Despite the bitter cold weather that is forcing us all to turn our heating up more than we would prefer, solar energy schemes are ploughing forward in the UK. Renewable energy provider, Engensa is just one example of a company biting the cold wind back by offering free solar power to 100,000 families in the UK over the next 10 years.

Established in 2009, Engensa was formed with the mission to provide homeowners across Britain with their own sustainable and profitable source of power, and in the process, create jobs in the local community.The company has now been installing solar panels on homes for 12 months for customers with suitable south-facing roofs.

Engensa was set up by ethical entrepreneurs, Toby Darbyshire, CEO and Toby Ferenczi, CTO who left their existing jobs at Bain and General Electric after realising the potential for the UK solar market, and the possibility of doing something about the lack of jobs created by the credit crunch.

The company began by offering solar energy systems to paying customers in the UK. Following the increased uptake of these systems, Engensa decided to launch the ‘SunRoof’ campaign, which provides free solar systems to homeowners who can’t afford the upfront cost. This scheme will initially cover homes in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, with expansion into five neighbouring counties in the first half of next year.

The basic structure of the SunRoof campaign is similar to that of A Shade Greener and ISIS Solar, whereby Engensa installs the solar power system at no cost to the homeowner so that the customer benefits from free electricity and reduced carbon emissions, while the company earns a profit through feed-in tariff payments.

Speaking with Engensa co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Dr Toby Ferenczi, Solar Power Portal learned that SunRoof strives to be unique, despite its comparative similarities to other free solar schemes. Ferenczi wanted to outline that while Engensa offers solar power for free, it also offers full-price systems, and it makes this point very clear to its customers. Recent publications from well-known sources such as Which? have demonstrated how some free solar offers can actually take money away from those who could otherwise earn the FiT payments themselves, thus earning more than simply bill savings.


Engensa will install, monitor and maintain its free solar installations, using ET Solar's mono-c-Si modules at 185 watts (ET-M572185)alongside an SMA inverter. Each site is evaluated, and the system size decided on this basis. Engensa offers three sizes of systems under its free SunRoof program including 2.6kW, 3.3kW and 10kW. This is the widest range as well as largest size of system offered by any free solar company to date.

Chief Executive Officer Toby Darbyshire said, “Solar is a brilliant investment for families across the UK, but not everyone who owns their own home has the money to invest. We are launching the SunRoof free solar scheme to make sure as many families as possible can benefit from dramatic cuts in their electricity bills and from the satisfaction of turning their home green.”


The scheme, based on the UK’s new feed-in tariff, will save the average home up to £300 in electricity costs each year – depending on the size and aspect of their roof – and will also create up to 200 long-term jobs in communities across the country.

The company’s smallest 2.6kWp system (comprising 14 x 185Wp (watt peak) panels) will generate 2,200kWh a year based on the Government’s SAP2009 estimates. The FiT for this sized system pays out 41.3pper kilowatt hour of solar energy produced. Assuming only 50% of this is used at home, with the remainder exported, 1,100kWh a year can power:

–                An A++ spec fridge consuming 206kWh a year
–                A 1200W EU A-rated washing machine doing 20 washes a month consuming 130kWh a year
–                A 130W LCD 34-inch TV running for 120 hours a month consuming 186kWh a year
–                A 5000W electric oven used for 15 hours a month consuming 450kWh a year
–                A 1000W dishwasher used for 20 hours a month consuming 120kWh a year.

The remaining 50% will power the same reductions in another home, as it is fed back into the national grid.

In estimating annual savings, we can assume an average domestic electricity price of 13p per kWh:

–                A 2.6kWp system generating 2,200kWh would be worth £286 a year if 100% was used in the home, £215 if 75% was used in the home and £143 if 50% was used in the home.
–                A 3.3kWp system generating 2,800kWh would be worth £364 a year if 100% was used in the home, £273 if 75% was used in the home and £182 if 50% was used in the home.

No outsourcing

In a further bid to separate itself from other solar power providers, Dr Ferenczi is adamant that Engensa will not outsource any part of its business. The company hires, trains, and installs locally and is currently the only in-house installation company to offer both a premium paid-for solar product and free solar.

“It’s a real privilege to be allowed to work on people’s homes and employing and training our own people is the only way we can consistently provide outstanding service to our customers.  It also allows us to fulfil the promise of the feed-in tariff and create green jobs in the communities we work in,” explainedFerenczi.

Community buildings

To celebrate the launch, while further distancing itself from competing companies, Engensa is asking customers to nominate a community building to receive a free solar panel installation worth £35,000. The building could be a village hall or scout hut, yet must have a good sized south-facing, sloped roof, and should be actively used by the community. Nominations for community buildings are invited before Christmas, with the winner to be announced in January 2011.


Engensa will not, unlike several of its free solar-bestowing competitors, be borrowing money from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) for SunRoof. Instead, the multi-million pound scheme is funded by Albion Ventures. Engensa sought out the venture capital trust manager, which invests money raised from private individuals in the form of venture capital trusts (VCTs) into expanding businesses in the UK, in order to ensure that the financial returns for the scheme will also flow back into the hands of members of the public rather than a foreign investment company or one of the big utilities.

Michael Kaplan, Partner at Albion said, “We’re delighted to have found the right partners in Engensa after many months of due diligence. We were instantly struck by both their depth of experience as well as their absolute commitment to driving forward the green economy in the UK.  We very much look forward to seeing our investment at work generating green energy.”

Further details about Engensa and the SunRoof scheme can be found by visiting the Solar Power Portal Directory.