Reader question: I would like some information about solar panels and any scheme which give a payback when the house is not occupied but is still producing electricity into the grid when we are not in residence to use any power.

French Entrée: In many respects France is a long way ahead of the UK and USA when it comes to sustainability. The French government is on the pulse of the latest environmental developments and are quick to implement planet-friendly policies. Between this, and the climate, it’s little wonder that home solar panels are very popular in France.

solar panels in france

If your property is in a location that gets year-round sun it’s not surprising that you’re hoping to profit from any excess energy that’s generated in your absence. The good news is that this is absolutely possible. The niggle is that there is very little literature online, or otherwise, to suggest what kind of cash you could expect to make, and the tariffs and schemes available are subject to change.

Can I sell solar power back to the grid in France?

The first thing to note is that only certain systems are eligible to feed back into the grid, so you must ensure that yours is one of these. If it is purely for heating water, or not installed by an appropriate provider, any hopes of making some money from your panels are dashed. Any subsidies available need to be discussed with the installer and be wary of any assurances that seem too good to be true. Many a homeowner has been impressed with promises of decent rates on their unused power only to get a shock when the energy supplier sets the tariff.

If your system fits the bill there are typically three models which are used for the usage of that energy:

Auto consumption

With this model you use energy produced from your panels during the day and switch to grid power between sunset and sunrise. Some people do use battery packs and other measures to extend the time they can use their solar power. There is some suggestion that this system is the most expensive option.

Auto consumption and sale

This means that you use your own electricity and sell any surplus to the grid, as opposed to storing it in batteries for later use. The benefit of this model will depend on how much energy your panels are producing against how much you need, and what kind of tariff you are able to secure.

The historic model

As the name suggests, this is the standard for most home solar power in France. In this instance, all of the power generated by the panels is sold directly into the grid. The house is then powered from the grid and you pay for what you use, offset by how much energy your house produces. The tariffs for buying the power from you, and selling it to you, vary depending on the amount of power you use and generate.

It’s also worth noting that income generated from your solar power may be subject to income taxation.

Your best bet, if this is something you wish to invest in, is to speak to a solar panel expert. The recommendations of other people in your area will be invaluable here.

The short answer is that you absolutely can sell your solar power back to the grid while you’re away from your property. Whether the potential profit justifies the installation cost is the real question.