The Current Situation
In many countries, you get paid for surplus solar PV power that you export to the grid. Unfortunately, this option is not available in Ireland right now (although we did have payments in the past). Instead, the government is encouraging citizens to install solar PV systems by offering grants up-front.
Will a there be a payment for surplus power in the future?
The Irish government will probably introduce a payment in the near future. According to their Climate Action Plan, you should be able to sell PV power to the grid by 2021. Smart meters will be used to measure the power that you export so that you can be paid correctly.
Another possibility is that one of the eleven electricity supply companies will offer to buy your surplus electricity, regardless of any government incentives. This is likely to happen once smart metering is active.
Can I get the SEAI grant now and also sell power to the grid in the future?
Yes. If you buy a solar PV system before August 2020, you can get the SEAI grant of up to €3,000. You will then be ready to sell your surplus power as soon as a payment is introduced. However, the SEAI grant scheme will probably have to end once people start selling power to the grid. This is because EU state aid rules forbid countries to subsidise the electricity generation market. So if you want to take advantage of the SEAI grant then make sure to do it soon!
I’m thinking of getting solar PV. should the possibility of future export payments affect the system design?
Yes, probably. While you should generally assume that no payment will be introduced (to stay on the safe side), there are a number of inexpensive tweaks that you can make to the design of your solar PV system that will make your much better prepared for the time when you may receive an export payment.
One option is to add a few extra panels to your system, to make it a little bit larger than what your would otherwise go for. Adding a little extra capacity often costs relatively little and will serve you well for your own consumption even if an export payment is not introduced.
Another option is to install an extra-large inverter. Once again, going up a couple of sizes in your inverter costs relatively little. An extra large inverter will allow you to simply “plug in” more solar panels once the export payment is introduced. Give this option special consideration if you have lots of roof space available for solar PV. To discuss all of these options with an expert, arrange a site survey.