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Solar Photovoltaic - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Solar PV?

Solar Photovoltaics, or Solar PV for short, is a technology in which daylight is converted into electrical power. Power from the sun is used to create electricity that will operate electrical appliances and lighting.

A Solar PV Panel is an integrated assembly of Solar PV cells. Each Solar PV cell is made from one or two layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on a Solar PV cell an electric field is created across the layers. The stronger the sunlight the more electricity is produced.

Solar PV requires only daylight, not necessarily sunlight, and is therefore capable of generating electricity on cloudy days. Solar PV works equally well in urban or rural locations. It can be installed on the roof of most homes that can support the equipment and can be easily connected to a building’s electricity supply.

What is Thin Film Solar PV?

To produce thin film Solar PV, Photo active semiconductors are applied as thin layers, usually to a glass substrate (backing). The methods used include vapour deposition, sputter processes and electrolytic baths. Amorphous silicon, copper indium diselenide (CIS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe) can all be used as semiconductor materials.

Thin film Solar PV technologies reduce the amount of material required in creating a solar cell. Although this reduces material cost, it can also reduce electric energy conversion efficiency. Thin film silicon cells have become popular due to cost, flexibility, lighter weight and ease of integration.

An interesting aspect of Solar PV thin film is the ability to deposit the cells on a variety of building materials, including flexible materials like waterproof roof covering membranes.

What is Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)?

Building Integrated Photovoltaics employs Solar PV panels to replace conventional building materials in the roofs, walls and sun shading of buildings. The practice of integrating Solar PV modules is increasing in popularity as the technology improves and costs reduce.

The main advantage of Building Integrated PV, over more traditional building methods, is that some of the construction costs can be offset by reducing the amount spent on the construction materials that the Solar PV modules replace.

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) is playing an increasing role in generating the form and affecting the appearance and construction of new buildings.

What are Feed in Tariffs?

Feed in Tariffs is a UK government sponsored incentive scheme designed to encourage the introduction of renewable energy sources. This 'clean energy cashback' will allow many people to invest in small scale low carbon technology, in return for a guaranteed payment for the electricity they generate.

Under the Feed in Tariffs scheme, an obligation is imposed on regional or national electricity utility companies to buy renewable energy electricity from homes and businesses that generate their own electricity. It is hoped to encourage deployment of additional low carbon electricity generation, particularly by organisations, businesses, communities and individuals who are not traditionally engaged in the electricity market.

The renewable energy technologies eligible for the grants are:

Solar PV Electricity (Roof Mounted or Stand-Alone)
Wind Turbines (building mounted or free standing)
Hydro Electricity
Anaerobic Digestion
Micro Combined Heat and Power (micro CHP) (limited to a pilot at this stage)

Power generated will be used by the host property thereby reducing the electricity bills. If more power is generated, the surplus will be exported to the National Grid and the electricity supplier will be paid for the excess.

How long will the installation take?

This depends on the size of the system and the weather, but installation usually takes between 1-5 days.

Is my roof suitable?

PV systems will work on most roofs but they are most effective if the roof space has a 40 degree pitch, isn’t overshadowed and is south facing.

How long will the system last?

The Feed-in Tariff is valid for 20 years and the panels themselves are manufactured to perform well beyond this time frame – see below for more details.

Do I need planning permission to install PV panels?

Planning permission is usually not required. However, if your property is listed or in a conservation area, you will need to seek permission. We always recommend that you check with your local authority prior to installing the panels. We can help and advise on this.


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