Owners of photovoltaic (solar) panels across the country awoke this morning to find that insolation - the amount of solar energy reaching their panels - was down as much as 75% on what could be expected at dawn on a cloudy mid-winter's day in Britain.
Enticed by generous government-supported renewable energy feed-in tariffs introduced last April, thousands of UK home-owners have already installed the panels, but none had been warned about the alarming effect of an eclipse on their investment. This has led consumer groups to accuse photovoltaic panel vendors of mis-selling the devices by neglecting to point out the financial impact of these cosmic alignments.
'I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the digital reading on my inverter (the electrical device that converts direct current (DC) output from the panels to alternating current (AC) ready to feed in to the grid)', exclaimed one furious user in Folkestone, Kent.
'Diffuse light at 8:30am in early January at my latitude should provide me with at least 15 to 20 Watts from my 12-panel array, but it was barely keeping 7W. That's about four tenths of a penny's worth of leccy I'll never see again. Thank God they are installed under a streetlight.'