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Europe’s DIY Solution to Cheap Solar Panels

A wooden fence across a garden with half of it replaced by solar panels
Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Apr 10, 2024
5 minutes read

There’s a global oversupply of solar panels, brought on by China. Thanks to the surge in renewable demand brought on by the Russian invasion into Ukraine, manufacturers rushed to fill the void. Now, solar is at an all time low and European businesses are at risk of shutting down unless emergency assistance is provided.

DIY Solutions

In the Netherlands and Germany, garden fences have been replaced with solar panels. With the majority of the installation cost coming under labour and scaffolding, alternative DIY solutions are being sought. The actual panels themselves have become so cheap that they can replace ordinary household objects.

While the highest efficiencies are found in rooftop panels at an angle of around 40°, the only downside is paying for the installation. Solar installers need to make money, and you have to pay for their time, expertise and equipment.

Even though solar can be installed anywhere, fitting panels in place of fencing limits the amount of energy you can produce. A 90° angle is one of the weakest orientations you can have. However, with prices so cheap, why bother paying for a professional installation? You’ll still get something out of it.

Solar Panel Prices

Technology has improved a great deal over the last few decades, even making off-grid solar more possible.

According to BloombergNEF, at the end of March, a solar panel only cost 11 cents per watt. This is a reduction of 50% compared to prices at the same time last year.

Solar Panel Price Reduction

The main reason for this drop is the massive oversupply of panels from China. Italian solar firm FuturaSun makes solar panels in China to sell in European markets. They told the Financial Times that crates of panels were still sitting unsold following factory shutdowns.

From a business perspective, dropping below 15¢ a watt makes it much more difficult to invest in. As a result, European manufacturing is going to ultimately suffer.

“You’re not going to do that with a crazy little margin that isn’t going to pay for anything.”

Alessandro Barin – Chief Executive of FuturaSun

Based on the difficulties in the European solar market, manufacturers in neighbouring countries are finding it tough. The oversupply from China has created a problem that is going to take time to fix. By flooding the market with cheap, green technology exports, firms are struggling to find buyers.

Installation Is Getting More Expensive

In the last two years, the cost of solar panel installation has become more expensive. Despite the drop in cost per watt to a record 11¢, rising labour costs have cancelled out any meaningful gains from professional installations.

UK Solar Installation Costs

With prices like these, it’s no wonder that other countries have looked at alternative means to drive prices down. You’d get strange looks from your neighbours if you installed a solar fence panel, but you would at least have some form of renewable technology. However, by not using an MCS installer, you won’t be able to make any money from exports to the grid.

The other barrier to uptake is awaiting grid connection. Grid capacity issues plague many countries already and can’t be fixed quickly. Such huge demand for renewable connection has outpaced existing workloads, forcing many projects to wait and not generate anything at all.

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