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WHAT IS SOLAR PV?

WHAT IS SOLAR PV?

Learn about Solar PV & Battery storage and explore the pros & cons.

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WHAT IS SOLAR PV?

How does solar power work?

Solar power works by converting energy from the sun into power. There are two forms of energy generated from the sun for our use – electricity and heat. Both are generated through the use of solar panels, which range in size from residential rooftops to ‘solar farms’ stretching over acres of rural land.

 

Solar PV is based on the photovoltaic effect, by which a photon (the basic unit of light) impacts a semi-conductor surface like silicon and generates the release of an electron. Solar thermal is less sophisticated and simply the direct heating of water (or other fluids) by sunlight. For domestic use, solar thermal panels are also installed on a roof facing the sun, heating water stored in a hot water cylinder and so providing hot water and heating. On a larger scale, solar thermal can also be used in power stations.

 

This PV charge creates an electric current (specifically, direct current or DC), which is captured by the wiring in solar panels. This DC electricity is then converted to alternating current (AC) by an inverter. AC is the type of electrical current used when you plug appliances into normal wall sockets.

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KESGRAVE, SUFFOLK

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BROMESWELL , SUFFOLK

Is solar power a clean energy source?

Yes, solar power is a renewable and infinite energy source that creates no harmful greenhouse gas emissions – as long as the sun continues to shine, energy will be released. The carbon footprint of solar panels is already quite small, as they last for over 25 years. Plus, the materials used in the panels are increasingly recycled, so the carbon footprint will continue to shrink.

Can solar power be generated on a cloudy day?

Yes, it can – solar power only requires some level of daylight in order to harness the sun’s energy. That said, the rate at which solar panels generate electricity does vary depending on the amount of direct sunlight and the quality, size, number and location of panels in use.

Solar energy in the UK

The UK's first transmission-connected solar farm was energised in May 2023. This was the first PV solar array to feed electricity directly into the UK’s transmission network, allowing it to be transported over greater distances. Previously, UK solar farms were connected to the country's distribution networks – the lower-voltage regional grids that carry power from the high-voltage transmission network to homes and businesses.

 

Located near Bristol, this solar plant is expected to generate over 73,000 megawatt hours (MWh) annually – enough to power the equivalent of over 17,300 homes – and will displace 20,500 tons of CO2 each year compared to traditional energy production.

 

The UK government’s Powering up Britain report has reaffirmed its ambition for a five-fold increase in deployment of solar generation by 2035, with up to 70 gigawatts (GW) installed – enough to power around 20 million homes.

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ALDEBURGH, SUFFOLK

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What are the Pros and Cons of having a Solar PV and Battery Storage system installed?

Advantages of Solar Energy

The more we can capture the benefits of solar energy, the less we will rely on fossil fuels. Adding a solar energy system to your home allows you to tap into these solar energy advantages:

Solar energy is a renewable energy source and reduces carbon emissions

Solar energy is a renewable energy source, meaning you don’t ever use it up. Solar energy is clean. It creates no carbon emissions or other heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases. It avoids the environmental damage associated with mining or drilling for fossil fuels. Furthermore, solar energy also uses little to no water, unlike power plants that generate electricity using steam turbines.

Solar energy can reduce your home’s electricity bill

A solar energy system for your home can reduce your reliance on the grid and help you save on your electricity bill. Some owners of residential solar energy systems may even have excess power that they can sell to the utility. Instead of paying a utility for electricity, homeowners get paid by the utility.

Homes with solar panels installed may improve home value

Home buyers will likely pay more for a house with solar panels installed. Considering solar energy pros and cons, the savings on electricity bills and the money earned selling power back to the energy provider, all count in the plus column. Residential solar energy systems are highly valued and can increase a home's resale value.  

Solar power can get you money back through SEG (Smart Export Guarantee)

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) makes sure that small-scale low-carbon generators receive payment for any electricity they export to the grid. It requires licensed electricity suppliers to offer export tariffs to anaerobic digestion (AD), hydro, onshore wind, and solar photovoltaic (PV) generators with a total installed capacity up to 5MW, and micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHIP) up to 50kW.

Solar energy can generate electricity in any climate

Solar energy systems can generate electricity in any climate. One of the disadvantages of solar energy is that it’s subject to temporary weather disruption. Cloudy days reduce the amount of electricity you produce. Cold, however, doesn’t affect productivity. Snowfall can actually help your solar system, as the snow cleans the panels as it melts and sun reflected off the snow increases the amount of light hitting your panels. The result is more electricity production.

Tariff options to maximise your investment even further

Companies such as Octopus Energy offer a wide range of tariffs to help you get the most out of the energy you sell back to the grid.

disAdvantages of Solar Energy

The disadvantages of solar energy are becoming fewer as the industry advances and grows, creating economies of scale. Technological advances are helping solar go mainstream. Here are how the disadvantages of solar energy and the pros and cons stack up.

The high initial costs of installing panels

The most commonly discussed solar energy disadvantage, is cost, although the costs are declining as the industry expands. The initial cost to buy and install the equipment is not cheap. Although should be looked at as an investment, that over time should pay for itself (Performance estimate will give greater detail of this)

The high initial costs of installing panels

The most commonly discussed solar energy disadvantage, is cost, although the costs are declining as the industry expands. The initial cost to buy and install the equipment is not cheap. Although should be looked at as an investment, that over time should pay for itself (Performance estimate will give greater detail of this)

Solar doesn’t work for every roof type

Not every roof will work well with solar panels. Orientation matters. If your roof doesn't face the sun, you may not be able to capture enough solar energy. Roofs that angle into the sun tend to work better than flat roofs.

Solar panels are dependent on sunlight

It’s obvious that solar panels need sunlight to generate electricity. They won’t produce electricity at night when you need it for light and they can be inefficient during dark and gloomy days. Your solar energy system needs batteries if you plan to fully depend on solar energy to power your home.

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