How Does Solar Energy Work?

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HOW IT WORKS

Solar power cells convert sunlight into electricity, using the energy of speeding photons to create an electrical current within a solar panel. This tremendous energy from the sun is abundant, and has been powering the earth for billions of years. Over the past several decades, scientists have been learning to harness this ancient energy source with more efficiency to do the work of non-renewable fuels - without pollution, noise or radiation. You've probably seen calculators with solar cells -- devices that never needs batteries and in some cases, don't even have an off button. As long as there's enough light,they seem to work forever. You may also have seen larger solar panels, perhaps on emergency road signs, call boxes, buoys and even in parking lots to power the lights.

how solar energy works

Solar Thermal Although these larger panels aren't as common as solar-powered calculators, they're out there and not that hard to spot if you know where to look.

In fact, photovoltaics -- which were once used almost exclusively in space, powering satellites' electrical systems as far back as 1958 -- are being used more and more in less exotic ways. The technology continues to pop up in new devices all the time, from sunglasses to electric vehicle charging stations. If you install an electricity-generating technology from a renewable or low-carbon source such as solar PV or wind turbine, the UK Government's (FITs) could mean that you get money from your energy supplier. You can be paid for the electricity you generate, even if you use it yourself, and for any surplus electricity you export to the grid. And of course you'll also save money on your electricity bill, because you'll be using your own electricity.

FAQ'S | How Solar Energy Works in UK

Solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity that can be used in your business, home, farm, outbuildings or sent directly back to the National Grid. Solar (photovoltaic) cells generate energy even when it is overcast and cloudy as they absorb scattered light.
Solar panels produce clean, emission free energy from a sustainable source. This generated electricity can help power your business, home, farm or commercial buildings and will reduce carbon emissions. Solar panels are ideal for urban and rural locations, requiring a south or near south facing roof or ground area. They are easily connected to a building's electricity supply.
VAT at 5% is payable on domestic installations. New Builds are often VAT exempt, commercial buildings will pay standard VAT rates at 20%.
No, the electricity generated during the day is not stored for night use, although battery backup technology is currently in development. However, the income from the FIT could cover all of the electricity bill depending on size of system and consumption.
Yes, generally all buildings have to have an energy performance rating (EPC) of level D or above. Read the EPC section for more information and exclusions.
The optimum orientation for solar panels is due south at a 30 degree latitude tilt in the UK. Systems facing East of West will lose efficiency but are still viable. Farm and commercial buildings are often installed on 15 degree pitch roof areas. If you have a flat roof, we can provide a bespoke flat roof system to optimise the panel angles.
Any number of PV panels can be connected based on available space, to provide as much electricity output as required. A standard 50kWp solar panel installation will generate up to 43,000 kWh per year.
Panels can be mounted on a roof or ground mounted. The panels produce (DC) electricity, so an inverter will be fitted near the installation to change the DC into (AC) as used in the building. For systems with multiple inverters, a separate area dedicated to the inverters and electrical controls may be required, this could be in a separate building or loft area.
This depends on your budget, available roof space (unless ground mounted), energy output required and DNO approval. We will prepare a full system recommendation.
Minimum maintenance is required for the solar panels as there are no moving parts, although they do need checking for visible damage and shading on a regular basis. We recommend that systems are monitored so that any drop in performance is quickly reacted to. We provide full monitoring and maintenance agreements for commercial systems.
The price will vary depending on the size of individual installations. Please fill in the enquiries form for a quote.
Domestic and commercial properties do not require planning on standard installations. Ground Mounted systems, those in Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or World Heritage Areas must consult local Planning Departments. Wales are reviewing planning permission requirements, some areas do not require permission, contact your local planning department.
We will assess the suitability of roof or ground area and may recommend a full structural assessment by a surveyor. The roof must be in good condition as the solar PV array is designed to last 40+ years. Any roof repairs should be carried out before installation of the solar array.
Generally temperatures above room temperature reduce the efficiency of pv solar panels, making the UK a good climate for photovoltaic technology. The panels require ambient light rather than direct sunlight to generate electricity so they work even on overcast days.
Customers are reporting annual yields that exceed our estimates. Look at our case studies for more information.
The Government is required, alongside other European countries, to reduce carbon emissions and to secure against future oil supplies. The UK currently produces 5.5% of electricity from renewable energy and has committed to increase this to 15% by 2020.
Yes, for many reasons:
  • You can't turn the sun off and the majority of properties in the UK are exposed to light and so can benefit from solar PV to some extent.
  • Flexibility – panels can be used in most areas, homes, businesses, schools and farms. Rural, suburban or city centres. They can be installed on pitched roofs, flat roofs or ground mounted. They can be large or small systems.
  • Reliability – panels are designed to last 40+ years, operating with very low maintenance if correctly installed in the first place.
  • Affordability – Solar PV is one of the most economic renewable energies to install.
  • Accessibility – quick and easy to install.

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