Solar panel electricity systems, also known as solar photovoltaic (PV), capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells. These cells don’t need direct sunlight to work – they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run household appliances and lighting.
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 reduced.
- Get paid for the electricity you generate. The UK government’s Feed-in Tariffs pay you for the electricity you generate, even if you use it.
- Sell electricity back to the grid. If your system is producing more electricity than you need, you can sell the surplus back to the grid.
- Cut your carbon footprint. Solar electricity is green renewable energy and doesn’t release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants. A typical home solar PV system could save over a tonne of carbon dioxide per year – that’s more than 30 tonnes over its lifetime.
Cost, savings and maintenance
England and Wales
A 4kWp system can generate around 3,800 kilowatt hours of electricity a year – roughly equivalent to a typical household’s electricity needs. It will save nearly two tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
|System Size||Benefit Per Year||Carbon Dioxide Per Year|
|Registered up until 31st March 2014||4kWp||£785||1.8 tonnes|
|Registered on and from 1st April 2014||4kWp||£770||1.8 tonnes|
If your system is eligible for the Feed-in Tariff scheme it could generate savings and income of around £770 a year if you register before December 2015 (based on a 4kWp solar PV system eligible for a generation tariff of 13.52p/kWh). You will get paid for both the electricity you generate and use, and what you don’t use and export to the grid.
How do solar panels (PV) cells work?
PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity the solar panels can produce, but you’ll still be able to generate on a cloudy day.
The power of a PV cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp). That’s the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer. PV cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on top of an existing roof, but you can also fit solar tiles so it can either be mounted on your roof or on the ground. Here at GE4L we install solar systems mainly in the south east of England which receives more sunlight than the rest of the country, offering the greatest returns.