All your questions answered here
Solar panels absorb light energy from the sun and convert it into electrical energy that can be used to power household appliances. You might know that plant leaves absorb sunlight and convert it to energy, which the plant uses to grow. You can think of a solar panel like an electrical leaf.
Solar panels are made from silicon – a non-metal material that conducts electricity. It’s the same stuff that’s used to make computer chips. Silicon contains millions of electrons, tiny particles that carry electricity. When silicon absorbs sunlight, the light particles (‘photons’) knock electrons in the silicon loose. The movement of these electrons creates a flow of electricity, which can be taken away by wires to power your building.
Humans have harnessed energy from the sun for almost as long as they have walked the Earth. Thousands of years ago, magnifying glasses were used to focus sunlight and start fires. Roman bathhouses used sunrooms to capture the sun’s heat.
However, the technology behind solar panels was not discovered until 1839. French physicist Edmond Becquerel realised that a metal cell produced more electricity when exposed to light. Almost 50 years later, American inventor Charles Fritz created the first version of what we would now identify as a solar panel. It’s thanks to the combined efforts of many scientists that solar technology has developed from what it was then to what we use today.
In a word, yes! Solar panels do come with an initial installation cost, but you more than make your money back. Overall, per unit of energy, solar power costs 5-8p and grid electricity costs 15-16p (and counting), making solar energy about a third of the price! On top of cheaper energy bills, you can sell any electricity that you don’t use back to the grid and be paid for it.
There are financing options available to help homeowners and businesses cover installation costs too. For example, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) involves a third party paying for and managing the solar panel system, while you still get to enjoy cheaper electricity rates. There are also local council grants to support commercial solar projects.
And that’s all before you’ve even considered the numerous other benefits – a reduced carbon footprint, improved energy security and increased independence to name just a few.
Where to begin?! One of the main benefits our customers report is huge savings on their energy bills. Sunlight is free, so generating your own electricity from solar panels is cheaper than buying it from the grid. What’s more, grid electricity prices are variable and rising by about 6% each year. Solar energy makes budgeting easier with reliably priced energy.
On top of that, unlike fossil fuels, sunlight will never run out. This makes solar energy a fully future-proof resource. Solar panels also give you more control over your own energy generation and storage. They can be integrated with other renewable technology to deliver sleek, smart energy systems. They reduce your carbon footprint and increase your green credentials. They are quick to install, easy to run and completely silent. For homes and businesses, solar panels just make sense.
Solar panels come in a variety of shapes, sizes and power ratings. However, there are two main types – polycrystalline panels (the blue ones) and monocrystalline panels (the black ones). Here at Cactus Energy, we tend to recommend monocrystalline panels because they are more efficient. This means they produce more electricity and so are more cost-effective in the long-run.
However, no two projects are the same, it’s all about what’s right for you. We offer a range installation options. Roof-mounted systems (where solar panels are fixed onto the roof tiles) are very popular. But we also deliver in-roof systems, where the panels replace the tiles, so the whole roof surface is completely smooth. We can even build smart solar car ports!
Solar panels are a clean form of energy generation. This means they do not produce greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) that contribute to climate change. In comparison, most of the UK’s grid electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas in power stations. This process releases harmful emissions. Therefore, by generating your own renewable energy from solar panels you will reduce your carbon footprint and help improve air quality.
A typical residential solar system can save around 1 tonne of carbon dioxide a year. That’s equivalent to planting 1.3 acres of forest (a whole football field of forest). Or burning 514 litres less of petrol (about half a year’s driving). After 25 years of solar generation, you’ve planted a forest the size of 105 Olympic swimming pools!
Despite what a lot of people think, solar panels don’t need bright sunlight, just daylight. This means they can produce electricity on cloudy and even rainy days. They work in the winter too. In fact, as with a lot of electrical appliances, cooler temperatures can help solar panels operate more efficiently.
You don’t need a South-facing roof either. It is true that South-facing roofs receive the most direct sunlight, but East- and West-facing roofs can actually deliver a more even spread of electricity over the course of the day.
Solar panels require minimal maintenance. They don’t need fuel and because they contain no moving parts, there is very little wear and tear. All you need to do is clean them a couple of times a year and make sure they’re not being shaded by any new plants. If you prefer, we can arrange for a company in your area to do this for you.
The solar inverter (the electrical device that directs the electricity from your panels to your property) will need replacing after about 10 years. This is a simple job as inverters are small and easy to access and replace.
Solar panels are very safe. They are weather-proof, not very heavy, and require no fuel or energy to run. Over a million UK homes now have solar technology fitted.
At Cactus Energy, all of our services are delivered according to the highest quality and safety standards. All of our installers are accredited by the national regulatory body for low-carbon technology (the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, MCS) and we offer only the highest performing technology (ISO 9001). In the rare case that your solar panels become damaged, you are covered by our 12-year warranty.
Solar panels can be fitted to most houses and commercial buildings in the UK. We’ve fitted systems on small buildings, old buildings and buildings that don’t face South. There are always options. Local councils are generally supportive of clean energy projects and most solar systems won’t need planning permission. Even the 1000-year-old Gloucester Cathedral now has solar panels!
Installing solar panels is fairly quick and easy. For domestic projects, the installation process usually takes less than a day and for most of that, we’ll be up on the roof so you won’t even notice us
Where do I start?
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