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Solar Electric Power - Turning Sun Light into Electricity

The process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage) is called the solar photovoltaic (PV) effect. Photovoltaic solar power cells convert sunlight directly into solar power (electricity).

These solar power cells are commonly used to power everything from calculators, watches and battery chargers to road signs and security alarms.

Click here to use our online Solar PV Calculator

PV solar power cells are made of semi-conducting materials similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, solar energy releases energy from their atoms allowing the electrons to flow through the material to produce solar power (electricity).

A Bright Investment - Solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) technology converts daylight directly into electricity. This generated electricity can power your business, home, farm or outbuildings.

PV panels produces clean, emission free energy from a sustainable source, this will reduce your carbon footprint. Each kilowatt hour produced saves around 0.54 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

Solar pv panels are ideal for urban and rural locations, requiring a south or near south facing roof or ground area. They are easily connected to the building’s electricity supply.

Any electricity generated from a domestic system will receive a tax free, feed-in tariff, surplus electricity will be sold back to the National Grid at 4.5p/kWh. Most electricity suppliers assume 50% of electricity generated will be exported. Click to find out more...

A typical domestic system will currently save a homeowner around £900-£1000/year, tax free

The feed-in tariff is guaranteed for 25 years and is linked to inflation so it compares favourably to savings and pension investments

Are Solar PV Panels your answer to sustainable energy and a 10% income?

  • Do you have a south or near south facing roof?
  • Are you looking to reduce your electricity bills?
  • Do you want a tax free income from your PV investment, guaranteed for 25 years and linked to inflation?
  • Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint?
  • Do you want to protect yourself against an unstable energy industry?
  • Contact us for a Quote

Installing Solar PV Panels - For the installation of Solar PV panels, a clear, uninterrupted and unshaded section of roof is required, with south or near south orientation. The roof needs to be large enough to accommodate the Solar PV modules, structurally sound and built using materials that are compatible with a fixing system that is readily available.

Feed-In Tariffs - Direct or diffuse light shining on the Solar PV cells induces the photovoltaic effect, generating direct current (DC) electrical power. This electricity can be converted to alternating current (AC) power for use in the building or it can be exported to a utility company through the national grid connection. Under the UK government Feed in Tariffs scheme (Clean Energy Cashback) qualifying individuals or groups who install Solar PV can benefit from regular payments.

Building Integrated PV - Solar PV cells can be grouped together to form Solar PV panels and used to generate electricity on the various features of a building envelope. Building Integrated PV systems, not only produce electricity to run a building's electrical systems, but also form an integral part of the building envelope. The individual Solar PV cells are connected together and can be framed in panels or laminated onto to glass and other building products.

The Future of Solar PV - As more and more architects and building professionals gain experience in the integration of Solar PV systems into the built environment, this relatively new technology will begin to blend, almost imperceptibly, into the nation's urban and rural landscapes.

Before an investment is made in renewable energy or low carbon energy systems the building owner should make sure the building is as energy efficient as possible, so that the Solar PV energy generated is not wasted.

The building owner should ensure that the building has adequate loft and cavity wall insulation, efficient central heating controls, all old light bulbs have been replaced with low energy lighting and energy saving domestic appliances have been installed.

How Does a Photovoltaic Panel Work?

It may seem like magic, but the ability to harness usable electricity from the sun is actually pretty easy to understand.

A solar cell consist of two plates, one positively charged, and the other negatively charged. The negatively charged plate is composed of Silicon, and another element, commonly Phosphorus. The positively charged plate is composed of Silicon and Boron, and it's the interaction between these to plates that produces energy.

Photons, which arrive from the sun, knock an electron out of the negatively charged plate, which is soon pulled in by the positively charged plate. As electrons are transferred from the negative to positive plates, electricity is generated and extracted from the system.

Solar cells are combined together to create a larger unit, a photovoltaic module which generally uses 36 cells and is what is commonly referred to as a solar panel.

Currently, only 15 to 25 percent of the solar energy that strikes a solar panel can be converted to usable energy. This is mostly due to limitations on which wavelengths of light have the right characteristics to knock the free electron from the negative to positive plate. Improvements are constantly being made to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic panels.

The Benefits of Photovoltaics

Many have seen the potential available in using photovoltaic panels since the 1960s. Unfortunately, the technology and the economics required to make solar energy a viable and reliable source has been a hindrance to solar energy's overall ability to gain a larger share of the energy market, and kept us from fully utilizing the advantages of solar. However, this is now rapidly changing as solar becomes more cost competitive..

There are a variety of reasons to power our homes (and society as a whole) using photovoltaic panels. These include benefits to our environment, our pocketbooks, and our independence.

The benefits to our planet are an obvious, and a frequently touted benefit of solar power. If we could gain the majority of our energy from solar and other renewable sources, we could rid our planet of the vast majority of the many of the greenhouse gases and other pollutants clogging our atmosphere. There are of course some pretty nasty chemicals involved in the creation of photovoltaic panels, as well as in the batteries that store our energy, but the net effect of solar over gas, coal, and other current energy sources is positive.

In the near future, the cost of gaining energy from the sun will fall below traditional power sources, making it not only a better source of energy, but a cheaper source as well. Even at today's prices, the long term expense of solar is far better than other energy sources available to us.

Over the long term, solar energy is an incredibly liberating technology for individuals, freeing ourselves from a monthly bill to the energy company. Once the photovoltaic panels are fully paid for, the energy provided is essentially free, reducing our monthly expenses, and helping us to become more fully independent.

Photovoltaic panels are no longer just for individuals on the fringe – they make a lot of sense to anyone who wants to reduce their expenses, increase their independence, and do something positive for the environment.

Solar Energy Storage Options

Gaining energy from the sun is great, but that is only half the problem – we also need to store the energy collected for use at a later time. There are several approaches to storing the energy produced from an array of solar panels; battery storage, and grid storage.

Batteries are used to hold the energy created, but add significant cost to the system as well as chemicals that can be dangerous if not handled properly. The most common batteries are lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries. Nickel-Cadmium batteries cost more, but have a longer life. Because over-charging the batteries or completely draining them will severely limit their lifespan, charge controllers are needed to control the flow of energy into and out of the batteries.

An inverter is also needed which converts the DC current which is produced by the solar panel into AC current, which can then be used by household appliances. Some PV modules now can also have AC inverters built in, reducing the need for an external inverter.

An alternative to storing the electricity in batteries is to sell unused energy from the photovoltaics to the public electricity grid, and then buying electricity back when the solar panels aren't producing energy of their own.