Solar Panels Information | The Renewable Energy Hub

Solar Panels Information



An introduction to Solar Panels

Since the dawn of time the sun has been providing energy for the planet, helping plants grow, warming the seas, and maintaining the conditions for life to thrive. In the last century and a bit, man has been seeking to develop new and ingenious ways to harness that energy in the form of solar panels, turning sunlight into electricity that feeds millions of homes.

Solar panels are one of the major technical innovations of our lifetime and are beginning to change the way we look at our energy needs, now and in the years to come.  

In our quest for sustainable and renewable energy that leaves us less reliant of fossil fuels, solar energy and the development of efficient solar PV lies at the forefront of green technologies today. We see them being used for domestic houses and businesses but also produced on an industrial scale with solar farms that have transformed our landscape, bringing us ever closer to the technology that can make a difference to our lives and the planet we live on.

Through the innovation of photovoltaic cells, we are now able to harness the power of the sun and turn it into electricity that can be fed into the grid and used to power the homes of our towns and cities. You can find them on the roofs of buildings or in large solar farms across the country and they are one of the most prominent signs of our desire to exploit all forms of renewable energy.

The following solar panel information is designed to give you a broad background of the industry and what the technology can do for you.

Solar PV through time

We have used the energy of the sun to make our lives better ever since we discovered how to magnify its rays to make fire. The Greeks used a system of mirrors to light torches as far back as the third century BC. The humble green house has been around for centuries and is simply a way of collecting the sun’s energy to create heat to grow plants, whilst the first legitimate solar panel was actually created way back in 1767 by Swiss scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure who used it to heat water and make steam.

For thousands of years we have looked upon the sun as our source of light and life, and have tried to utilise its power. From the first greenhouses, to the day someone discovered that beams of light could be concentrated by glass to create fire, we have been aware of its potential. With the increasing use of electricity to light and heat our homes towards the end of the 19th Century, research and invention soon discovered that it could also be created by harnessing the power of the sun. The history of the solar panel is a reflection of man’s burgeoning ingenuity to use his environment in a safe and sustainable way.

Find out more about the history of solar energy here.

How does a Solar Panel work?

Energy travels the 93 million miles from the Sun in approximately 8 minutes, arriving in the form of light and heat of varying wavelengths. We can convert this sunlight into electricity by the use of photovoltaic cells that collect the energy. At the present time, these cells are normally made of silicon. When the sun strikes the molecules in photovoltaic cells it knocks electrons loose that generate electricity as they flow through it.

The great thing is that this process doesn’t require bright sunshine and hot conditions which means that a temperate climate like we have in the UK is just as good for producing electricity from a solar array as hotter climes like California or Africa.

Explore more about how solar panels work.

Current Solar Panel technology

The most important part of a solar panel is the photovoltaic cell that traps light from the sun and converts it into electric current. Formed from silicon in various levels of purity, DC current is fed from the PV array into an inverter that converts it to AC, which can be used around the home to power all our appliances. If the array is big enough, you can even use the excess power to feed into the national grid.

More information on how they work can be found here.

Photovoltaic cells: The heart of a PV array

One of our fastest developing technologies is found in the photovoltaic cell that powers a solat pv system and provides the electricity and heat used in our homes and businesses. Researchers and developers are working harder than ever to bring the price down and produce new technologies that decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. That means solar pv is becoming more and more viable as renewable energy source.

Most commercially used solar panels currently use silicon photovoltaic cells in one form or another and they are judged primarily upon their efficiency at producing electricity and their subsequent cost. Pure silicon cells such monocrystalline have a high efficiency but also cost more, which may not make them suitable for use in domestic abodes. Hybrid cells, a mix of silicon and organic substances, have a lower efficiency but cost less.

The photovoltaic cells that are found in solar photovoltaic systems are normally made from silicon which is an excellent conductor for electricity. When sunlight hits one part of the cell it causes electrons to fly towards another part, the movement creating a current electricity. There are different kinds of cells and they are usually noted by the purity of silicon they contain which determines their efficiency in producing electricity.

Discover the amazing world of photovoltaic cells.

How much does a Solar Panel system cost?

The All Important Cost

There’s a lot to consider when you are looking at the cost of solar pv. First of all there’s the initial investment which could be anywhere between £5,000 and £10,000 for a domestic array. But there’s also the money that you could get back with the Feed-in-Tariff that means you get paid for the excess electricity you produce.

With the development of new and more innovative technologies over the last few years, the cost of installing a solar panel system in a house or commercial premises has come down. There are also added benefits like Feed in Tariffs (FiT) that mean you can earn money from your installation, as well as grants and loans that make the whole operation more viable.

Some companies are also offering free installation as long as they can benefit from the FiT once your system is up and working.

One of the attractive things about having a pv system is that you can take advantage of the Feed in Tariff where you sell the energy you produce back to the grid, helping you to offset the cost and maintenance of your installation. This was introduced in 2010 by the government and the rate is determined by the size of your array. It is one of the main reasons why people are beginning to consider solar pv as a viable option for their long term energy needs.

Find out more about Feed in Tariffs.

The Different types of Panels

No list of solar panel information would be complete without a look at the growing range of styles from roof tiles to ultra-thin and flexible sheets that can be folded up and carried with you on holiday. The type of solar panel you choose will depend on your budget and the size of roof you have to spare.

Find out more about the different types of solar panels here.

What about the Green Deal?

Introduced by the Government to help homes and businesses invest in greener technologies, the Green Deal is a loan that can be applied for to help with a solar panel installation.

If you want to finance your new array you might want to take a look at the government’s Green Deal that offers low interest loans to household and businesses. It was introduced to help make the UK a greener place and, if you meet the requirements, it could be a good way to get your solar panel installation up and running.

Find out more Green Deal information.

Can I Get Free Solar PV?

The short answer is yes. There are companies who will install your solar panels free of charge and, in return, will take advantage of the Feed in Tariff that provides an income from the excess electricity you produce. There are plenty of pros and cons for taking this route but if you simply want access to a greener way of living and cheaper fuel bills, then it may be worth your while.

So for those who don’t have the money to pay the initial cost of installation, these initiatives that mean you can have the system in place for free. The catch is that the company that performs the installation then profits from the FiT which means you are not likely to make money from it.

More information on free solar panels.

Can Solar Panels Really Make Me Money?

The question most people ask when beginning to consider solar panels as a renewable energy source is whether it is worth it. Do the energy savings, and benefits of FiT, override the initial cost of installation? The problem when judging this is that you have to take a number of things into account including the location, the inclination of your roof, the size of the installation and the type of photovoltaic cells used before you can factor how much you are going to save and earn.

Whilst people want to be sure that they are lowering their carbon footprint when installing solar panels, they also want to be saving, in the long term at least, on their energy bills.

With government schemes like the Feed in Tariff, installing solar panels is an attractive investment for many. The size and cost of the array will eventually define how much you earn from selling you extra electricity to the grid, but on average you could be earning around £400 a year. Especially if you consider that you will also be reducing the amount you pay for your electricity bills, the benefits begin to add up!

Your return on investment for solar panels.

Solar Panel Cradle to Grave Analysis and Environmental Cost

Whilst it seems a good idea on the surface to have solar panels installed and reduce your carbon footprint, for such a big investment it helps to have some more in-depth information about the long term benefits across the whole life cycle of your system.

As a rule of thumb, your solar panel installation will probably last the next 25 years if properly maintained. Much of the research confirms that many systems will pay back the initial investment in a relatively short period of time and the benefits to the environment are substantial.

Information on the Long Term Benefits of Solar Panels

Another thing that people want more information on is how their solar panels will perform over the 20 years of their lifetime. Your system may well pay for itself in a short period of time, perhaps in less than ten years. That means you can expect another ten years at least of extended profits as you take advantage of the Feed in Tariff. But you are also helping to contribute to a greener planet.

Take a look at the true benefits of solar panels.

Will installing PV Damage my Property Price?

One of the more important questions that people want answered before they opt to have solar panels installed is what the impact will be on the value of their property, whether it be commercial or domestic.

While research in this area is still in the early stages, a recent survey has shown that more people would be prepared to pay a higher price for a property if it had a solar panel installation with a Feed in Tariff. Another piece of research concludes that having solar panels can help naturally increase the price of property as well.

However, there are other things to consider as well. If you have opted for a free installation with a company taking over the FiT then you may find that prospective buyers will be wary of taking on the contract.

Most of the research in this area is anecdotal but having solar panels on your roof may well enhance your property price rather than damage it. As previously mentioned, one area that may affect prices adversely is if you have entered into a contract for free solar panels where the Feed in Tariff is taken by a third party installer.

More information on solar panels and property prices.

Installing Solar Panels: A guide

There’s a lot of detailed planning that goes into installing your solar pv system. First of all you probably won’t need planning permission, though it is always worth checking with your local council. Then there’s the issue of choosing the right installer who has the correct renewables certification, without which you won’t be able to benefit from the Feed in Tariff.

Before you even think about having your solar panels installed you will need to have an MSC and REAL accredited surveyor inspect your property and measure the roof size, inclination and shade coverage, what your estimated solar pv installation will achieve and how much money you are likely to earn or save. The surveyor will also asses the ability of your roof to take the weight of the new solar panel installation.

A solar panel installation at a glance.

Can I Build My Own Solar Panel System?

You might think that building your own solar panel system is taking DIY just a step too far, but the truth is that it’s not as difficult as many people think. The problem is that, if you decide to build it yourself, your solar panel installation will not qualify for the Feed in Tariff. The benefit is that a DIY installation should be cheaper than having it professionally done and there are some excellent home kits now appearing on the market.

Discover the pros and cons if you want to build a solar power system.

Legal Issues and Planning Permissions for Solar Power

Because it benefits to the eco-system, if you live in England, having solar pv installed on a domestic premises is often considered as ‘permitted development’ which means that you don’t have to seek planning permission.

There are, however, requirements that have to be met covering how high it is installed and how much protrusion is allowed. Scotland has some slightly different rules but again a solar panel installation is largely considered ‘permitted development’. From a legal standpoint, you will also need to contact both your insurance provider and Mortgage Company to ensure they agree to the installation.

Find out more about the legal issues and planning permissions required for solar panels.

Information on Solar Panels and your Protection

As with any large installation it should come with a warranty and maintenance plan as well as being covered by insurance. Whilst the average life span of a solar panel array is around 25 years, many companies are offering a standard warranty of around 10 years but this will vary for different aspects of the installation.

Maintaining a solar panel installation is vital if you want it to last the distance, though because it has few moving parts this should be relatively low over the 25 year lifetime.

Most manufacturers will issue a warranty for their solar panels, usually around 10 years, and as previously mentioned, you will also need to make sure that you have insurance cover.

Find out about warranty, insurance and maintenance issues.

Electronics for a solar array

There are surprisingly few electronic components in a solar panel installation but these will include: AC/DC Isolators, a photovoltaic system generation meter, photovoltaic cables and connectors, and a junction box. Particularly if you are going to undertake a DIY installation, you may want to take a look at how your solar panels operate.

Find out more about the different electronics for solar panels.

What Does The Future Hold for Solar Panels?

These are exciting times for the world of renewable energies. Research and innovation are going hand in hand and improving efficiencies and technology at a faster pace than ever before.

Discover what lies ahead with future technologies.

Commercial Solar Panels

It’s not just domestic households that can benefit from solar panels. There’s a large commercial interest in them with solar farms and businesses trying to make the most of the investment opportunity. Businesses can also benefit from the government’s Feed in Tariff as well as the Renewables Levy Exemption Certificate.

Business owners have been investing in solar technology for some time now, many are aware that it reduces their energy costs, boosts their green credentials and often helps provide that little extra revenue. Commercial premises with enough room can achieve as much as 17-22% in ROI from Feed in Tariffs and saved energy bills combined. There are also substantial decreases in the carbon footprint of businesses that opt to have solar panels installed.

More information on commercial solar panels.

How to Find a Solar Panel Installer

As with most industries, finding a good solar panel installer who has the right qualifications is the one of the most important things you need to do. You can now search our database for the installers in your area and check them out.

More information on solar panel installers.



Solar Panels
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