Solar panels in Essex: are they worth it?

Last updated on 8 May 20246 min read

Here's how much you can save by getting solar panels in Essex, as well as costs, grants, and how well solar works in Essex weather.

Photo of solar panel writer Josh Jackman against blank background

Written byJosh Jackman

A graphic that has a map of the United Kingdom with concentric circles originating from Essex on the right, and a photo of a black solar panel on the right. The country is yellow and outlined in black, and the sea is blue

🏠 More than 36,000 households in Essex have installed solar panels

🌞 Essex enjoys more sunlight than most UK counties

📈The county’s solar panel adoption rate is higher than the national average

If you live in the low-lying county of Essex and you’re looking to reduce your electricity bills, solar panels are the best decision you can make.

From Epping Forest to Tendring, Essex receives more sunlight than most areas of the UK, which means you have a distinct advantage over other counties when it comes to using solar panels.

In this guide, we’ll explain how much solar panels cost in Essex, how well they work in the county’s weather, and which government grants can help you reduce the cost.

If you’re wondering how much a solar & battery system could save you, just answer a few quick questions below and we'll immediately generate an estimate for you.

How many homes in Essex have solar panels?

36,085 homes in Essex have solar panels which are certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), as of January 2024.

Across the county’s 12 councils and two unitary authorities, that means 4.7% of all households have installed solar panels.

This figure is slightly above the national average of 4.5% – as it should be, since Essex is sunnier than most of the UK.

As this county-wide total only includes Microgeneration Certification Scheme-certified installations, the real number of homes with solar panels in Essex is likely slightly higher.

For more solar energy statistics about the UK and further afield, read our guide.

Local authority Homes with solar panels % of homes with solar panels
Basildon 2,355 3.08%
Braintree 3,228 4.97%
Brentwood 1,049 3.25%
Castle Point 1,346 3.6%
Chelmsford 3,716 4.93%
Colchester 7,280 9.13%
Epping Forest 1,532 2.81%
Harlow 1,016 2.68%
Maldon 1,859 6.66%
Rochford 1,729 4.86%
Southend-on-Sea 2,177 2.78%
Tendring 3,999 5.92%
Thurrock 2,156 3.25%
Uttlesford 2,643 7.14%
Total: 36,085 Average: 4.7%

How much sunlight does Essex get?

Essex gets markedly more sunlight than most of the UK, with the level of solar irradiance in the county coming in at 19% higher than the UK average.

For instance, the County Hall in Chelmsford enjoying 1,304 kilowatt-hours per square metre (kWh/m²) on average, each year. This figure will vary slightly across the county, but it’s a pretty good indicator.

'Kilowatt-hours per square metre' refers to how much energy is travelling from the sun, across 93 million miles of space, to a specific square metre on Earth.

These figures are taken from the European Commission's Photovoltaic Geographical Information System, which measures solar irradiance according to the latest weather trends.

When it comes to solar panel output there are a number of factors which affect how much energy they produce, but solar irradiance is a big one.

As you may expect, the more intense the sunlight that hits your panels, the higher the watts per square metre, and the more solar power your installation will produce – which allows you to make more savings on your electricity bills.

Detached house with solar panels on its terracotta roof, against a cloudless blue sky

How much power can a solar panel system generate in Essex?

A solar panel system can generate enough electricity in Essex to cover the majority of your annual usage, enabling you to reduce your electricity bills by more than half.

We designed the system below for a home in Colchester that consumes 3,919 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year.

Location System size (kWp) Battery size (kWh) Average output per year (kWh) Consumption (kWh)
Colchester 4.73 5.2 4,128 3,919

This system involves 11 solar panels which all have a power rating of 430 watts (W), creating a 4.73 kWp (kilowatt-peak) system – that is, an installation which produces 4,730 kWh per year in standard test conditions, which includes a solar irradiance of 1,000 W per m².

As Colchester is relatively sunny, the system would produce 4,128 kWh per year, which is 87% of what the system is expected to generate under standard test conditions.

This is more than the 3,919 kWh which the household consumes each year – and since our design includes a 5.2 kWh battery, the inhabitants will be able to use 2,353 kWh of their own solar electricity, which covers 60% of their total usage.

This would save the household £698 on its electricity bills, at current prices.

The remaining 1,775 kWh would go to the grid through a smart export tariff called Intelligent Octopus Flux – one of the best export tariffs around. This would currently earn the household another £456 per year.

Overall, this property could reduce its annual electricity bill from £1,316 to £163, according to our calculations – an incredible 88% saving.

One of the reasons behind this £1,154 reduction is the lack of shading around the property. The system would be shaded just 7% of the time, according to our estimates, meaning it can use 93% of the daylight available in its Colchester location.

Please note: you won’t necessarily generate as much solar electricity with your system, as this design is for a specific property that may be different to yours – but it should give you a rough idea of what’s possible in Essex.

If you’re wondering how much a solar & battery system could save you, just click the button below, answer a few questions, and we’ll provide you with an estimate.

How much do solar panels cost in Essex?

Property size System size Number of panels (430 W) Estimated cost
2-3 bedrooms 3.01 kWp 7 £9,000
4-5 bedrooms 5.16 kWp 12 £10,500
6+ bedrooms 8.17 kWp 19 £13,500

A 3 kWp solar panel system typically costs £9,000 to buy and install in Essex.

To add a 5 kWh battery to this installation, you’ll usually need to pay another £2,000, for a total cost of £11,000.

The price of your specific solar panel system will vary according to several factors including its size, the installation’s complexity, and which installer you choose.

To find out everything else you need to know, check out our guide to solar panel costs.

Are there any grants for solar panels in Essex?

There are solar panel grants for a variety of households in Essex, as well as schemes that can help you dramatically reduce the upfront cost.

If you’re not eligible for these initiatives but still can’t afford the price of solar panels, check out Sunsave Plus, which is available at no upfront cost. 

For fixed monthly payments over 20 years, you’ll receive the best-in-class kit, full monitoring and maintenance support, and a system that’ll save you money from day one.

Solar Together Essex

Solar Together is a scheme that helps residents in a specific area secure a sizable discount on their solar installations through collective buying.

In Essex, more than 6,600 signed up during the 2023 edition of the scheme, which is the fourth time it’s taken place in the county.

This record-breaking number of households collectively achieved an average discount of 32%, which equates to thousands of pounds in upfront savings.

You can take part in Solar Together if you’re a homeowner, small or medium-sized business owner, or tenant – as long as you have your landlord's permission.

It only runs for a limited time in each county – so watch out for when it comes back to Essex.

National grants

If you qualify for these nationwide government grants, you should definitely consider applying.

Solar panels can cut your electricity bills by hundreds of pounds per year, massively reduce your carbon footprint, and increase your property’s value.

Home Upgrade Grant

The Home Upgrade Grant supports the installation of energy-efficient improvements in low-income households that aren’t on the gas grid and have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of D, E, F, or G.

If you’re eligible, you could get discounted or free solar panels.

All 14 of Essex’s councils and unitary authorities were successful in their applications for the second part of the scheme, which lasts until March 2025.

They were all included in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s £82.3 million award, so if you live in Essex, you can apply. Just contact your local authority.

Basildon Council was also separately awarded £1.6 million, which means it has a bit more funding to hand out.

Energy Company Obligation (ECO4)

You can access the government’s primary project for reducing home emissions if you live in a low-income or vulnerable household with residents on at least one from a list of benefits.

Rather than a grant, ECO4 is a way for the government to compel large energy suppliers to make energy-efficient improvements in struggling households, at no cost to the inhabitants.

ECO4 can help you to get a free solar panel system, though only if your property is heated with electricity, as 9% of households in England and Wales are.

Is it worth getting solar panels in Essex?

It’s absolutely worth getting solar panels in Essex, in the great majority of cases.

The county enjoys good levels of solar irradiance from Epping Forest to Tendring, which means you’ll usually save hundreds of pounds on your electricity bills.

After all, there’s a reason why 4.7% of households in Essex have chosen to get solar panels.

If you’re put off by the upfront cost, you could look into Solar Together, ECO4, or the Home Upgrade Grant, all of which can reduce the price.

If you’re not eligible for a grant, you should consider Sunsave Plus, our all-in-one residential solar and battery solution that’s tailored to your home, and delivered as a monthly subscription at no upfront cost.

It also comes with ongoing monitoring and maintenance – including insurance cover – and gives you priority access to the best export tariffs around, through our partnership with Octopus.

And if you’re interested in how much you could save with a solar & battery system, click the button below, enter a few details, and we’ll generate a quick estimate.

Solar panels in Essex: FAQs

Is it worth buying solar panels in the UK?

It’s absolutely worth buying solar panels in the UK, for the most part.

If you live in northern Scotland, or if you have a north-facing roof, solar panels may not be profitable for you – but in the great majority of cases, they’ll save you hundreds of pounds on your energy bills every year.

This makes solar panels a great investment, and their average carbon emissions reduction of just under a tonne of CO2 means they’re great for the climate too.

Can you still get free solar panels in the UK?

You can still get free solar panels in the UK, though only if you’re eligible for the government’s ECO4 scheme or Home Upgrade Grant.

These programmes are open to households which are heated with electricity or not connected to the gas grid, respectively.

Either grant could cover the cost of your entire solar installation, if you qualify.

If you’re searching for a solar panel system that comes with no upfront cost, consider Sunsave Plus, a tailored solar and battery solution with monitoring and maintenance, all for a monthly subscription.

What is the downside of solar panels in the UK?

The major downside of solar panels in the UK is the upfront cost, which is around £9,000 for a 3 kWp system – but that’s changing.

Thanks to Sunsave Plus, you can now buy solar panels at no upfront cost. For a monthly subscription, you’ll receive a tailored solar and battery solution with the best-in-class kit, monitoring and maintenance, and a 20-year Sunsave Guarantee.

There are other scenarios in which solar panels aren’t suitable – for example, if you live in northern Scotland, could only use a north-facing side of your roof, or are planning on moving soon – but for most people, it’s an excellent investment.

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Written byJosh Jackman

Josh has written about the rapid rise of home solar for the past five years. His data-driven work has been featured in United Nations and World Health Organisation documents, as well as publications including The Eco Experts, Financial Times, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, and The Sun. Josh has also been interviewed as a renewables expert on BBC One’s Rip-Off Britain, ITV1’s Tonight show, and BBC Radio 4 and 5.

Copyright © 2024 Sunsave

Sunsave Group Limited (company number: 13741813) and its affiliates, Sunsave UK Limited (company number: 13941186) and Sunsave Energy Limited (company number: 13952135), together trading as “Sunsave”, provide renewable energy systems and finance and are registered at 23 Ansdell Terrace, London, W8 5BY. Sunsave UK Limited (FRN: 1008450) is a credit broker and can introduce you to a panel of lenders for the purpose of arranging finance. Sunsave Energy Limited (FRN: 979494) is a lender. Both Sunsave UK Limited and Sunsave Energy Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.