With ever increasing energy costs Domestic Solar Power has become an ever increasingly attractive option for homeowners. Solar panels generate cheap, green electricity from the sunlight.
What are solar panels?
Solar panel electricity systems (also known as PV photovoltaics) capture the energy from the sun using the PV cells. The cells do not require direct sunlight to capture that energy they still generate some electricity on cloudy days. PV cells convert the sunlight in to electricity which can then be used to provide a household with electricity for appliances and lighting.
How do solar panels (PV) cells work?
PV cells are usually made from silicon, a semi-conducting material, made into layers to form the cell. When light shines on to the cell it creates an electric field across the layers of silicon. The stronger the sunlight the more electricity will be produced. Groups of PV cells are mounted together to create panels or modules that can be mounted on to the roof of your home or on the ground.
The power of the PV cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp) and this is the rate at which the cell generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer time. PV cells come in a variety of sizes and shapes and the are produced in panels that fit on top of an existing roof. There are also solar tiles that can be fitted to a roof as another option.
What are the benefits of solar electricity?
- Cut your electricity bills significantly. Sunlight is absolutely free so once the initial installation has been paid your electricity costs will begin to reduce.
- Cut your carbon footprint. Solar electricity is a green renewable energy that does not release any harmful carbon dioxide or any other pollutants. Typically a home solar PV system can save approximately 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year (this is dependent on where you are in the UK).
Solar tiles and slates
Solar tiles are designed to be able to be used instead of ordinary roof tiles. The cost of such a system will usually cost twice as much as an equivalent solar panel system. They are not typically as cost-effective as solar panels and are only usually used in situations where aesthetics are important to a client or if planning will only consider solar tiles as a system for a particular project.
How much will it cost?
An average Domestic Solar Power system is 4kWp and costs approximately £6,200 (including 5 per cent VAT). The cost will cover the supply of solar panels, inverter, isolators, cabling, relevant testing, certification and reporting to regulatory bodies and your electricity company.
Will I have to get planning permission?
In the vast majority of cases planning permission will not be required. However, if you want your system ground mounted and if your property is part of a world heritage site or is listed, planning permission will likely have to be sought in advance. Full assistance in completing the applications will be provided as part of our service.
What are Export payments?
A domestic PV solar system will, at times, generate electricity that will be more than you can use or store so the surplus can be transferred to the grid to be used by other households. You can be paid for this surplus by making sure you are receiving an export payment. If you have already been able to claim the Feed-in Tariff you will already be receiving export payments as part of that process. If you are not you will need to find an energy company that will pay you for your surplus electricity.
In Great Britain the government has introduced a Smart Export Guarantee which requires the majority of suppliers to offer you something for your surplus electricity, this commenced in January 2020.
How long do they last?
On average solar panels should last for 25 years or more although the inverter is likely to require replacement some time during this period. The cost for a new inverter is approximately £800 including VAT at 5 per cent.
What maintenance is required for Solar PV?
Solar PV requires very little in the way of maintenance. You will need to ensure the panels are kept relatively clean and that there is no overshadowing from any trees. Panels that are tilted at 15 degrees or more will have the benefit of being cleaned by rainfall and will give a better performance. For those systems mounted on the ground debris is more likely to accumulate so you will need to ensure any debris is cleared for the best performance to the system.
Once fitted your installer will leave you written details of the maintenance checks that you will need to carry out from time to time to make sure that the system is working properly. The details will include main inverter fault signals and a trouble shooting guide. Your installer will demonstrate this to you at the point the installation is complete.
If you become familiar with the system and the amount of electricity it is generating, along with the weather conditions, you will know what to expect and it will alert you to when something may be wrong with the system.