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SOLAR ELECTRIC PANELS PV - PHOTOVOLTAIC
Generate cheap, green electricity from sunlight
Solar panel electricity systems, also known as solar photovoltaics (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.
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 is produced. Groups of cells are mounted together in panels or modules that can be mounted on your roof. 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.
Solar Tiles and Slates
Solar tiles are designed to be used in place of ordinary roof tiles. A system made up of solar tiles will typically cost around twice as much as an equivalent panel system, although you will save the money you would have spent on roof tiles or slates. Solar tile systems are not normally as cost-effective as panel systems, and are usually only considered where panels are not considered appropriate for aesthetic or planning reasons.
The average domestic solar PV system is 3.5 to 4kWp and costs around £7,000 (including VAT at 5%), with the typical cost ranging from £5,500 to £9,500.
Other factors that affect PV installation costs are:
A 3.5kWp system can generate around 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year – about three quarters of a typical household's electricity needs. It will save over a tonne of carbon dioxide every year.
If your system is eligible for the Feed-In Tariff scheme it could generate savings and income of around £645 a year (based on a 3.5kWp solar PV system eligible for a generation tariff of 15.44p/kWh). You will get paid for both the electricity you generate and use, and what you don't use and export to the grid.Please note that the Feed-in Tariff scheme is not available in Northern Ireland.
Solar PV needs little maintenance – you'll just need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don't begin to overshadow them. In the UK panels that are tilted at 15° or more have the additional benefit of being cleaned by rainfall to ensure optimal performance. Debris is more likely to accumulate if you have ground mounted panels.
The panels should last 25 years or more, but the inverter is likely to need replacing some time during this period, at a current cost of around £1,000. Consult with your installer for exact maintenance requirements before you commit to installing a solar PV system.
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Information supplied by "Energy Saving Trust"