Solar Panels Informtion, Solar PV Facts, Benefits & Disadvantages

solar pv informationSolar Pages is the home of information for the solar industry. We are passionate about Solar Energy and believe it is going to continue to be the UK's first choice in renewable energy for homes. We aim to provide you with all the Solar Energy Facts, positive and negative to help you make the right decision for your home.

We understand the pros and cons of Solar Energy so are happy to offer all the facts to ensure we help you on your journey to an alternative energy source that is right for your home. Solar Energy will not suit everyone, but for those that is does there are great savings to be seen on energy costs and some fantastic schemes in place and backed by the government so your household can generate income from your solar panels.

Renewable energy is the future, the UK is committed to delivering a share of the EU's 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. If these targets are achieved there could be £100 billion worth of investment opportunities and about 500,000 jobs created in the renewable energy sector. So by investing in renewable energy you are not only helping yourself, but you are contributing towards the UK economy, increasing job opportunities and helping the planet.

Solar Panel InfoIn this Solar Panels Information guide:


Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Panels

Benefits of Solar Panels

Decreasing your Carbon Footprint

Solar Panels will cut your carbon footprint, solar electricity fits into the 'green' category; it is a renewable energy source that does not release any harmful pollutants of carbon dioxide. Looking at a typical home with Photovoltaic Solar Panels installed it could save over 1 ton of carbon dioxide each year.

Reducing your Electricity Bills

Photovoltaic solar panels will cut your electricity bills! The light from the sun reaches us for free, so once your system is installed the energy you use from the system is at no extra cost. You will still have electricity charges for evening use or if you need more than the system is generating, but on average PV solar panels can generate 50% of the energy a household uses each year.

Increasing your income – tax free

If you are producing more energy than your household needs or you are not home and therefore not using it – you can sell the electricity back to the grid! Once set up, this is an automated system and means no electricity goes to waste. There are feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic solar panels and a renewable heat incentive for thermal solar panels. For individuals using the schemes the income is income tax free and you are paid for every unit of electricity you produce plus a bonus for any that is exported back to the grid.

You can store electricity to use later

If your property is not connected to the grid, you are able to have system whereby batteries store any excess electricity produced so you can use this after dark.

You are guaranteeing protection against rising energy costs for your solar usage

Prices are constantly rising for fossil fueled energy sources, but by investing in photovoltaic solar panels you are fully aware of the initial outlay and the likely future maintenance costs further down the line. Therefore this can all be budgeted for, you are likely to still rely on some electricity from the grid, but you are protecting a share of your electricity costs from price increases.

 
Disadvantages of Solar Panels

Solar Panels require an initial investment

One of the main disadvantages of photovoltaic solar panels is the initial investment required (up to about £15k), this is not something that everyone can afford. There are government-backed schemes and grants to help ease this financial pain, but it only goes a small way to easing the initial cost. Long term there are great benefits of installing solar panels and the opportunity to make a return on the investment by taking advantage of the feed-in tariff scheme, but the investment in the first place is not always an option for all households.

Your roof may not be suitable

Roof space can be a disadvantage, the minimum space required is about 3 to 4 square metres. The more solar panels installed the greater return will be seen, so space is important to get the most out of your solar panels. The location of the property's roof is also key to the efficiency of the solar panels; therefore if your property roof does not face within 90 degrees of south or is shaded at all then solar panels are unlikely to be an option for you.

Solar Panels and Air Pollution

Air pollution can be a problem for solar panels, and is one disadvantage that is not often mentioned. Pollution can hinder the efficiency of photovoltaic cells in a similar way to cloud cover. It is only a permanent problem if the property is in an area of high air pollution.

Solar Panels and time of day

Solar panels are only useful in the daytime unless batteries have been connected to store energy for the evening, but most properties opt to use power from the grid in the hours of darkness. A household will see more of a saving on their electricity if someone is home during the day using the power, if the house is empty most of the day, less of a saving will be noticeable.

 
 

Solar Panels Jargon Explained

Understanding solar panels information can sometimes be difficult as there are so many terms your may never have really heard before. Here in plain english you will find the answers to the most common solar panel jargon.

Amorphous:

Amorphous is a type of PV cell made out of a very thin layer of silicon. The silicon is sprayed on to a backing material creating a solar roof tile.

 

Active Solar:

Active Solar refers to using a collector; for example a solar panel to collect the light energy to use to either heat water or to convert into electricity.

 

Array:

Refers to any number of photovoltaic modules (panels) laid out together and connected so that they generate one single output of electricity.

 

Drain-back System:

This system forms part of a thermal solar water heating system, it is there to protect against damage, when the system is turned off water drains back into a storage bottle to stop it from freezing or boiling, saving the need for antifreeze.

 

Efficiency:

The ratio of the electrical output of a PV cell in relation to the power from the sun measured in controlled conditions.

 

Evacuated Tubes:

This is a type of thermal solar panel used for heating water. Evacuated glass tubes in the panel collect the sun's energy to heat the water.

 

Feed-in Tariff (FIT):

The FIT Scheme put in place by the government allows households to sell unused or excess electricity that has been produced to the national grid. The amount paid varies on the type of energy and quantities being produced.

 

Free Solar or Rent a Roof Scheme:

These are different names for schemes whereby a company installs solar panels on the roof of your property at no cost to you, but will normally take all income generated from the feed-in tariff.

 

Green Deal:

Green Deal is a scheme that is set to be introduced in October 2012, it is a pay as you save scheme for households using an energy efficient power or hot water supply.

 

Kilowatt Peak (kWp):

Kilowatt Peak is a unit of measurement for the largest amount of power a particular solar system can generate.

 

Kilowatt-Hour (kWh):

Is a unit of energy used to perform work; work and energy are equivalent units, energy is the potential value and work is the achieved value.

 

Microgeneration Certificate Scheme (MCS):

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme is in place for products and installers of such technologies, including PV Solar. To be able to apply for a feed-in tariff all products and installers used must be MCS Certified.

 

Module:

A module refers to the smallest physical structure, that is self-contained and environmentally protected housing connected PV cells and providing a DC power output.

 

Microgeneration:

Microgeneration refers to the generation of power or heat by low carbon or renewable technologies by either individuals or businesses for their own use.

 

Monocrystalline Cells:

Monocrystalline cells make up the one of most efficient and expensive types of PV Solar Panels. The cell is cut from singular crystals of silicon.

 

Passive Solar:

Passive Solar refers to the technique of using the sun naturally without a collector, for example placing windows in a south facing direction on a property and using insulation to minimise heat loss.

 

Photon:

A photon is an actual singular physical particle of light; any photons not collected by the cell either get reflected or converted into heat energy. 

 

Photovoltaic (PV) Cell:

A PV cell is a cell that consists of a semiconducting material or combination of materials that has the ability to convert solar energy directly into electrical energy. The most commonly used material is silicon, which is used in different forms.

 

Photovoltaic Effect:

This is the scientific name for the process whereby a photon of light knocks electrons loose from the atoms when they collide. When this property of light is combined with the properties of the semiconducting material in the cell it creates a voltage.

 

Polycrystalline Cells:

Polycrystalline cells are cheaper than Monocrystalline but are less efficient, to create these cells the silicon is cut into wafers. 

 

Pressurised system:

Pressurised system refers to a solar heating system for water that tends to use antifreeze. Water is pumped through the panel to heat and then the heated water is passed through a heat exchanger to warm the water in the tank.

 

REAL:

REAL stands for Renewable Energy Assurance Limited and is the consumer code that sets the standard for service before, during and after installation. An MCS certified installer would have signed up REAL to get their certification.

 

Renewable Energy:

Is the term that refers to any energy source that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible from a natural source. Examples of these are Solar, Wind, Tidal, Biomass, Hydro Power, Geothermal and Wave.

 

Renewable Heat Incentive:

Renewable Heat Incentive is a UK scheme put in place in 2011 as a financial support for households looking to generate heat from renewable energy.

 

Renewables Obligation:

Renewables Obligation is the Government's system for ensuring commitment to renewable energy generation. This ensures that all electricity suppliers source a specified amount of their sales from renewables, the amount is increasing year on year. For every megawatt hour of renewable energy that the electricity suppliers generate they are rewarded with a Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC), which is tradable.

 

Solar Cell:

Is the basic term to refer to a photovoltaic device which when exposed to sunlight it converts it into electrical energy.

 

Solar Panel:

The panel itself is a collection of solar modules in a connected series to create a greater voltage of power than a single solar module. Solar Panels can be built to create any desired voltage, current or power by increasing or decreasing the amount of modules. The panel tends to be in an aluminium frame and has glass protecting the side exposed to the sun.

 

Solar Tiles:

Solar Tiles are built on the same technology as PV cells, but look like roof tiles so are smaller in size but therefore less efficient.

 

Solar Water Heating:

Solar Water Heating refers to the system whereby water is pumped through a panel collecting solar energy to heat the water. This water is then sent through a heat exchanger to heat the water in a household tank. Once the heat has been exchanged the water returns to the panel to start the process again.

 

Myths about Solar Panels

There are lots of myths about Solar Panels, here you will find the answers to those most commonly asked questions to help you with the facts about solar power for your home:

Does my roof have to be directly south facing?

A south facing roof is definitely of benefit, but it is possible for solar panels to be put on any orientation of roof providing it is exposed to daylight. A greater return will be seen from solar panels that are in direct sunlight for the longest part of the day, SW and SE facing roofs can still be very beneficial. The most important factor is that the roof is not shaded by another building or tree.

 

Must Solar Panels be placed on my roof?

Solar panels can be placed on a wall if it is well exposed to daylight and not obstructed by trees or other buildings. It is also possible to have solar panels on the ground, if there is a suitable un-shaded space in the property's grounds. Using this option a cable would be placed underground and would run into the property to supply the house with electricity. 

 

Can I only have Solar Panels if I have a large roof on a detached property?

No this is not the case, the modern style of solar panels are much smaller than when they first came to market back in the 70's. Very little roof space is needed for the solar panels, approximately 3 to 4 square metres that are exposed to daylight. If the property does have a larger roof it is possible to install a larger system that will generate more electricity, which can then be sent back to the grid using the feed-in tariff scheme.

 

Must I have at least £10,000 before I can gain financial benefit from solar panels?

A PV solar panel system can cost up to about £15,000 therefore there is an initial investment, it is possible to get a loan towards this and in some cases there are grants available. A thermal solar panel system is cheaper, costing up to about £8,000. The main benefit with installing these systems at your own cost is the return that can be seen over a number of years using the government-backed schemes. There are companies out there that offer 'free solar panels', these schemes tend to work by the company covering the installation cost but then taking all money generated from the feed-in tariff. There are small benefits for the household as they will see a reduction in their energy bills, but the company installing the panels will reap the benefits of the feed-in tariff.

 

Are Solar Panels an alternative to my normal source of electricity?

No, although photovoltaic solar panels will provide a good amount of electricity through the day, at night they will not be able to provide energy as in most cases they are not set up to store electricity. Therefore there is always a need for a secondary source of electricity. You do not lose any electricity you produce if it is not used as it will be sold back to the grid, providing you system is set up this way. The amount of energy produced will also vary dependent on the amount of daylight exposure and therefore the time of year does have an impact.

 

Will my solar panels only produce electricity when it's sunny?

Photovoltaic Solar Panels rely on daylight as opposed to direct sunlight, therefore a cloudy day will not have a huge impact on the amount of energy produced, there will be a change but it will not be significant.

 

Do Solar Panels go wrong all the time?

Solar panels are very reliable, they do not contain any moving parts, so are less likely to have problems like other forms of electricity generation. A lot of solar panels will come with 10, 15 or even 25-year guarantees which shows the confidence from the manufacturers in the product.

 

Is the Government likely to stop its support for solar panels in a few years?

The Feed-in Tariff scheme guarantees payments for 25 years for people investing in PV solar panels currently and 20 years for thermal solar panels. There is nothing to stop the government changing the scheme in the future, but if you have signed up to the scheme and have the guarantee in place this will not change.

 

Will I struggle to sell my house if I have solar panels?

In many cases solar panels add value to a property and more and more are making properties appealing. It is down to your estate agent to understand the benefits that are added to the property by having solar panels, as it can be a lack of understanding that could put people off. Once explained it is unlikely that a potential purchaser would be put off if the property had PV panels and was set up on the feed-in tariff as for a 25 year period the new owners could be receiving £850 to £1500 a year in payments. Alternatively if the property has thermal solar panels, then the new owner would be able to receive income from the Renewable Heat Incentive for a 20-year period. Plus on top of all that with both options the new owner is set to save money on their bills.

 

I am worried I will not get planning permission?

In most cases you will not need planning permission for solar panels, as this is something the government is actively encouraging households to invest in. Listed properties and properties in areas of conservation will potentially need planning permission, this can be found out by contacting your local authority. In many cases there will be minimal questions just to check the position proposed for the panels and how they are being installed. If you are at all unsure whether you need to seek planning permission it is worth contacting your local authority.

 

Are Solar Panels going to cost me lots of money on maintenance?

Solar Panel systems require very little maintenance and have no moving parts so there is very little that can go wrong with them. Within 25 years the inverter will need to be replaced, this can cost about £1000. If Solar Panels are installed at the optimum angle on the roof slope they can be self-cleaning, but it is worth having them cleaned occasionally, how often this should be done will depend on the angle they are tilted at and how much dirt, leaves and bird droppings they accumulate. The company installing your solar panels will be able to advise on cleaning.

 

Buyers Guide to Solar Panels - Tips on finding a good Solar energy Installer

It is imperative that you find the right supplier for your Solar Panel Installation, there are many companies out there and sometimes it is hard to know how to differentiate between and choose a reputable supplier. Here at Solar Pages we understand the importance of finding the right supplier so have put together our guide for the different stages from choosing companies to quote, getting the quotes and making a decision.

Step 1

Choosing which companies to provide you with a quotation for Solar Panels:

Thumbs up to Solar PanelsOne key requirement that will help you narrow down your options is to find a company that is MCS accredited and uses Microgeneration Certified products. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme is there to regulate installers and products that generate electricity.

It is an internationally recognised quality assurance scheme that offers peace of mind that the company and product have undergone rigorous testing to reach the agreed standards.

It is important to note that unless your product and installer are MCS certified you would not be eligible for feed-in tariff schemes or the new renewable heat incentive.

Once you have made sure the companies are MCS certified if you still have too many it is worth seeing if they have testimonials on their websites.

Failing that you can get a good feeling from a phone call, so it is worth phoning a few to enquire about their quotation process and then narrowing it down from there. It is worth getting three companies to quote for your solar panels, this gives you a good opportunity to compare their recommendations, offerings and price.

 
Step 2

The Solar Power sales person

Once you have picked three companies to come in for a quote there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. As with all sales people they can appear to be giving you a hard sell, as they want your business. So when you invite a solar energy consultant into your home it is important you are in control and that they are only there to present you with the facts.

There are some key checks that a surveyor should carry out on your property before confirming whether solar panels are the right option for you and then giving you a quote.

Below is Solar Pages checklist of the key actions a surveyor should take when inspecting your property for a Solar Panel Quotation:

  • Check the roof – not just the outside, but inside as well
  • Make notes of all measurements, most importantly the direction the roof faces
  • Use access equipment to take a better inspection of the roof
  • Note down any possible shade implications – from trees, neighboring properties etc.
  • Inspect the loft, taking note of the tilt angle of the roof
  • Examine in detail the property's fuse box and current metering
  • Take note of your main electrical appliances within the house and ask questions about time of day and length of use.
  • Survey the interior of the house and discuss options for locating equipment and cables.

This information should result in the surveyor being able to provide you with a detailed quote, it is important to make sure the quote includes:

  • Scaffolding costs
  • Solar Panel information – the type of solar panel and the cells within it
  • Warranty details
  • Details of the inverter
  • Proof that the product and whoever is carrying out the installation are MCS certified if the panels are going to be used in a feed-in tariff
  • Terms and Conditions for the company
  • Details of the payback scheme (if any) and the estimated rate of savings and return

It is important to not be pushed in to agreeing anything on the same day they visit, this purchase is a very important purchase therefore you need to take time to make sure it is the right decision. It is also important to go back through any figures they present you with to make sure your estimated return and savings are what they have calculated, this will affect you long-term not them.

It is also key to ask if the company has any case studies or testimonials of installations they have done in the local area. This is a great way to find some installations you may be able to see and even potentially speak to some of the company's customers to find out how they found the process and how they are benefiting.

 
Step 3

Making your final decision on a Solar Panel Installer

  • Be sure you have details of the guarantee – it is an expensive product you are purchasing so you must be clear on what is or is not covered.
  • Be sure that the product and installer is MCS certified, it would be awful to invest the money and then not to be able to take advantage of any of the government-backed schemes.
  • Be sure the savings and return calculations are correct, they are only estimates, but make sure they have been estimated correctly!
  • Follow up on references if they were available; make sure other households have been happy with the company's service.
  • Most quotations will be valid for 6 months; so do not rush your decision.
  • Be sure you have seen the terms and conditions and any contracts you are agreeing to, it is key you understand what you are signing.

Purchasing your new solar panels is an exciting decision and one that is long lasting – so be sure to get enough quotes to ensure you have found your perfect solar panel installer.

Get a quote today

 

Reprohub Plotter Paper 

Reprohub are a supplier of plotter paper, which ranges from 60gsm semi-opaque check plotter paper, 80/90 standard report, 95/120gsm coated CAD paper, CAD plotter film, natural tracing paper and much more.  All are available in a range of colours and roll widths to suit your requirements.

More solar panels information can be found in the categories below:

Solar PV Cost

Feed in Tariff Calculator

Request A Survey Link

Solar Panels Installer in the UK