By Katie Anderson on July 27th, 2011
Solar photovoltaics – or solar PV for short – is a technology in which an array of cells containing a solar photovoltaic material converts solar radiation into electrical power.
Solar PV systems use energy from the sun to create electricity to operate electrical appliances and lighting. Capable of generating electricity even on cloudy days, solar PV systems require only daylight, and not necessarily sunlight, to operate.
Solar PV systems can be installed on the roof of most homes, as long as they are capable of supporting the equipment. The PV panels are usually attached to pitched or flat roofs, but they can also be fixed vertically onto external walls or even located on the ground. They should work efficiently in most locations as long as no part of the panel is shaded from daylight.
Solar PV panels that are electrically connected together are often referred to as a solar array. Solar PV panels can be grouped together to fit different configurations, for example to follow the shape of a roof or to avoid a roof light.
Due to the fact that they don’t generate greenhouse gases or cause pollution, solar PV systems are environmentally friendly. In fact, when compared to electricity generated from fossil fuels, around 455 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions can be saved for every kilowatt-peak (kWp) of electricity produced.
According to reports, solar PV is the fastest growing renewable energy technology in the world, with the production of solar PV having doubled every two years over the past nine years.
Is solar PV suitable for my home?
- Your roof or wall will need to be south facing for your solar panels to be most effective.
- The area shouldn’t be shaded by trees or other buildings.
- Your roof will need to be secure enough to take the weight of solar PV panels, especially if the solar panels are to be placed on top of existing tiles.
- Solar PV panels require significant roof space. However, if you haven’t got enough space on your roof they can be fitted to an A frame and installed in your garden.
10 Top Facts
1. Solar panels are widely regarded to be one of the greatest innovations of mankind in terms of electric generation.
2. PV solar cells were invented by Bell Telephone researchers in 1954.
3. Over the past 50 years, production of PV panels has increased dramatically and none particularly more so than in the past 5 years.
4. In 2004 alone, worldwide production of solar panels increased by 60%!
5. Solar panels need very little maintenance. You just have to keep them clean from dust for maximum efficiency.
6. Roofs should ideally face south at a pitched angle of 30-40 degrees. Solar panels are not recommended for north facing roofs.
7. Surplus electricity generated can be fed back into the national grid via the Government’s feed-in tariff (Fit) incentive scheme.
8. Crystalline cells are the most commonly manufactured type of solar PV in the UK.
9. Photovoltaic systems have a 25 year life expectancy.
10. PV panels can be used independently of the national grid by using batteries to ensure supply when there is not enough daylight to generate electricity.