Installer Directory
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Janet Richardson

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Updated on

Jul 21, 2024

Read Time : 3 Minutes

Can Solar Panels Be Installed on a Flat Roof in the UK?

Solar panels should be an option for everyone, regardless of the size and/or pitch of their roof. Many people with flat roofs decide against solar panels as they do not think they can be installed, or that the install will be more expensive. However, they would be wrong to think that. It is actually perfectly possible to install solar panels on a flat roof for around the same price, and this page takes you through how it can be done.

How do Solar Panel Systems Work on a Flat Roof?

Flat roof solar panels are most commonly found on commercial buildings, where the roof is typically large, flat and weight bearing. However, it is still common for them to be installed on domestic properties as well. The flat roof solar panel array that is installed uses the same type of solar panel as a traditional system, but certain considerations need to be made.

The array needs to be able to self-clean during rainy weather (pitched) and also avoid damage during strong winds. The installer will take the pitch and orientation of the system into account, making sure that it captures as much energy from the sun as possible. This is where thin film solar cells can come in really useful. They tend to be incredibly flexible, and can also be turned into automatic panels. These move with the sun as the day goes by, capturing as much sunlight as possible as it is always in direct light. While they are less efficient than crystalline-based solar panels, you will be able to generate more power throughout the day with an automatic system as opposed to a stationary one.

This said, automatic or solar tracking systems are fairly rare and most flat roof solar panel systems are simply normal panels with a metal mounting system that gives the panels a good orientation to capture light from the sun.

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What are the Benefits of Flat Roof Solar PV Systems?

While there are a number of specific considerations that you need to take into account when you install a solar array on a flat roof, it also comes with a large number of benefits that you should be taking into consideration:

  • Flat roofs provide easy access and often plenty of room for installation and maintenance
  • This type of system is rarely visible from the street. So neighbours are less likely to complain about it being an eyesore.
  • You can receive the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) tariff from an energy provider. 
  • You can choose from a number of different types of solar panel.
  • It provides you with a greener, more sustainable, form of energy whilst saving you money on your electricity bill. 
  • If your usable pitched roof area is limited, then a flat roof may be utilised to achieve a good sized system for your usage. 

Do you Need Planning Permission for Flat Roof Solar Panels?

In 2022 the government extended permitted development rights for solar panels to allow homeowners with flat roofs to install solar panels without having to obtain planning permission. Now, solar panel installation on flat roofs in the UK generally falls within permitted development rights.

When it comes to getting planning permission for flat roof mounted systems, the process and terms are actually very similar to those for pitches roofs. Generally speaking, you don’t need to obtain planning permission, provided your installer follows a specific set of guidelines as laid out by your local council. However, before you start any kind of work, it is strongly recommended that you first contact your area’s Local Planning Authority to make sure you are doing everything correctly.

The general rule for solar panels in conservation areas is that they can't be facing the road. Saying that, some councils are more relaxed on this than others. If your property is listed or within the curtilage of a listed property, you will need planning permission and we find that in most cases, it is declined.  

What Angle or Pitch do Flat Roof Solar Panels need to be?

Solar panels that have been mounted on flat roofs should usually be titled upwards to ensure that they capture as much sunlight as possible throughout the day. This also helps to keep each of the panels clean, as the rain will wash away dirt and debris from the surface – keeping efficiency levels up.

For this self-cleaning to be possible, panels should be mounted at an angle of at least 10 degrees. Installers will commonly use a device, such as an A-frame, to mount panels at an angle that varies between 20 and 50 degrees. A qualified and professional installer will be able to determine the best pitch for installation on your roof.

What Considerations need to be made for the Wind with Flat Roof Solar Panels?

High winds can pose a potential risk to flat roof mounted solar systems. However, there are a number of options you can use to counter this. There are two methods that are most frequently used to protect a solar system. These are fixing panels to the structure or adding weight to them.

The latter involves fitting ballast frames and heavy slabs to the roof before attaching the solar panels to them. The former, fixing the panels to the structure, involves penetrating the actual roof and securing a support structure and brackets, which the solar panels are attached to. This is a more intrusive method, but some feel that it keeps the array more secure.

At the end of 2023 the UK Government extended the permitted development rights for solar panels on flat roofs. The change now allows UK homeowners to install solar panels on flat roofs without gaining planning permission. The changes, which have been labeled a no-brainer by industry professionals will give thousands of homeowners the opportunity to install solar panels without the time consuming process of applying for planning permission. 

Can you also have Flat Roof Mounted Solar Thermal Systems?

Solar thermal systems can be attached in the same way as a PV system for a flat roof. They will also operate in the same way that any other traditional solar thermal system would, generating heated water for your home. The Renewable Energy Hub has a directory of installation companies that you can use to find a reputable company for your install, just select solar thermal or solar PV and enter your postcode. 

Want to Know More?

Have you found yourself interested in solar panels? If you want to know more then make sure you head to our marketplace where you can find our full range of products, each with the relevant information. Or simply give us a ring using the number at the top of this page and have a chat.

 

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