What equipment is installed for a typical Solar PV System?
A PV system is made up of different components. These include:
- PV modules (groups of PV cells), which are commonly called PV panels
- an inverter for converting alternating current (ac) rather than direct current (dc) is required
- wiring and isolator switches and
- mounting hardware or a framework
How do solar PV panels work?
The current generation of PV solar panels are made from layers of silicon which have been coated with small quantities of different chemicals. The coating materials are chosen to give the resulting solar cell a very specific property: they allow sunlight to ‘knock’ electrons free and generate an electrical direct current (DC). All current cells rely on doped silicone, but they are manufactured in a variety of ways to give monocrystalline, polycrystalline or hybrid (thin film over monocrystalline) panels. The first two varieties offer the best value for money, but hybrid offers the greatest energy generating density. All Solar PV cells rely on light from the sun, not on heat. PV cells can therefore work in the winter and on overcast days and are limited primarily by the hours of daylight and the angle of the sun in the sky.
Do I need planning permission?
Generally planning permission is not required, it is only required if the building is listed or if it is located in a National Park. In the case of AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) solar panels are allowed to be fitted to the main property but not to out buildings. In conservation areas solar panels are permitted under Class C of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. The GPDO is the part of the law that allows solar panels to be let into the roofs of dwelling houses (i.e. houses not divided into flats), provided the panels or arrays do not project significantly above the roof plane. For detailed planning advise visit the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website
Will Solar PV panels work in the winter and on cloudy days?
Yes – Solar panels generate electricity even on cloudy or dull days. Solar panel suppliers have enhanced the efficiency of solar power systems to the extent that it is now a very viable option even in cloudier climates. The important thing to bear in mind is that solar power depends on intensity of light, not necessarily direct sunlight. So even when it’s overcast, your solar panels will be producing clean electricity to help power your home.
Is my home suitable for a solar PV Installation?
Nearly all homes have a roof that faces a suitable direction. Ideally south facing roofs are the best but systems can be fitted on an east or west facing roof. If there are no suitable roofs a system can be fitted on a floor standing “A” frame for example in a garden or hard standing area.
How and when do I get paid the feed-in tariff?
Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) became available in Great Britain on 1st April 2010. And isn’t available in Northern Ireland – although this is under review. Under this scheme energy suppliers have to (compulsory for big six suppliers) make regular payments to householders and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources such as solar electricity panels(PV) or wind turbines. For further details on the Feed-in Tariff visit the Energy Savings Trust website.
What’s the difference between PV and other solar energy technologies?
There are four main types of solar energy technologies:
- Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert sunlight directly to electricity by means of PV cells made of semiconductor materials.
- Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, which concentrate the sun’s energy using reflective devices such as troughs or mirror panels to produce heat that is then used to generate electricity.
- Solar water heating systems, which contain a solar collector that faces the sun and either heats water directly or heats a working fluid that, in turn, is used to heat water.
- Transpired solar collectors, or solar walls, which use solar energy to preheat ventilation air for a building.
How long does it take to complete the installation?
Solar PV Panels are relatively straightforward to install – usually no more than a couple of days with a good solar panel installer – with virtually no disruption to the householder. All Solar Roof Installations accreditations are signed off according to Part P Electrical Regulations and therefore do NOT require building control consent.
What happens if more electricity is generated than I use?
Whenever your panels are producing more electricity than your home is using, it will flow back into the grid for other homes to use. As long as you have an arrangement with your energy company, you’ll be paid for this power so you can be sure your energy bills will be even less and none of your clean, green electricity will be wasted.