Widespread in the UK and other regions of the world, solar panels or photovoltaic systems efficiently use solar energy to generate electricity. A solar panel is a whole array of semiconductors utilising UV rays and processes to produce useful electric voltage for daily tasks.
Due to their usefulness, around 12,000 solar panels are installed every month throughout the country. Let’s learn in detail about solar panels, how they work, how they are effective in certain ways, and why you should consider installing them:
How Does a Solar Panel Work?
A solar panel, specifically a Photovoltaic (PV) system, is widely used for converting sunlight into useful electric potential. This process is enabled by solar cells made from semiconductors. Here’s how a solar panel works:
Sunlight Absorption: Solar cells within the PV system are composed of semiconductor materials, most commonly silicon. Once sunlight reaches the surface of the panel, the electrons present in the semiconductor material get excited. This light absorption provokes electrons to overcome the binding energy that holds them at their normal position, and ultimately, they break the energy barrier to become free electrons.
Generation of Electric Current: The freed electrons result in charge imbalances within the atomic cloud, generating a potential difference across the cell. This generates an electric field in the solar cell.
Electron Movement: The electric field forces the excited electrons to move in a specific direction, from one side of the cell to the other. The cell has electrical conductors attached to its positive and negative terminals. These conductors create an electrical circuit through which the electrons flow.
Electricity Production: As the electrons move through the circuit, they generate an electric current, essentially the flow of electric charge. This electric current is effective in powering electrical devices or fed into a larger electrical grid.
Types of Solar Panels
Based on their composition and method of manufacturing, solar panels have the following three types:
Monocrystalline Solar Panels: These solar panels have the maximum work efficiency among all other types of solar panels, with work efficiency values ranging from 15-20%. These solar panels get their name “mono” as they comprise one piece of silicon. As they are made of one piece of silicon, they allow electrons to move freely, resulting in better efficiency. Due to careful manufacturing and better efficiency, these panels are the most expensive.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Unlike monocrystalline solar panels, these solar panels are manufactured by melting several crystals to form a single panel. These solar panels have limited space for electron movement; thus, they are less energy-efficient.
Thin-Film Solar Panels: These solar panels have the lowest prices. Thin-film solar panels are manufactured by placing multiple films, one or different types of PV materials onto a substrate to come out with a final, flexible panel. These solar panels have four times less efficiency than monocrystalline solar panels.
Pros & Cons
Installing solar panels is advantageous in many aspects. Let’s learn how they are beneficial:
Reduced Electricity Bills: Solar panels produce free energy in excess, and the surplus energy can be stored and sold. That’s why solar panels help you reduce your electricity bills.
Get Your Investment: The UK government has introduced a scheme, Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), so that you can sell additional energy to the grid. The SEG scheme requires all energy suppliers with more than or equal to 150,000 customers to offer export tariffs to domestic customers that should be above zero.
Minimum Maintenance: Solar panels are very durable when it comes to serving for life. Their estimated life span is 25-30 years, saving you frequent repairs and replacement costs.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Unlike conventional energy producers like generators that use fossil fuels as an energy source, solar panels utilise renewable energy as their fuel source to produce energy. And there is zero emission of dangerous gases like COx and NOx. According to some estimates, a solar panel saves around one tonne of CO2 annually, which is remarkable.
Electricity Around the Year: As solar panels are independent of any conventional energy-producing source, they produce green energy for you around the year.
Despite offering benefits in terms of cost and energy, solar panels have some cons linked with them.
- Solar panels are costly to install; you can expect to pay around £5,000 to £11,000 for an installation.
- As solar panels function based on sunlight, they do not work effectively in dark winters or at night.
- The energy-producing chips of the solar panels should be directly facing the sun. The solar panels may not work efficiently if tall trees or large buildings surround your property.
However, the advantages like green and surplus energy and 24/7 availability outshine their cons, and as a whole, installing solar panels is much more advantageous.
Factors Affecting the Efficiency of Solar Panels
When you have installed a solar panel, you must be careful in its alignment with the incoming sun rays to produce maximum energy. Below are some ways you can guide your panel to work more productively:
Location, Angle, And Direction: The angle at which a solar panel is installed greatly affects the output. Therefore, your panel must face the sunlight at an optimum angle to get maximum output. For UK residents, a 34° roof tilt angle is the optimum angle for maximum absorption of sunlight, as per Stanford University.
Size of the solar panel system: While installing a panel, consider the size, as the greater the size of your panel, the greater the amount of electricity produced.
Maintenance: Although solar panels do not need much maintenance, looking after them keeps them functioning longer. You should remove dust from them and keep the plates clean so that they can absorb maximum light to generate more energy.
Guide to Install One at Your Home
Here are a few tips for installing a solar panel at your home or building:
- First of all, make sure to access your roof’s tipping point via a ladder or scaffolding.
- Then, attach the roof anchors to keep the base of the solar panel affirmed in its place.
- Once the anchors are attached, fix the frame of the panel. Remember that the aluminium bars of the frame must be fitted parallelly.
- Now, install the panels in the appropriate direction, facing the sunlight. Later on, firmly secure the panels to the aluminium frames.
- Connect all the wires of the panel to the inverter. Make sure connections are secure, appropriate, and functioning.
- In the last stage, connect to your home’s main supply so that the electricity produced can be consumed.
- Do not forget to test the panel to ensure smooth, error-free functioning and avoid risk.
Costs of Solar Panels Systems
The cost of solar panel systems varies based on their quality, type, and efficiency. For a rough estimate, you can go through the table below:
Moreover, the installation cost also varies depending on your location, the ease of access to your roof and other associated factors. You can expect to pay £2,000 – £18,000 for a general estimate. However, consult with the professional installers before proceeding for an accurate estimate.
Solar panel installation is a cost-effective, greener, and modern way of generating clean energy for your home and commercial setup. It ensures a continuous energy supply for your needs and allows you to produce additional energy to sell to the national grid and generate revenue. So, briefly, it’s a safe investment that you should consider.
Solar Solutions Oxford is the best solution when you plan to install it. With years of experience, qualified and licensed staff, and a well-equipped team, we promise efficient and error-free installations that will help you get maximum energy for your needs via a safe and quality solar panel installation.