A solar electricity system consists of:
• photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity;
• an inverter (two examples shown above – one in a small loft and one in a boiler room), which convert direct current (DC) from the panels into alternating current (AC) to match that from the grid; and
• a generation meter (examples shown above) and the cables and fixings that connect it all together.
Installing you own solar electricity system can be a good investment, especially if you plan to stay in your home for longer then the payback period; but, even if you move, the on-going income earned from solar panels should add to the sale value of your home.
See the installers page for a list of local companies supplying and fitting solar electricity systems, who will be able to provide advice, assistance and quotations for costs.
This website provides impartial guidance and links to click (shown by underlining) for further topics and information that you may find helpful.
In most cases, little is required for planning permission, insurance and maintenance, but you should be aware of what can be needed.
You will wish to know about the costs and benefits of a solar installation on your property, including how solar generation varies with orientation and shading, and the incentives for renewable generation available from the Feed-in Tariff.
YouGen have published a guide to different fixing systems to show how panels are attached to a roof.
You should consider the appearance of solar panels on your roof and what can be done to ensure they have a positive visual impact. Although panels are similar in size, it can be worthwhile to check the dimensions of different panels offered and how well these fit your roof. You should also consider whether panels with black or silver frames would look best.
See this presentation for thoughts on the appearance of solar panels, intended to apply to conservation areas but which are relevant to all settings. You might even wish to consider a choice of colours now available for solar panels, although these add to costs. For inspiration on what can be achieved, especially for new builds and for those with extra funds to spare, see the Solar Trade Association’s beautiful booklet on stunning solar.
Getting the most out of your system and storing solar power
The Energy Saving Trust provide good advice on getting the most out of the electricity generated from solar power. This includes improving your home’s energy efficiency (so solar meets more of your needs), using appliances while generating solar electricity, and using excess solar generation (which would otherwise go to the grid) for heating, hot water or storage in batteries.
One product fitted by some local people and found effective is the Solar iBoost, which provides a control to use solar electricity to heat water in your immersion heater. You can ask your installer about this and similar products. Also see comments from the Centre for Alternative Technology on using solar PV panels to heat water.
Although, it seems a good idea and more storage is needed for renewable power, there are also questions raised about the efficiency of home battery storage and whether this is a good option – see:
• Centre for Alternative Technology – Can I store electricity from my solar PV roof?
• Solar – Grid-Tie or Off-Grid?
But the costs of battery storage has been steadily falling and, as more renewable power is generated (especially from solar PV), there is a growing need to store it until it’s needed.
For further debate and information in favour and against storage see:
• YouGen – How can I store my solar generated electricity?
• YouGen – New lithium battery technology
• YouGen – Could new batteries take you off grid?
When next buying a car, you may wish to consider buying an electric car, which would also provide a good battery to store and use more of your solar electricity, but only if you are able to charge it during the day. See a report on how people in Wivey have found their electric cars at: Wivey cars go electric.