TESCO will start selling solar panels this week, leading a stampede of retailers aiming to cash in on a controversial new subsidy scheme.

The rush has been triggered by the launch of the government’s new feed-in tariff (Fit) programme. Taking effect on Thursday, this pays homeowners and small firms for generating electricity from photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines, either for their own use or to be sold back to the grid.

The payments are guaranteed for up to 25 years to ensure payback on the costly technologies. The government claims the scheme can generate up to £950 in cash payments and energy savings annually.

Philip Wolfe, a director at the Renewable Energy Association, the trade body, said: “All sorts of new companies will be coming up with offers. Tesco is just one of them.”