Answers to Photovoltaic FAQs
1: Is my roof suitable?
A sloping roof is suitable if it is between west facing and east facing, the most effective direction would be south facing, with little or no shading. The roof should be checked to make sure it is strong enough to take solar panels.
A flat roof could be suitable as long as it has little or no shading and the solar panel frames can be fixed to the roof.
2: Do I need planning permission?
Recent changes in planning mean that most solar panel installations are allowed under permitted development as long as they do not more project more than 200mm above the surface.
Flat roofs or houses, non residential, conservation area, world heritage or listed building could require planning permission.
3: Is there enough sun in the UK for solar energy?
The UK is not renowned for continuous sunshine - but there is plenty of sunlight in the day to make solar power a viable option. Germany has a similar climate to ours and produces a 3rd of the worlds solar power.
Because solar panels are powered by light and not heat or even direct sunlight, even when the skies are cloudy there will more than enough energy produced.
4: How well do solar panels work in the UK?
Even though the UK has a reputation for being dull and cloudy , we still receive the same amount of sunlight ( solar radiation) as parts of France and Spain , and we even receive 60% of the solar radiation found at the equator.
5: What is the feed in tariff scheme?
The feed in tariff scheme is a guaranteed payment by the government for every unit of electricity produced from your PV solar panel installation.
At present the payments are 21 pence per kWh (kilo watt hour) for a system less than 4kW, below is a table showing different rates for different size systems and circumstances.
System type System size Tariff per Kwh generated ('locked' in for 25 years)
New build <4kWp 21.0p
Retrofit <4kWp 21.0p
New build or retrofit 4-10kWp 16.8p
New build or retrofit 10-50kWp 15.2p
New build or retrofit 50kWp-150kWp 12.9p
New build or retrofit 150kWp-250kWp 12.9p
New build or retrofit >250kWp 8.5p
Standalone - 8.5p
The payments are guaranteed for twenty five years, are index linked to inflation and are tax free, so if you earn under £40,000 per year you pay no tax on any income produced.
6: What sort of payback time and financial return can I expect?
The feed in tariff is not only environmentally friendly but also a but also financially viable, an average domestic system should take between 8-12 years to pay for itself, with an estimated life of around 25 years.
If a 4kw system cost £11,000 and the annual income / savings in the first year would be about £1150, meaning the system would be paid off in about 9.5 years and the further 17,500 would be profit.
7: How much space will I need for solar panels?
A typical PV system will use up 8 square mtrs of roof space per kWh, so a 4kW system would need a roof area of approx 4 mtrs x 8 mtrs.
8: What requirements are necessary for a company installing solar panels to receive the feed in tariffs?
Any company installing solar PV for the customer to receive the feed in tariffs must be MCS (micro generation scheme) registered, this is given by an independent body such as corgi after the company has met certain requirements.
The installation company must also use equipment registered under the MCS scheme.
9: How long will the installation take?
The installation usually takes about 2-3 days.
10: Will there be a lot of disruption?
There is bound to be some disruption, but most of the work takes place outside, and the electrical work inside usually takes about a day.
11: Will scaffolding be required?
For most installations scaffolding will be required, as this is necessary for the safety and practical help for the workmen on site and also to comply with health and safety regulations.
12: What happens if I move?
It is well recognised that purchasing a property with a solar PV system is a real benefit, as it escapes the potential for future energy costs and will earn the new occupants an annual income.
It is estimated the value of a house with a PV system could increase the value of a property by around 5%.
13: How long will solar panels last?
Solar PV systems are designed to last 25years, note the tariff is only guaranteed for 25years and the panels are guaranteed an efficiency of 80% for that period.
The system will probably last longer than that with regular 5 yearly servicing and the converters come with a 10year life.
14: Does a PV system require any maintenance?
A PV system requires very little maintenance as the glass is self cleaning with aid of sun and rain, however a 5 year inspection would be wise.
15: Are there any guarantees?
Most MSC registered panels come with a 5 year defects guarantee and a 25 year performance guarantee, and most installation companies give a 10 year guarantee on the installation.
16: How do photovoltaic panels work?
Each solar module/panel is made up of solar cells which are composed of semi-conducting materials. Each PV cell conducts energy from the absorption of daylight causing a flow of electrons which in turns produces electricity on demand. Only a small amount of electricity is produced from a single cell so many cells are connected to form a solar panel. Multiple panels are then joined together to produce what is known as a PV array.
PV arrays are then rated in peak watts (Wp) which is identified by the amount of energy a particular array of panels can produce in perfect conditions. For example a 1kWp system would produce an estimated 1kW of electricity at midday when the sun is at its highest point and not obstructed by clouds.
A PV array will supply electricity via an inverter which converts DC electricity to AC electricity (the same as what we are supplied through the grid). The inverter will be connected at the mains fuse box and the whole system will be grid linked by Solar Power Intl. so that any excess electricity can be exported to the national grid.
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