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C&G Solar PV Courses Now More Accessible

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 28th November 2013

When City & Guilds launched their Solar PV course as part of the C&G 2399 framework it was regarded as the leading qualification of its kind in the market. The qualification was only open to fully qualified electricians who have completed their Level 3 NVQ, however this was not the only barrier to entry. As a more in depth qualification the course was longer and more expensive than other qualification such as the BPEC equivalent. One of the main reasons for this was the stipulation that all candidates must complete a foundation module covering all renewable technology types. This meant that an electrician would also had to of learnt about solar thermal, wind, heat pumps and other technologies before focusing on the subject of solar PV.

It seemed to be a good idea that all installers should be aware of the best technology to suit a customers need but unfortunately it did not fit with the market need. Essentially installers were not the ones deciding which technology was going to be meeting the customer’s needs. They were more likely to be simply installing it or specifying it once the customer had already decided they wanted to install Solar PV.

The other stumbling block was the entry requirements for the technology specific courses meant you would need to be a fully qualified electrician or plumber to pursue either subject. This meant it was very unlikely that anyone would take the foundation unit and then follow up with both Solar PV and Solar Thermal unless they had spent a very long time doing both plumbing and electrical apprenticeships.

Once the qualification was live it became clear that for electricians, in particular, the foundation module was not really essential and shouldn’t be compulsory for those wishing to simply focus on the one technology.

So what does this mean?

Simply put it means the course now a bit cheaper, shorter and easier to attend. Trade Skills 4U offer the course as follows:

2 Day Foundation Module (No longer compulsory)

5 Day Installation course

3 Day Fault finding and Maintenance course

This means you can now get qualified in solar PV installation over 5 days rather than 7 and save a few hundred pounds at the same time too. The market for Solar PV particularly in the commercial, social housing and public sector areas is still very buoyant. If you are interested in finding out more simply visit: http://www.tradeskills4u.co.uk/courses/city-guilds-2399-course



Categories: solar pv

Things To Consider When Installing Solar Panels

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 3rd April 2013

The installation of solar panels is a sensible solution for any household that is environmentally conscious, however, like any significant installation, it makes sense to ensure the solar panels will be installed in an optimum environment, to ensure the maximum return on both energy saving and investment is achieved.  Solar panels are a hugely popular method of capturing the suns energy and converting this into electricity which is then used to power the everyday electrical needs in your home.  It makes sense to consider a few points before installation which will save money and potential inconvenience at a later date.

Before solar panels are installed, it makes sense to ensure your home is already kitted out with other energy saving devices and measures in particular the improvement of insulation and the minimising of draughts.  This ensures the most energy efficiency will be obtained from the solar panels.

If there are any roof repairs or home renovation planned (i.e. fitting of dormers) have this work carried out first. It can become costly to work around solar panels and if a panel needs to be removed, a solar PV installer would need to do this which of course is added cost.  In addition, solar PV panels can be built into architects plans which will not only enable the solar panels to perform to their best possible potential, but also can be incorporated into design plans so they will look good too.  Furthermore, installing solar panels to differing roof tile types can vary enormously in price, so incorporating solar panels into home renovation plans could save money on installation costs.

It is not a necessity to have a South facing, perfectly pitched roof in order to benefit from solar panels.  Ideally a roof should face South and have a pitched angle of around 30 degrees to achieve optimum performance. However, solar panels have been installed on roofs that face South-East or South-West.  The solar panels operate approximately 20% less efficiently in these locations which will reduce energy output and savings slightly.  Additionally, solar panels have been installed on flat roofs using a metal framework which acts as the pitch of the roof.  It also possible to install solar panels at ground level if there is land available also using metal frame working to obtain the correct pitch.  It is not recommended to install solar panels on North facing roofs.

It is important that shading is kept to a minimum as this can affect solar panel performance.  Common causes of shading are from trees, TV aerials and vent pipes.  Of course the solar panel installer will account for these at installation, however it is a good idea to ensure that in the future trees do not grow and obstruct the light to the solar panels.  Some shading early or late in the day is OK, however for the best output possible, solar panels should be completely free from shade between 10am and 4pm.  The good news is that solar panels still produce energy even on a cloudy day albeit at reduced output.

Once installed, solar panels are relatively maintenance free and have a long life span of at least 25 years.  The solar panels would benefit from hosing down once or twice a year to clear debris and its also a good idea to clear leaves from around the panels too.  Maintenance checks are required every few years.

Solar panels are an ideal investment for households who own their home and are settled into their property.  It is a long term investment with pay back made over several years.

Categories: solar pv

Solar Companies set to Sue Government Over FIT Tariff Reduction

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 23rd January 2013

The well publicised Feed In Tariff (FIT) reduction that was announced in 2011 is set to hit the headlines once again as 17 solar companies prepare to sue the government over terrible management of the cuts.

Essentially the government acted unlawfully by introducing the cuts before the consultation period had actually ended. They tried at the time to introduce cuts much sooner than expected, December 2011 rather than in April 2012 which they had previously agreed. As a result many in the industry were faced with a mad dash to finish installations before the new deadlines and suddenly there was lots of uncertainty about which rates homeowners installing between December and April would receive. At the time the cuts were challenged successfully in the high courts, however in a bid to create more uncertainty and prevent more installations the government appealed the high court’s ruling simply as a time wasting measure.

The initial announcement was totally unexpected and out of the blue as up until this point the government had pledged support, and optimism for renewable energies and saw solar panels as a must have essential to save valuable energy, preserve fossil fuel usage and promote renewable energy. It is little wonder then that the government’s actions hugely dented to confidence of consumers and investors looking to get on board with the Solar PV boom. Many people who had invested in new renewable energy businesses set up to cope with the increasing demand suddenly found they had over invested as the cuts saw an immediate and sharp drop in demand.

2012 was a difficult year for the solar industry  however the solar companies that survived are now looking to sue the government and use the proceeds to cover any losses and trade properly in 2013 to fulfil the returning consumer demand. The claim being led by Prospect Law has seen an initial claim from 3 companies in July 2012 for £2.2M to 17 companies all filing a claim against the FIT tariff changes that caused a disastrous year of trading for their business.

The companies bringing the legal claim are Solar Power PV; Solarlec; Crystal Windows and Doors; Breyer Group; Freetricity; E-tricity; Foz Electrical; Green Home; CI Installations; Viscount Solar; Vsolar; House Choice; Evo Energy; Solar Panels Direct; Monitor My Solar; Apollo Energy; and Cleaner Air Solutions.

So what has been happening to the solar industry in 2012?

Well aside from the on-going legal battle, the Solar Industry is showing signs of improving and the Government promises that the FIT amendment will remain stable, that is the good news.

The sun is set to shine once again on Solar this year with the workforce growing to in excess of 25,000 people, consumer confidence is growing and in turn demand is set to continue. Certainly demand is growing for Solar Renewable energy courses, this is sure sign that the industry is showing a healthy recovery. In addition to solar PV installation courses, there is growing interest and demand for solar PV Sales and Renewable Energy Awareness courses. This is surely a sign that the solar industry is determined to power on ahead and let nothing get in their way.


Categories: fit, solar pv

Congratulations Alan Aldridge

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 18th July 2012

(Pictured above: Henry Smith MP, Carl Bennett Managing Director of TS4U, Alan Aldridge and Ali Tilbrook)

We first met Alan in the early stages of last year when we were building our renewable energy centre. After our investment in the development in the PV roof we wanted to echo this dedication in building 1st class solar thermal rigs and we called in Ecotube, which were at the time, a company product from Riomay. At the launch of our centre in 17th June 2011, we invited many industry contacts to the event but were particularly delighted when Alan and co-worker Ali Tilbrook arrived to congratulate us on the success of the centre, as their products have helped us deliver the best solar thermal training possible within our state of the art facility.

Our ties with Alan didn’t stop there as he actually took on one of our Forgotten Heroes bursary candidates that was awarded his place at the event. Mr Ian Lockie, a TS4U bursary candidate, left the forces following 9 years’ service as a RAF Regiment Gunner and like many was in search of a new challenge. However his new challenge wasn’t without limitations after Ian, a PTSD sufferer, found there was a lack of career prospects available to him. 

(Pictured above: Simon Weston O.B.E, Ian Lockie, Golden Zimmaestro and Carl Bennett MD)

Thanks to our bursary scheme, which offers to give away £100,00 every year to ex-military personnel who are struggling to get their feet on Civvy street, we were able to help him successfully complete his training as a domestic installer and solar pv installer thus making him employable with a set of skills no employer could resist. Alan saw his potential and agreed to take him on once he’d successfully completed his training – happy days.

Anyway without going too far off topic, we would like to wish Alan and the rest of the Solar Trade Association every success as they continue working together to promote and protect the solar industry.

Alan you have our full support, well done!

If you would like to know more about our renewable energy centre or our forgotten heroes bursary scheme, please click the links above which will take you to those pages.

Categories: event, open day, solar, resettlement, forgotten heroes bursary scheme, solar pv

Curtains close on Wimbledon offer

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 9th July 2012

In the spirit of summer and Great British sport, we have been running some offers in conjunction with the many athletic events that are taking place at the moment.

Last month we held an offer sporting England in the Euro’s, and in true Wimbledon spirit we recently ran an offer of £150 off the solar PV course due to expire once GB representative, Andy Murray, lost the battle to be the tennis court king. Much to our surprise, and that of the nations due to our poor tennis heritage, I think it’s safe to say that Murray wowed us all by making it to the final last night against veteran Roger Federer. The tense game, which was neck and neck for the majority was finally won by Wimbledon veteran Federer allowing him to retain his Wimbledon crown and make history himself by equalling Pete Sampra’s record of achieving seven Wimbledon victories over the course of his career. Federer, now having won a total of 17 grand slams, has now restored his number one ranking in world class tennis.

Obviously this means the offer has now drawn to a close but who knows…maybe as the Olympics draws closer, we may have some more offers in store!

Watch this space.


Categories: solar, company news, renewable energy, solar pv

US and China Battling for control of Solar PV Manufacturing Sector

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 5th July 2012

If you haven’t already heard, there is currently a solar PV trade war raging between the US and China. Both governments have realised the importance of this lucrative market to the future energy mix and are keen to protect their manufacturers in this sector.

In the last year a number of American and European solar PV manufacturers have folded as the market has been flooded with cheaper panels and tools imported from China. It has been suggested that the Chinese panels are unfairly subsidised by the Chinese government and as a result the US Government was lobbied by a number of American Solar PV manufacturers, calling for Anti-Dumping tariffs to be introduced. In May 2012 the US government ruled in favour of introducing these tariffs (set at roughly 31%) and are set to finalise the legislation in October 2012. However any final decisions will be applied retrospectively meaning that sales of Chinese PV panels from now could be subject to the tariffs.

US Senator Charles Schumer said: “This proposal is tough, but it’s needed to successfully counter China’s unfair trade practices. This hard-hitting plan will level the playing field for U.S. solar producers so that they can compete, create jobs and become a global leader in this rapidly-growing industry.”

Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman, Shen Danyang, said "The U.S. ruling is unfair, and the Chinese side expresses its extreme dissatisfaction,"

China denies that the industry is unfairly subsidised and will fight this ruling. We are at the start of a political war waged between the two countries which will ultimately shape the manufacturing landscape of the future PV industry for many years to come.

In terms of US and European manufacturing this is very positive as it protects the companies who have been established for a long time. It also means that both the manufacturing and installation industries can grow in a sustainable manner.

However Chinese manufacturers are already facing problems with a surplus supply of their products. The US and Europe make up around 75% of their PV exports and if Anti-Dumping tariffs are introduced in Europe too this could mean that a number of Chinese PV manufacturers could potentially fold. The European market is actually bigger than the US and generates around 44% of Chinese PV exports. In fact it appears that the European Parliament is already being lobbied by a similar consortium of PV manufacturers and tariffs could be imminent.

The Tariffs could mean slightly higher costs of installation and longer payback periods for investors and this could potentially slow the industry down. A recent report by HIS in the US looked at the potential impact of the American tariffs and found that in fact the impact of these increased costs should not deter most investors as the ROI is still attractive.

Recent FIT cuts in the UK have been made based on the current cost of solar panels. If the European Anti-Dumping tariffs are introduced, it could well mean increased costs for a standard installation and a payback period which could stretch to the length of the life of the panels.

However this is unlikely to happen. It is most likely that Chinese manufacturers will find ways around being subject to these Anti-Dumping Tariffs by sourcing their raw materials from various international sources such as Taiwan.

In fact during the last month in the US the cost of solar panels still reduced very slightly. This may well be due to the surplus supply that is currently available.

As we examine the implementation of these Anti-Dumping Tariffs further it is clear that that there is a trade-off. It is important to protect our manufacturing industry to ensure that we don’t become as reliant on the East for Solar PV production as we have on fossil fuels. However by protecting this industry we are in turn slowing down the growth of this technology, it’s implementation and ultimately the amount of energy generated. This has an impact on the installers and the consumers who want to work with solar PV.

Also and more importantly from a green perspective anything that slows the industry down could be viewed as negative, however there have been accusations of Chinese firms not properly disposing of waste products to reduce costs which could mean the current crop of Chinese solar panels could potentially have a hidden environmental cost.

At the end of the day the Anti-Dumping tariffs have been implemented for a reason, to level the playing field. This means what we should see is continued growth at a level that should be sustainable. In the long term it also means greater stability for all in this still very young industry.

It is likely that the trade dispute will continue for some time. We are also likely to see tit for tat actions from China and the US as the dispute intensifies. One such action has already started with Chinese PV manufacturers demanding that their government impose similar Tariffs on imports of Polysilicon from the USA.

Unfortunately it appears that the business of Solar PV has taken centre stage rather than it’s green benefits. This is not an industry that anyone is going to want to give up or allow to be dominated by one nation and it looks that until the battle lines are drawn the market as a whole may suffer as a result.

Categories: renewable energy, solar pv

August 1 new deadline for FIT cuts

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 24th May 2012

Last week we announced that changes to the Feed-in-Tariff had been delayed due to recent low solar installation figures. It was first proposed that new cuts would come into force 1st July 2012. However due to the 40 days’ notice required by law to protect ‘unlawful’ moves from the government, we can now expect the cuts to come into play a month later than first expected. This delay could have been caused by a number of factors but consumer confidence and news that the UK has slipped back into recession are thought to be amongst the two main reasons.

Since the revision figures have been introduced, the total installation figures for solar PV have naturally declined. The official introduction of the 21p kWh rate saw the total number of PV installs decrease from a whopping 9,009 in the last week of March 2012 to just 859 in the first week of April. Now more than ever it is important to broadcast positive message to all and try to win back consumer confidence.

The new FIT rate, now announced to come into play August 1st 2012, will be 16p kWh for domestic homeowners. Furthermore, all tariffs will decrease on a three month basis, starting on October 1 and are set to decrease at a rate of 3.5% unless a 'rapid uptake occurs.'

Barker commented, "We can now look with confidence to a future for solar which will see it go from a small cottage industry, anticipated under the previous scheme, to playing a significant part in Britain's clean energy economy."

In addition to the newly introduced lower tariff, other revisions include:

Export tariff will be increased from 3.2p to 4.5p/kWh for those installations with an eligibility date on or after August 1;

The expect FIT lifetime will be now decrease from 25 to 20 years for those installations with an eligibility date on or after August 1; and

Tariffs for installations that do not meet the energy efficiency requirements will mirror the tariffs for standalone installations.

We can now expect a small boom in this 10 week window before the new rate comes into play but it should be enough to get the market going again.


Categories: decc, renewable energy, solar pv, feed-in-tariff

Another interval in the solar show?

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 17th May 2012

After the 21p kWh Feed-in-tariff rate was finally introduced 1 April 2012, we have all been preparing ourselves for the next reduction set to take place in July this year. However Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Greg Barker, seems to have had a change of heart and confessed his feelings towards the projected decrease on twitter on Wednesday 15th May. "Having listened carefully to industry, we are looking at scope for pushing back a little the next proposed reduction in solar feed-in tariffs.”

One could argue that this ‘delay’ in announcing future cuts to the subsidy could bring back another bout of uncertainty however Mr Barker has reassured the nation by responding “On the contrary, we are listening carefully to industry & full details of new much improved FITs regime will be published v shortly.”

On one hand this delay could been seen as another blunder in the way the government has dealt with the popular Feed-in-Tariff however it does mean that installers will be able to supply their customers with the higher rate of 21p kWh for a little longer than once expected.

As for when the cuts will be announced? Government are required by law to provide 40 days’ notice to Parliament of any changes to the scheme and as a result ministers would have to delay cuts until Mid-July at the earliest or else risk legal conflict which could result in future dismay.

It is no secret that drops in the demand for solar PV installation has been of direct consequence of feed-in-tariff reductions however numerous trade bodies have confirmed that ‘solar PV remains one of the best investments around.’ It is thanks to the falling costs of the technology combined with the rising cost in energy bills, the existing rate of gaining 21p kWh is actually proves to be a better investment than if you were to have had the cells installed when the higher rate of 43.3p kWh existed.  A 4kWp system, the largest size for which the highest tariff is available, can be purchased today for under £9,000, whereas only one year ago it would have cost upwards of £15,000.  An average domestic system is around 2.5kWp and it is these positives that need to be held up so that we as an industry can begin to win back the all-important consumer confidence.

Whichever way you look at it, hopefully we can all agree that this delay, even if only for a short period, will benefit the installer as they will be able to provide this higher rate of 21p kWh to their customers for a touch longer. Hopefully a little rush to install PV before the new rate comes into effect will allow solar installers to enjoy a last minute flourish which is the least they deserve after solar has seen as 90% drop off in installations since the cuts came into effect in April 2012.


Categories: solar pv, feed-in-tariff

Solar PV: Rate of Return is Still Attractive

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 28th March 2012

Solar PV: Rate of return is still very attractive for consumers

Cuts to the feed-in-tariff have gained more than enough public exposure this year, and a vast majority of this has been quite detrimental to the industry and left a rather unpleasant taste in everyone’s mouth. However the combination of price drops in installation costs and equipment has actually created a similar financial return as before.

Research conducted by the UK’s only solar panel comparison site, CompareMySolar, suggests that installation prices have dropped by 50% since January 2011 and typical 4kWp systems that used to ‘cost £15,000 can now be bought for around £7,500.’ Price drops like these are mostly ‘driven by much lower module prices and increased competition.’

Returns improve to 2011 level

The impact of these price drops provide us with evidence that suggests that the financial return for consumers is currently at similar levels as it used to be in the first half of 2011. ‘The graph shown illustrates this for an example roof in Exeter (south facing, optimal angle, no shading), where a 4kWp solar panel system is expected to generate around 4,000 kWh in the first year. If we assume the property consumes half the electricity generated in house and exports the other half to the grid, the expected year one payback is:

•         (43p FiT) 4,000 x 0.43 = £1,720 from Government feed-in tariff

•         (21p FiT) 4,000 x 0.21 = £840 from Government feed-in tariff

•         2,000 x 0.15 = £300 from electricity savings

•         2,000 x 0.03 = £60 from the export tariff.

The total year one payback used to be £2,080 on the 43p feed-in tariff, and is currently around £1,200 at the 21p rate. While this looks like a very large drop in financial return, please keep in mind prices halved as well. Combining these payback amounts with prices paid for the installation (based on the monthly price index) provides the more relevant perspective. The below graph shows that where year one payback used to be around 14-16 percent of the initial price in the first half of 2011, it currently is back at 16 percent. Therefore, solar panels are currently just as attractive as around June 2011.’

Help raise consumer awareness

Research of this kind suggests that consumers will be able to receive a similar rate of return of their PV installation investment despite the cuts in the feed-in-tariff from 43p to 21p. This news should help to put solar back on the map for a lot of consumers that have previously written it off for being ‘too expensive’ or for those heavily impacted by the negative press of the FiT cuts.

It’s important that we can continue to work together to explore the positives and promote benefits over this type of news. Attractive return rates can help build more consumer awareness and bring back demand for solar pv technology which is much needed for solar installers looking to maintain and build their business during 2012.

Research and image source@solarpowerportal.co.uk

Categories: solar pv, feed-in-tariff

Breaking News: Supreme Court rejects government’s feed-in tariff solar appeal

Posted by Chloe Bennett on 23rd March 2012

BREAKING NEWS: The Supreme Court has today thrown out the government's appeal against a previous ruling that deemed its controversial changes to solar feed-in tariff (FIT) incentives as unlawful.

This ruling means that companies who installed panels between December 2011 and March 2012 will receive the high feed-in-tariff rate of 43.3p kWh instead of the 21p/kWh initially proposed by the government.

This long awaited decision finally closes the door on the drawn out saga generated by the government and highlights their ‘unlawful’ attempt to cut the feed-in-tariffs (FiT’s) at an unprecedented rate last year.

Even though the decision is one step forward for solar, fresh cuts are anticipated as the FiT’s will undoubtedly continue to exceed its budget this year allowing the government to bring out a second round of cuts to the incentive scheme.

"The extra money DECC will now have to commit leaves us with serious concerns about the remaining FIT budget, which remains constrained under the Levy Control Framework," said Paul Barwell, chief executive at the Solar Trade Association.


Categories: decc, government, solar pv, feed-in-tariff