Solar PV

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generate electricity from the sun’s energy using PV cells. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity for use in appliances and lighting. The solar PV panels are usually connected to the national grid, so that the energy you don’t use can be sold to the grid for use elsewhere. This payment to you is part of a government scheme called the Feed-In Tariff.

How it works

Solar PV systems convert the energy in sunlight directly into electricity. In less windy areas, PV is often your only option to generate renewable electrical energy. PV can be the most costly renewable energy option. However, prices are coming down, and its simplicity and compact size make it an attractive option if price isn’t your key consideration.

In addition to your rooftop PV panels, you’ll need space for a small inverter unit. This converts the DC electricity from the PV to your domestic AC supply.

Various types of PV modules are available. Most are made from very pure crystalline silicon. These convert 12% to 15% of incident sunlight into electricity.

Are you in the process of building your property? If so, consider using PV in place of part of your roofing or wall materials to reduce cost.

What’s your budget?

A solar photovoltaics system typically costs £5,000 upwards depending on size.

What you need

For solar PV to work effectively, it should be on an unshaded roof that faces somewhere between South East and South West, with South being most preferable. However, if it does not fit these conditions it is possible to install on another property’s roof that is suitable but which the property’s owner cannot afford. This would mean that you can take the rewards of the Feed-In Tariff while the property that the roof is installed on receives the free energy. You would continue receiving the benefits of the Feed-In Tariff for 25 years, even if the property changed owner. Of course the property’s original would have to agree to the installation – ask your friends and family!

You will need approximately 8m2 of panel per kWp. Most domestic systems are 1.5kwp – 5kwp systems.

The roof where you are planning to install solar PV should be strong enough to take the weight of the solar panels.

What you can expect to earn

An average system of 2.2kW is likely to generate around 40% of your household’s annual electricity demand. On top of this, the Feed-In Tariff could generate around £450 a year. You can also expect to save around 1 tonne of CO2 every year. In general, you should expect an 5% rate of return each year.