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The introduction of 'Feed-in Tariffs', that pay homeowners for electricity fed into the grid, has led to a rise in demand for solar panels. But householders who have installed the expensive technology are unable to start generating electricity because of a shortage of "inverters".  

The microchips are in short supply because of increased demand in Germany, the US and China. Solar panel manufacturers say the shortage is a "blip" that will not stop the massive growth of solar in the UK in the long run.

Households who have invested in solar panels are angry that they are unable to take advantage of the recent good weather to start earning money from the new green energy subsidies.

Photvoltaic or PV solar panels costs around £5,000 to install. At the moment there are just 30MW operating in Britain on around 15,000 homes. However the UK Government is hoping that the market will expand rapidly in the next few years to almost a million households providing up to two per cent of the country's electricity needs.

 To encourage take up, the 'Feed in Tariff' came in on 1st April that offers households 29 to 41p per kilowatt hour for generating electricity. It is thought the average home with a solar panel could earn up to £1,000 a year. But despite the high hopes, many people have been left frustrated by a small box than converts the energy from sunlight into electricity.

The 'inverters' are in short supply around the world because of the popularity of solar panels in Germany and the US, where central government is also encouraging households to install green energy. The UK has suffered particularly badly because fitters tend to be small companies that buy the parts at short notice and need particular inverters once the solar panels are installed.

A number of people have written into the Daily Telegraph to complain about the situation. Rupert Wilson, an engineer from Kirklees in West Yorkshire installed solar panels in April so that he could begin taking advantage of the 'Feed-In Tariff' straight away but he cannot start generating electricity until the inverters arrive. He said the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) should be encouraging inverters to be manufactured in the UK. "The solar panels are installed on the roof, the sun is shining but they are doing nothing because there are no inverters," he said.

 "This Government keeps going on about how green they are, about how they are saving the planet but this is a farce." There have also been complaints that planning permission for solar panels is being refused to households in certain areas, despite a ruling by central government that councils should allow development of renewable energy.

Ray Noble, of the Renewable Energy Association, remained hopeful solar panels will be on almost 400,000 roofs by the end of next year. "Unfortunately there is a shortage of inverters in the industry because of a boom in demand in Germany and the US," he said. "But this is just a hiccup that should be overcome by the end of the year as more manufacturers come on board."

A DECC spokesman said households should not be put off installing solar. “There is a worldwide shortage of inverters which is affecting the Solar PV market in the UK. The current difficulties are driven by market conditions so it is not possible for the UK government to directly intervene in the short term.

However, as part of the new Microgeneration Strategy, which we aim to consult on shortly, we will be considering these kinds of difficulties to solar PV uptake and looking to see what can be done to attract inverter manufacturers to the UK," he said. :: Glastonbury festival, will soon host the UK’s largest privately-owned bank of solar panels,

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