need to pay for solar panel costs up to the point where you reach the breakeven point. For homes, this is usually around ten years.

If you’re worried about solar panels devaluing your home – don’t be. Studies show that buyers are willing to pay considerably more for a home with solar panels (up to 20%). The same rule applies to renters who are happy to move into a house with better energy efficiency ratings.

If you’re interested to see whether your land is suitable for a solar farm, check out our handy sunlight calculator. It’ll let you know the average solar irradiance in your area AND whether projects have already been accepted nearby.

Although we’ll go into this in more detail in a dedicated planning permission blog, roof-mounted panels don’t typically require planning permission. This applies to the roof of a private house, just so you’re aware. For larger projects like solar farms, you should expect to apply to a Local Planning Authority as it would no longer count as permitted development.

Solar panels work in winter but will have a decreased overall output. The decreased output is mainly due to shorter days and reduced sunlight hours.

The industry standard for the life of a solar panel is generally between 25 and 30 years. While warranties on the panel may vary, most manufacturers promise a minimum lifespan of around 25 years.

It may be an obvious answer, but you’ll want to install solar panels when sunlight levels are at their lowest. Springtime is usually a decent time, as you won’t be battling the poor conditions of winter, but you may be up and running by summertime.

If you have any further questions about the cost of solar panels or getting a project on your land, get in touch. The friendly team at Lumify Energy will happily guide you through starting a new project and getting the best possible price for your land.

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