As part of Wandsworth Council’s ongoing initiatives to tackle climate change in the borough, the council is encouraging residents to consider switching their energy source to solar.
Here are eight things to consider when thinking about making the switch to solar energy:
1. Solar energy is completely free and renewable
Once the initial solar panel costs are covered, the energy the solar panels produce is completely free. Additionally, you will reduce your carbon footprint by using solar energy, since it is a renewable energy source and emits zero carbon.Try the Energy Saving Trust’s PV Calculator
to see how much you could save each year by installing solar panels.
2. The initial cost
The initial cost of installing solar panels varies from home to home depending on how many solar panels are required. One of the most common domestic sizes is a 4kW solar panel system, which costs around £6,000 and will cover around 29 square metres of your roof. While the initial cost is expensive, the payback period is quite short due to the savings on electricity bills and the government aids. Additionally, homes equipped with solar panels can sell faster and at a higher price than those without.
Apart from cleaning the panels a couple of times per year and occasionally replacing parts such as the cables or inverter, solar panels are very easy to maintain and require little ongoing maintenance. Weather can sometimes cause wear and tear but the flat, still surfaces mean that this is usually minimal. They also tend to last 25 to 30 years before they must be replaced, although many solar panel suppliers will provide annual service checks for peace of mind.
4. Solar panels do not need direct sunlight to work
Even though maximum efficiency is reached when the sun is shining, electricity is still produced on cloudy days and during winter, an important factor if you live in England. On the other hand, no electricity can be produced at night, but a storage system can solve this problem. The solar battery storage system cost can be paid off by selling excess energy to national grid and by the benefit of making you 100% energy independent. You should still consider that solar panels produce free electricity during the day, which is when it is more expensive and hence more valuable.
5. The concept of harnessing energy from the sun is not new
The first to predict it might become a reality was Leonardo da Vinci, in the 15th century. The first solar cell was developed in the 19th century, but its solar efficiency was only 1%. The efficiency of modern solar panels now sits anywhere between 15% - 22%.
6. There are two types of solar panels
Photovoltaic (solar PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, while solar thermal panels heat water by absorbing the sun’s warmth, and can be used to heat homes or swimming pools.
7. Potential issues
Since we are not blessed with a particularly sunny climate in the UK, solar panels are somewhat restricted to the amount of power they can generate. Although solar panels can still function on overcast and rainy days, their efficiency drops greatly during these times. Once the sun has set, they also cease to function and since electricity is expensive and difficult to store, backup sources of electricity are needed during the night.
You will not need to apply for a planning permission to install solar panels domestically, as long as your installation does not protrude more than 200mm. You will therefore need permission if your system is too large, or for other reasons such as placement within protected sites.