Solar Power – An Introduction

By Chris Bradshaw on June 7th, 2011

Of the energy consumed in the United Kingdom annually 98% is currently supplied by non-renewable sources – coal, oil, natural gas, etc. – but with North Sea oil reserves dwindling and wholesale energy prices increasing almost daily attention has turned, once again, to renewable energy sources.

Solar power – that is power derived from the heat and light energy of the Sun – is an almost infinite source of free energy and has captured the imagination of politicians, environmentalists and consumers alike.

Solar power is typically employed as means of generating clean, emission-free electricity or hot water. The solar photovoltaic cell for example converts the energy from sunlight into electricity and can be incorporated into roof tiles or panels. The level of solar energy at the surface of the Earth equates to just over 1kW (“kilowatt”) per square metre and roughly 20% of this energy can be captured by photovoltaic cells.

It may therefore be possible for your home to become self-sufficient in terms of electricity over the course of a year. Whether all or part of your electricity is generated by solar power it may be possible to reduce your carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 1,000kg or 1 metric tonne.

Solar power is also used as a method of heating domestic hot water indirectly or directly. Also known as solar thermal panels, a solar water heating system involves a water-filled solar collector that is integrated with an existing domestic hot water system. Hot water can be heated by solar power when it is available or by a boiler if insufficient solar energy is available during the autumn or winter for example.

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