Solar PV

Solar panels are a fantastic way of not only producing your own electricity but earning from a renewable energy installation as well. There are of course certain areas in the UK which would benefit more from Photovoltaic Panels being installed on a property but even on cloudy days, as long as your panels are facing the direction of the sun or move in line during the day, electricity can and will be generated even if at a minimum rate.

The great element of solar panels is the ability to over generate electricity and resell to the national grid or through future tech, store for night time use. So not only can you reap back the cost of investment quickly but start to earn from your investment also. Let’s find out how this particular sustainable energy resource works and what exactly solar power renewable technology offers.

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What Are The Different Types Of Solar Panels And How Do They Work?

As with anything new, you need to compare solar panels against a variety of different claims and technology. By far the most important aspects are the guarantee period of the product and the power which can be generated. Usually the larger the more power. However there are four different types of solar panels and you can compare solar PV across

  • Monocrystalline Silicon PV
  • Polycrystalline Silicon PV
  • Amorphous Silicon PV
  • Hybrid PV

Mono and Poly are assembled from scientifically grown highly pure molten silicon. Non crystalline which uses up less material to form the component is used within Amorphous. Hybrid uses both. Monocrystalline Silicon PV are the most efficient operating between 13% and 17% but the process of manufacturing takes longer – hence the increased costs. These are best situated in areas with less room for panels as they offer higher electricity generation per square metre.

Polycrystalline Silicon PV on the other hand offers an efficiency of 11% to 15% but deflects the least light while absorbing the most. The creation of the silicon cells is quicker and the entire fabrication cheaper. This solar panelling system is best used on larger scale set ups. Amorphous Silicon PV is not ideal for residential placement though is best used when considering shade and high temperatures – 6% to 8% efficiency.

Hybrid PV which utilises both Monocrystalline PV cell and an ultra-thin Amorphous silicon PV layer offer the highest known efficiency of 16% to 18%. What is solar efficiency? It is the percentage of a solar panel cell in contrast to its energy output and an average for yearly generation. This value can then be applied to your location to further calculate and gauge electricity generation. 44.7% is the highest solar efficiency recorded in Europe (2013) but technology is yet to be transferred to market. So you should perhaps take into account today’s needs and costs and the on set of inbound technology as a replacement.

What Are The Benefits Of Photovoltaic Panels?

The technology to create electricity from solar energy has existed for hundreds of years. Manufactured Photovoltaic cells have been doing so since 1839. However the technology to make it cost effective and a worthwhile pursuit on a small scale is a recent invention of the last thirty years and the technology keeps on improving. Within thirty years there will probably be no need for a National Grid but until then the benefits of Solar PV are:

  • You can sell any electricity generated which you do not use as a home owner or business, directly to the national grid. To either offset night time use and energy bills or for a total profit if storing electricity on site.
  • The UK government is concerned with carbon footprints. If home owners take on board new initiatives, the average home can cut the release of one tonne of carbon per annum. Calculated across 20 million homes and that’s some achievement.
  • You get paid for the electricity you generate, even if you use it yourself. One of the pluses of the Government’s Feed In Tariff.
  • The installation of any Solar PV, will pay for itself over a period of time. There is absolutely no situation where it will not.
  • It’s green energy, sustainable. The sun’s energy is free, it comes whether you are at work or at home. Once your investment has paid for itself, you need not pay for electricity ever again.
  • Compared to other renewable energy like sustainable wood fuels, there is very little maintenance required and no ordering or refuelling needed. In essence, there is no reason why anybody other than location, cannot benefit from solar PV installation.

What Are The Costs Of Solar Panels And How Much Can Be Saved Or Earned?

By far the best renewable energy that you can install so as to receive money back quicker on initial investment is through solar power. Technology continues to be more advanced, which brings the cost of materials down. Also the more people that buy into solar panel tech, further decreases manufacturing costs. That said, while prices are tumbling, a basic unit and set up can cost in the region of £5000 to £7000 depending on scale and amount of units embedded.

Also the amount of electricity which can be generated affects cost of materials also. Generally 4kWp can be expected from larger set ups. While we would advise you buy outright the equipment to benefit the most, not all can afford the initial expense. The government runs a Feed In Tariff scheme which enables you to receive solar panels and installation free on a loan pay back basis.

Companies buy in equipment for resale, on the basis that they install solar panels for free to the customer in return for a percentage of the ongoing bill payments. Unlike other renewable energy installations like solid wall insulation where electricity bills remain fixed with a discount so the installation company can claim a profit back, the solar panel generates electricity which is then sold on to the National Grid.

From these payments a percentage is taken by the installation company over a period of up to five to twenty five years. You get the equipment and installation free, benefit from lower electricity bills but a percentage goes continually to the external company. There are also cash loans which assist in financing a purchase but the payback system works the same. So while we recommended you fund the solar panels yourself, there are government assisted programmes which enable you to benefit with little or no outlay. View our list of recommended partner installers offering the Feed In Tariff loan system here.

Is There Much Maintenance With Photovoltaic Panels And Are There Any Other Issues?

Unlike your current power source, maintenance of solar panels is solely your responsibility, whether you do this yourself or get a contractor in is entirely up to you. Once installed, you should be apprised of cleaning techniques and how to check for faults. The best way to keep tabs on your solar panels is to keep a note of how much electricity is generated at different times of the year. Should this change substantially then you will know something is wrong.

There are obviously different levels of maintenance depending on where you position the panels, on roofs for example less dust and debris will envelop the mirrors and functional parts but access and cleaning may be deemed difficult. Some window cleaning companies now offer a solar panel cleaning service, either via ladder or extended pole system. Alternatively ground based solar panel systems can be easily cleaned with warm water. In both instances, if mirrors are at a 15% slant, rain water will ensure the majority of cleaning is accomplished throughout the year.

Although photovoltaic solar panels should last 25 years minimum, some parts need computerised and physical checks throughout that period. Before you commit to owning a system, find out the costs of replacement and ensure adequate insurance. One part inparticular, the inverter will definitely need replacing at some point and until technology advances, that cost is currently around the £1000 mark (2014). Replacement part costs and maintenance of, in our experience are sufficiently covered by savings made on energy bills and income generated from the National grid feed in tariff.

Are Solar Power Panels The Right Renewable For You And Your Home Or Business?

You should always have some form of survey completed to asses viability of any solar panel installation and the minimum and maximum levels of electricity that your location and different equipment can generate. Photovoltaic panels need to face the direction of the sun, without hindrance and shaded out by nearby buildings or trees. Not all locations are ideal, unless you can erect a platform from which they will sit.

The most sunlight and the ability to face panels in the correct direction is imperative otherwise it’s a waste of money. You also need to consider planning permission. If the solar panels are erected higher than the tallest part of your current building – not including chimney or TV aerial, then you will need local authority permission. If your roof isn’t exactly the ideal slant towards the sun, you can consider a raised platform but this needs to be sturdy and fixed to ensure no wind damage can occur. Essentially solar panels need to capture as much of the day’s rays from the sun.

If you are a business there are related tax issues which can offset costs for installing, as well as benefiting from the local feed in tariff on an ongoing basis. with the correct battery you can also store electricity generated but at an extra costs. Tech is growing in this area. A home owner or business that uses more electricity during the day will benefit more from Photovoltaic Panel installation.

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