Here's a new idea. Micro-generation, this bit is photo-voltaic. Converting sunlight into electricity.
  We were thinking of buying a second house to do up and rent out. My understanding is that the current prices mean you will probably get 5% per year return in terms of rent. That's better than most bank rates, but has a high startup cost and you have maintenance and tenants to deal with. The property might go up in value, but then it might go down. Not ideal.
Doing it up and selling is another route, but that still requires a large investment, and there are a lot of under-employed builders who could do that and aren't.
It's no fun seeing inflation dwindle your savings while the bank that's holding them gives you nothing in return. To twist the knife in the wound they charge gigantic interest rates on loans, and award themselves nice big bonuses now and then.
So what to do?
Well the short story is that we got some solar panels on the roof and started turning sunlight into money.
  Think of it as a small franchise business. It pays for itself in less than a decade, requires no staff,
you can do it from home, and it produces lots of green cred.
  The reason I'm telling you about it is that the tariff will be reduced for newcomers after some time in December 2011. 
You'll want an unshaded flat or south facing roof, though it's possible to do free-standing units. If you cut down any light blocking trees, try to use them for heating, and check they aren't protected beforehand.

We put our inverter inside the house where I can watch it and so that any waste heat it produces stays inside. Most people put them in the loft.

 You may find that you start going round turning the lights off, which can look a bit odd. There again every kWh you don't use gains you another 3 pence.. Anyway, sleeping in the dark is natural, cold showers I'm not so sure about.

  For the technically baffled, a unit of electricity, 1 kWh or a kilowatt/hour is what you use if you have a one bar electric fire on for an hour, or a 100watt bulb on for 10 hours. If you boil a 2 kW kettle for 5 minutes you have used 1/6th of a kWh

  The inverter (below) for 12 panels is quite bulky and slightly warm, but silent and has a readout panel. You'll have to decide where to put it.  I'd advise that it's best not to have very long cables between the panels, the inverter and the domestic meter, to avoid loss. The little box is sealed, less obtrusive, and proves how much you have generated in total.
Who did it for us.
  Like most things, of course, it's more complicated than you first think.
Most of it is, however, sorted by your supplier, though not all.
  First you'll need some money, and a supplier of panels, a mechanism to get the electricity into the grid, and somebody to pay you for the electricity.
And sunshine.
  We used The Hothouse Roof and Energy company. They do all of that, except finding the money, you do that, and you will have to contact your electricity supplier and check that they are ok with the idea. We use ecotricity and they seemed pretty cooperative.

HotHouseRoof do roof and wall insulating coatings. In our case however we were interested in their solar energy equipment and especially the FIT or Feed in Tariff. They are a Microgeneration Certification Scheme installer. That's necessary to get the feed in tariff.
The tariff, at the time we ordered the system, paid 41.3 pence per Kilowatt/hour. however, it's index linked and guaranteed for 25 years.
While it was being installed the rate went up to 43 pence and you can get 46 for any that you produce above your use. So far (April 22nd 2011) we are breaking about even, so the domestic meter is going backwards most days and forward at night. South of Scotland, where most people are, you should get more sun.
No, that's not a guarantee.

How Much?
by comparison with your bar bill It's expensive, or at least I hope so.
Well of course it is, did you expect it to be free?

Look at it this way, we think ours should pay itself off in about 20 years, and will produce about 5% income on investment, guaranteed by the government for a minimum period of 25 years. Your supplier should be able to give you a figure as to how long it will take to pay off the lump sum, given a variable of good or poor weather. If that is about 9 years then you should be in the gravy after that. The TIF goes with the property, so if you sell it, your payments stop. But the buyer should give you more for the house.

Long Term
The payments are guaranteed, not the sunshine.
Your new car might cost £20,000. How much will it be worth in that time? 
How much interest are you getting from your bank?
(if it's better than 10%, call me)

The performance is guaranteed for 25 years.
The feed in tariff is guaranteed for at least 25 years.
You'll have something to talk about in the bar.

You should also be able to add to your generating capabilities after you have registered as a microgenerator, though the tariff, FIT, is due to go down for new units installed and registered after Dec 12 2011

The offer may start to cost the government, which means the taxpayer and users of electricity, more than they expected, so if you are thinking about doing this, check that the deal hasn't changed.

You can actually do somthing about global warming (even if you don't believe in it) because the energy would be absorbed into the ground if you didn't intercept it.

Our next steps will be cavity wall insulation and replacing the oil fired boiler with a ground source heat pump to run the central heating and hot water.

Solar panels in Scotland? Are they mad?
We have 12 panels rated at 225 watts each which means we have a rated output of 2.7kW. you can have up to 3.9 (I think) 
Our system went on-line on the 4th of April 2011 so far, on the 16th May we have generated 420 kilowatt hours  and the meter is reading 75775. That's 82 kWh less than when we started. Sadly the electricity company insisted on fitting a meter that doesn't go backwards
If you generate 1kwh you get 43.1 pence
(If you don't use it yourself you get 46 pence.)
If you use more than you make, you pay for those units as usual.
The payments are usually quarterly, so it'll be a while before the money comes in. It's tax free incidentally.
My only worry so far is that the payments will go into Fiona's account while the costs came out of mine, there again I will soon be able to discontinue my oil payments with the up-coming Ground Source Heat Pump.
You may find cheaper suppliers, but make sure they have the same grade of panels, ours are rated at 225 watts (max) each, 240watt ones are available now. I can't imagine Scottish sunshine getting that intense to produce 1/4 kW per panel.
I will tell you if I make any profit from recommendations, but tell them if you contact them and I might. 

Always read the small print and don't just trust what I say. I might be wrong. 
All this is based on a belief that the Government will keep their word
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Update December 2016
The panels are working well and the money is still coming in from the government via Ecotricity. We recently had the inverter (SunnyBoy) upgraded so that it could handle a smarter supply. Basically that consisted of small inverters on the back of each panel so that the new main inverter can gather more of what is generated. Currently, no pun intended, the panels generate enough electricity to get a feed in tariff about equal to our electricity bill. That includes the power used to run the ground source heat pump which runs the central heating as well as the hot water.  The company that put the panels in, the Hothouse Roof Co seems to have stopped trading under that name, probably because the government made the business untenable with changes in the tariff, regulations and general mucking about.