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BlogPV solar panels, today
PV solar panel systems.
Learn about PV solar panels in the UK's climate that will still be generating power in three-decades time.
Photovoltaics are an outside-of-the-box approach to life, that'll get the neighbour's curtains twitching. Most homes in the UK are suitable.
In a nutshell:
The science bit.
PV (photovoltaic) cells produce electrons that gravitate to where it's earthed. That's your TV, EV, battery storage, or exported to the grid.
Monocrystalline cells cut from crystal silicon generate outputs of 250-320 watts per panel. A 1kW PV Monocrystalline system in the UK climate generates around 900 kWh/year.
Therefore, our popular 2.1 kW system produces 1,800 kWh annually to use, store or sell the surplus. Geographical variables apply.
"For me, the selling point was a lifelong technological partnership that lasts longer than a mortgage."
The UK has around 50-60% of the sun's radiation on the equator.
Add your annual energy/fuel costs x 30 years (panel lifespan).
Add 3-5% yearly inflation = approx future energy costs.
Now compare this figure to the cost of installing a PV system.
Ideal for people working from home.
How do PV systems work?
Photons of light strike the electrons in the p-n junction and energize them, knocking them free of their atoms.
These electrons are attracted to the positive charge in the n-type silicon and repelled by the negative charge in the p-type silicon. Electrons become aligned into the circuitry creating a current:
What happens to my surplus power?
If it's not fed into battery storage, heating hot water, or EV charging, then, it automatically feeds out to the National Grid, and payment comes via an export tariff.
On-grid or off-grid?
Maximising the output is essential when installing solar panels.
PV export tariffs allow your surplus power to be sold on the open energy market when grid-tied. Off-grid systems are only useful in remote circumstances but are inefficient.
For this reason, for the majority of homes in the United Kingdom, a grid-connected PV system is the best type of system to adopt.
Micro-Inverters or String Inverters?
Both systems have their positives and negatives.
String Inverters are the original and shoebox-sized way of altering the current to a useful Alternating Current. Micro-Inverters are small jewelry box-sized attachments to individual panels on the roof.
Mico-Inverters are more complicated to install and thus typically add about 20% more to the cost of the installation. Thus, the simpler String-Inverter makes PV more affordable and easier to access and maintain.
Micro-Inverters are typically used if shading is an issue, such as a split-roof configuration. They're often sold as giving a small increase in performance, but from a longer-term maintenance point of view, they're difficult and costly to replace if required. Any performance advantage may be negligible.
Unless there is a specific reason for doing so, then I advocate for keeping it simple and installing a traditional String Inverter and thus keeping the original installation cost to a minimum and bringing the paid-for-itself point to sooner rather than later.
Why PV in cooler climates?
Actually, photovoltaics work more efficiently in cooler temperatures.
Degradation of the panels occurs much quicker in hotter climates, just like redlining your car engine will reduce its lifespan and efficiency.
Can PV heat my hot water?
PV-to-hot water converters heat traditional hot water tanks by using daytime solar-generated electricity redirected to the heating coil. This device eliminates the need for your boiler to heat water.
How much roof space?
Although PV arrays take a lot of roof space, most homes in the UK are suitable. Additionally, they can be ground-mounted A-frames if a roof is unsuitable.
What does grid-connected mean?
Any excess electricity produced will be directed out to the National Grid, and you will be credited accordingly (if battery storage is not present).
Any deficit in power generation automatically draws from your electricity supplier as per usual.
Do I need planning permission?
No planning permission is required unless on a listed building/conservation area.
What maintenance is required?
No maintenance is required because PV is a 'solid-state' energy conversion process with no moving parts.
Do solar panels work on cloudy days?
This answer depends on the density of the cloud. In average cloud densities, the sun can penetrate. With very, heavy dark, dense cloud cover, probably not. As an example, use a solar-powered calculator, and it will work fine.
Will the installation process have an impact?
Once the panels are fitted, the internal components don't take up much space inside. The overall installation process is usually completed within 2-3 days.
Our installation partners are polite, clean, and tidy.
How long does PV last?
Photovoltaics installed in the 1960s are still working today. Degradation is minimal consideration when choosing a system. Monocrystalline solar panels still have an 80% generation capacity after 20 years.
What about cleaning?
PV solar panels are coated with a microscopically thin layer of titanium dioxide during manufacturing. When ultraviolet light falls on the glass, the coating reacts with organic matter to break it down.
As NASA's Mars inter-planetary rovers, Spirit, and Opportunity demonstrated perfectly, dirt and dust find it difficult to attach permanently.
With that said, a periodic clean, using de-ionised water, will ensure optimisation.
What are the costs?
The cost of a PV solar system depends on system size and plugin requirements.Get a quote
"The installation was completed in about seven hours with no mess or fuss. The installers were polite and very careful. The completed job was very neat and tidy. Since the installation, the panels have generated far more than we've used. I'm very happy with our new shiny panels and would not hesitate to recommend."
Mrs. Banks, Northwich.