During the last decade, solar panels have become a more common sight on property roofs. There is wide concern about the finite amount of fossil fuels available in the world so it is vital that we turn to renewable sources for our energy.
In May 2017, a new solar power record was set in the UK as the temperatures rose and we experienced clear and sunny weather. The National Grid said that 8.7 gigawatts had been generated at lunchtime which represented 24.3% of total generation across the UK. In addition to this, in April Britain went a full day without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since the 1880s.
The sun has been producing energy for billions of years and without it life forms and probably Earth itself wouldn’t survive. The sun is renewable, doesn’t drain any finite resources and is free.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells (PV cells). These are made up of layers of semi-conducting material such as silicon. An electric field is created across the
layers as light shines onto the cell. This electricity can even be generated on a cloudy day but the stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced.
The cells are put together to make tiles or panels. Tiles can be used instead of normal roof tiles whereas panels are fitted onto the existing roof or mounted in a large scale in fields in the case of solar farms. Once the electricity has been generated, it can be used in the home and any excess can be sold back to the grid. Panels can last up to 35 years.
- Reduced energy costs – once you’ve paid for the initial installation there will be minimal costs as sunlight is free. There are no moving parts so there will be very little wear and tear.
- Money back – the UK government has a Feed-in Tariff scheme which could pay you for any electricity you generate, even the electricity that you use. In addition to this, any electricity that you don’t use can be sold back to the National Grid.
- Safety – solar energy is one of the safest sources for the generation of power. There is no danger from leakage of toxins or fumes, explosion or fire.
- Maintenance – solar panels are very easy to maintain, you just need to keep them clear of debris and keep an eye on nearby trees so they don’t overshadow them. Panels fitted in the UK that are tilted 15 degrees or more are often cleaned by rainfall. If you have ground mounted panels, they may need clearing from time to time.
- Reduce your carbon footprint – solar electricity is renewable and doesn’t release any harmful emissions or CO2 to affect the atmosphere.
- Accessible – all areas of the Earth have access to the sun but the same can’t be said for access to an energy grid. This means that solar energy is a fantastic choice for remote areas that would struggle to access electricity otherwise.
The only major disadvantage is that the amount of electricity generated changes with the weather, location and time of day. You can’t generate solar power during the night for example and cloudy weather can reduce it.