Generate cheap, green electricity from sunlight and take advantage of FIT’s
Solar electricity systems capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic (PV) cells. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to electrical appliances and lighting etc in your home. PV cells don’t need bright sun to work, you can still generate electricity on a cloudy day.
Make money from FIT’s
Solar photovoltaic panels now represent an excellent investment since the advent of the FIT’s (Feed-In Tariff). Download a guide to FIT’s here
The benefits of solar electricity
- Cut your electricity bills: sunlight is free, so once you’ve paid for the initial installation your electricity costs will be greatly reduced. A typical home PV system can produce around 50% of the electricity a household uses in a year.
- Cut your carbon footprint: solar electricity is doesn’t release any harmful CO2 or other pollutants. A typical home PV system could save around 1200 kg of carbon dioxide per year - that’s around 30 tonnes over its lifetime.
- Sell electricity back to the Grid: if your system is producing more electricity than you need, or when you can’t use it, you could sell it back to the grid.
- Store electricity for a cloudy day: if your home isn’t connected to the national grid you can store excess electricity in batteries to use when you need it.
How do photovoltaic (PV) cells work?
PV cells are panels you can attach to your roof or walls. Each cell is made from one or two layers of semiconducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced.
Panels can be supplied in various forms, from integrated “solar tiles” that look like roof tiles, to panels that attatch to your roof.
The strength of a PV cell is measured in kilowatt peak (kWp) - that’s the amount of energy the cell generates in full sunlight.
Is solar PV suitable for my home?
Solar panels are not light and your roof must be strong enough.
To tell if solar PV is right for you, there are a few key questions to consider:
- Do you have a sunny place to put it? You’ll need a roof or wall that faces within 90 degrees of south, and isn’t overshadowed by e.g. trees or buildings. If the surface is in shadow for parts of the day, your system will generate less energy.
- Is your roof strong enough? Solar panels are not light and the roof must be strong enough to take their weight, especially if the panel is placed on top of existing tiles. If in doubt, we can assess this for you.
- Do you need planning permission? In England and Scotland, you don’t need planning permission for most home solar PV systems as long as they’re below a certain size. However, you should check with your local planning officer if your home is a listed building, or is in a conservation area or World Heritage Site.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to get planning permission before installing a solar electricity system - though the legislation may soon change. To find out how to apply for permission, contact you local authority.
Making the most of solar electricity
To make electricity you produce go further:
- invest in energy efficient appliances. Find energy saving products
- use the most energy when the system is at it’s most efficient i.e. when sun is out - e.g. do your washing during the day to take advantage of the free electricity
Cost, savings and maintenance
Costs for installing a solar electricity system vary a lot - an average system costs between £6,500 and £12,000, depending on its size and type.
- the more electricity the system can generate, the more it costs but the more it could save
- solar tiles are more expensive than conventional panels
- panels built into a roof are more expensive than those that sit on top but, if you need major roof repairs, PV tiles can offset the cost of roof tiles
A 2 kWp system could provide around 40% of a household’s annual electricity requirements.
Maintenance costs are very low, there are no annual servicing and maintenance costs. You just need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure when surrounding trees grow that they don’t begin to overshadow them.
Selling your own electricity
You can make money on the excess electricity you produce by selling it back to the Grid.