Solar panels, or photovoltaic cells (PV), are normally attached to the roof or walls of any building that requires electricity.
The PV cells are constructed with either one of two layers of semiconducting material using silicon. When the sunlight shines on the device it creates an electrical field. The stronger the sun’s rays, the more energy that will be produced.
Solar panels come in a variety of shapes and sizes including the standard ‘grey’ cells that are seen on house rooftops. It’s also possible to have transparent cells installed onto greenhouses.
The strength of the solar panel is measured in kilowatt peak (KWp). This would be the amount of electricity generated in full sunshine.
What are the benefits of solar panels?
Installing solar panels on your property will instantly cut your carbon footprint on the world. It is reported that during its lifetime, PV cells will cut the average household’s carbon dioxide emissions by some 25 tonnes.
Another great benefit to solar panelling is the amount you’ll save on bills, both monthly and annually. PV panels can generate at least 40-50% of the electricity needed to power your home.
Installing PV cells will raise the value of your home, as the energy saving bonus will be a welcome attraction for potential buyers.
If your solar panels are generating more electricity than your home requires, you can sell surplus energy back to the National Grid, using the FITs scheme.
You can store the electricity on batteries for a day when the weather is overcast and sunlight is restricted.
Solar panels do not always need direct sunlight to generate electricity and even in the winter, they will still cut the costs of your bills.
Is solar electricity suitable for my home?
Solar panels need to be installed on a roof or wall that is 90 degrees from south, in order to get the most out of the product. You also need to make sure that trees or other buildings will not overshadow the PV cells as they’ll be less effective in the shade.
You also need to ensure that your roof tiles are strong enough to support the project. Solar panels are not light, and tiles must be able to take their weight, especially if built on existing tiling.
Planning permission is generally not an issue with solar panelling as it’s not needed, providing the equipment is below a certain size. However, it’s always best to double check with a local planning officer, especially if the building if listed or in a conservation area.
Solar panels costs, savings and maintenance
- A typical solar panel system costs around £12,000.
- However, PV cells can cost £4,000 to £5,000 per KWp. But, the installation costs will decrease as the size increases. The average size is 2.7 KWp.
- The larger the KWp capacity, the more electricity it will generate. In turn, larger solar panel systems will save you extra money on bills.
- Solar panels that are built into an existing roof are more expensive than just sitting them on top of the old tiling.
- If you need major roofing repairs, PV tiles can offset the cost of tiles.
- The average solar panelling unit will cut your carbon footprint by up to 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
- If you are eligible to receive the government’s feed-in tariff, PV could generate savings and income of around £1,170 every year.
- The maintenance needed for solar panelling is very small. All that’s required is that the PV cells remain clean and you ensure that nothing overshadows the panels.