Using solar panels for energy is becoming very popular in the UK as this can be a cost-effective way to take advantage of a free and renewable energy resource. The energy produced by the sun can be converted via photovoltaic panels to produce electricity which can be used in the home. These photovoltaic panels can be put together forming an array which are connected together to form a solar system. Solar panels are made of semiconductors like silicone which convert sunlight into useful electricity. Although solar panels are becoming more popular in the UK, less than 5% of the electricity generated in the UK today comes from solar power.
In addition to being very environmentally friendly, solar power can also offer significant fuel savings with very few disadvantages. The long-term benefits of solar power, both financial and environmental, greatly outweigh any disadvantages. In addition to photovoltaic panels, another option is to use thermodynamic solar panels which in the UK can supply 90% of domestic hot water needs. The biggest direct advantage of solar panels are of course reduced energy bills. Solar panels can protect you against the rising cost of utility bills by reducing them significantly. While energy bills continue to rise seemingly every year, the energy generated from solar panels is free!
Although the fuel savings are considerable, there are additional financial benefits in the form of UK government incentives which can be even more significant. Government feed in tariffs offer payment for electricity produced by solar panels. These government payments are tax-free and index linked for 20 years! If your solar installation manages to produce more energy than you need then you can also sell surplus electricity back to the great giving you a potential income for the next 20 years. Of course, it's not all about money! Installing solar power will reduce your carbon footprint as it is completely green renewable energy source.
Unlike traditional electricity generation, solar power does not release carbon dioxide or other harmful gases into the atmosphere. Although solar panels produce more electricity during the summer months, they still produce useful amounts of electricity during the winter and even on cloudy days. Once solar panels have been installed there is little to no maintenance required with the exception of perhaps giving them a clean every year or so. If you are considering solar power for a new build property then this offers the potential of off-grid living which can be considerably attractive, especially in more remote areas.
The only real disadvantage with solar power is that the costs can be high initially. Even though the cost has been reducing in recent years and are expected to continue to decrease in the near future, the initial installation is still quite expensive. Another possible disadvantage is that some homes may be in locations where there is little direct sunlight, for example if you are surrendered by tall buildings or trees, solar panel is not always the best option. Before you decide on a solar panel installation need to check if planning permission is required and also you need to ensure that your property is already as energy-efficient as it can reasonably be. Fitting solar panels to a home that is draughty, does not have double glazing, or has inadequate loft insulation, does not make financial sense.
The typical cost of a photovoltaic solar panel installation is currently around £7500. Installing thermodynamic solar panels to provide hot water is a bit cheaper with a typical cost of around £4000. But these are just guide prices of course, the actual cost of a solar installation can vary greatly due to a number of different factors including location, the existing roof, specification in terms of the amount of electricity generation required, and any subsidies or incentives that may be available. But don't let these high initial costs put you off, the savings in energy bills plus the government incentives mean that the payback on your investments will be fairly quick and after the 20 year government guaranteed period solar panel installation will more than pay for itself!