Domestic Solar Solutions

    Environmental Energies

    Solar Photovoltaics Or PV Systems Convert Light Into Electricity.

    The science in brief: solar panels work by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. The PV panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells which are made from either thin layers of silicon or other semiconducting material. These cells don’t need direct sunlight to work, they will still generate some electricity on a cloudy day, however the stronger the sunlight the more energy produced.

    PV is safe, reliable, low-maintenance, and provides green energy without on-site pollution or emissions

    You can choose from 3 types of solar panels:

    • Polycrystalline
    • Monocrystalline
    • Amorphous.

    Polycrystalline panels are accessible and cost-effective and are recognisable by their blue colour. Monocrystalline panels are black and blend into your roof effectively. They are used primarily in conservation areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Amorphous panels are known as thin film panels. They are lightweight, flexible and make an excellent choice for fragile roof structures. They work well at low light levels and perform even at much lower temperatures than the traditional panels.

    Your PV system will also require an inverter/inverters to change the current from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC) to enable you to use power in your business or home.

    Types of Inverter

    solar inverter or PV inverter, is a type of electrical converter which converts the variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PVsolar panel into an alternating current (AC) that can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by a local, off-grid electrical network.

    There are two types of inverter:

    • Standard/String inverters
    • Micro-inverters

    A standard/string inverter will cap the electricity production of each panel by the lowest producing panel in the string. A micro-inverter will take full advantage of the production of each individual panel.

    Typically a domestic installation will only have one standard/string inverter, the advantages of this are that if anything goes wrong with a PV system it is most likely to be the inverter. This type of inverter is usually easily accessible, located close to the fuse board.

    Micro inverters are located underneath each panel on the roof, so are less easily accessible for maintenance and of course there will be more of them. The main advantage in using micro-inverters is that they can yield more solar generation in situations when shading is an issue.

    If the site is shaded then micro-inverters are the way to go, however if there are no shading issues then the relative cost will mean that a standard/string inverter is the most logical and cost effective option.

    A third option is to use Optimisers. These are used in conjunction with a standard inverter and function very similarly to a micro-inverters. An optimiser is installed on roof with each panel combating production differences. Other considerations are the warranties, micro-inverters typically have 25 year warranties while a standard inverters typically have 5 or 10 year warranties. Micro-inverters and the add-on optimisers also both offer the ability to track the production of each individual panel, while with a standard inverter you only can track the production of the whole system.

    The benefits of Solar PV

    • Reduce your electricity bills. Make the most of free Sunlight to reduce your electricity costs.
    • Future proof against energy price rises. Energy prices are only going to increase, so being able to generate some of your households energy needs will help to reduce your reliance on grid energy.
    • Cut your carbon footprint. Produce your own green renewable energy and as solar PV doesn’t release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants you will be reducing your carbon footprint. A typical 3.68kWp home solar PV system could potentially save approximately 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year (depending where you are within the UK).

    Maximise the benefits To maximise the benefits of your PV installation you may need to adjust the way you use your power. Ideally use power during the day, set washing machines and dishwashers to run consecutively during the day and recharge battery powered appliances through the day when there is good daylight. You could also install an immersion controller, so that unused generation during the day will redirect to heat your hot water. Alternatively look at whether a battery storage system would be beneficial, to store excess solar energy for use during the evenings for lighting for example.

    Planning Permission You don’t normally require planning permission for domestic solar PV installation, as in England and Wales, the Government’s planning portal says that panels are likely to be considered as “permitted development”. Exceptions to this are when you live in a conservation area or in a listed building, in which case you should contact your local planning authority for advice.

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