Solar Panel Installation Cost In The UK

The cost of installation of solar panels in the UK has dropped to a great margin over the past few decades. This high margin is as much as a 90% reduction today in prices of solar modules or panels from 2009 as per IRENA [1]. As per this year report [2] from the UK government, the mean cost of solar installations in the UK for a 0-4kW band is £1628 per kW.

Solar is getting cheaper and the reduction is happening in all the major renewable energy technologies. This reduction is happening due to continuous R&D of technologies, economies of scale and aggressive supply chains. The larger the solar PV system, the higher the costs and higher the electricity output with higher returns. Similarly, large scale solar power plants with very high investments have high returns but compared to residential solar power plants they are cheaper because of economies of scale.

Solar panel installation costs are not only about costs related to solar panels but the installation of the whole solar photovoltaic system. The process of installation of solar PV system starts from survey and designing of the system to choose the right components like the solar panels and inverter etc. The installation costs include the labour costs and other ancillary costs which can be discussed one by one in detail. However, two major costs which define the cost of solar panel installation are the solar module cost and the inverter cost. Other ancillary costs are important in their own perspective but make a small percentage of the total amount.

Solar Module and Inverter Costs

1. Solar Module

The most important component of the solar PV system is the solar panel and it costs the highest in the system. The cost of a single solar panel in the UK ranges from £350 – £500 , which depends on its type. It can be a mono-crystalline solar panel costing £500 each or a cheaper poly-crystalline solar panel costing £350 each. Depending on the size of the solar PV system and its design, the cost of solar panels is negotiated. If we assume a 4kW system is to be installed and each panel is of 250 watts which costs £350 each, then the cost of 16 solar panels for this system will be £5600. Similarly, a 250-watt panel can also cost £250 but the low quality and less efficiency of the solar panel will result in an inefficient design.

The choice of solar panels is the most crucial in the whole solar PV design as it defines the output, size and efficiency of the system. A cheap solar module will take more space and will be less efficient, resulting in an extended payback period. On the other hand, an expensive solar module will take less space to generate more electricity but due to high investment will again require more payback period. Ideally, the investment budget of the customer and the electricity load requirement of the household with space available for installation defines the type of solar panels to be used in the design.

2. Inverter

The second most important component of the solar PV system is the inverter or grid-tied inverter for residential solar power plants. A typical grid-tied solar inverter for the home in the UK ranges from £500 – £1000. It depends on the type of inverter again, as it can be a string inverter connected to an array of solar panels or a micro-inverter on each solar panel. The cost of the inverter depends on its kilowatt rating and the functions it can perform. The life of a string inverter is around 10 years and that of a micro-inverter is 25 years. For a 4kW solar PV system, if we take a 3.6kW string inverter in the system and find costs. An SMA Sunnyboy 3.6kW inverter [3] will cost £790 with a 5-year warranty and the option to extend it for 20 years.
Similarly, if we choose a micro-inverter [4] in the same 4kW installation with each costing £120 then for 16 panels it would be £1920. The micro-inverters cost more and last more whereas string inverters cost less and last less.

Inverters with MPPT or Maximum power point tracker are a standard now which enhance the power output from the solar panels. Similarly, power optimizers are used with the solar panels or integrated into the inverter to refine the flow of current with minimum losses. The grid connectivity and efficiency of inverters define their cost which varies depending on system design and specifications.

Two major costs of modules and inverters comprise more than 90% of the whole system cost and others are costs that are necessary and are a very small percentage of the whole amount.

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Hardware Costs

1. Racking and Mounting

To hold the solar panels in their place, racking and mounting are important, unless solar panels are integrated into the building envelope which is also termed as BIPV or Building Integrated Photovoltaic. Racking and mounting comprise all ramming profiles, assembly and foundation material. Similarly, combiner boxes and mounting structures for inverters are also included in this cost.

2. Cabling & Wiring

Solar panels generate direct current or DC and their wiring is different from AC wiring. All the components to carry DC current including cables, combiner boxes and connectors comprise this cost. Similarly all AC cables, wires and components are also covered in this cost. It is a small margin to the total cost of the system but is very important.

3. Monitoring Control

This cost is mostly levied on large scale solar power plants or solar farms and is of little use in small scale or domestic solar power plants. However, this consists of a monitoring system, irradiation sensor, temperature sensor and data systems. For small solar power plants, monitoring is possible via inverter controls and smartphone applications connected to the inverter via the internet.

4. Grid Connection

For residential or domestic solar power plants there are some costs related to connecting the solar power plant to the grid. Particular voltage cables and connectors are required to connect to the grid. A Control panel with circuit breakers is required for grid connection which comprises of grid connection cost. For large scale solar power plants cost like switch gears, transformers and substations etc are also included.

5. Safety & Security

For small scale power plants, safety components like the circuit breakers for the islanding effect are necessary. Other safety and security costs for large scale power plants include security cameras, fences, theft and fire protection equipment.

Installation & Labour Costs

1. Mechanical Installation

These costs for rooftop domestic solar power plant include construction of scaffolding to access the roof, making route for cables, installation of racking and mounting structures, installation of solar modules on mounts, installation of the inverter, connection to grid and transport of components to site. For large scale solar farms these costs include pavement of internal roads and cable route preparation. This includes labour costs that perform all these tasks.

2. Electrical Installation

All the DC cables and wires are that are connected including the solar module interconnection with deep precision are covered in these costs. AC wiring from the inverter to the household supply and the grid is also covered in this costing. These are all labour costs that connect all the wires and cables to make the solar power plant work.

3. Inspection

Supervision of construction of solar power plant and check for any irregularities is done in an inspection by a certified supervisor. Health and safety constraints are also inspected during this inspection. The inspection of small scale power plants is less necessary as it is done by the installers themselves but utmost care should be given to find and fix any irregularities.

Soft Costs

1. Financing Cost

It is not necessary to put in the full investment capital in cash from the pocket and financing the solar power plant is a better choice. There are costs involved in financing the solar power plant and are included in soft costs.

2. Permitting

If there are permissions required to install solar power plants on rooftops in a certain area, these costs are necessary. However, these costs are usually related to large scale solar farms. These are permissions related to the development, construction and operation of solar power plants. Mostly these costs are related to environmental regulations.

3. System Design

These costs include the cost of surveying the location and the structure like the load-bearing capacity of the roof in the case of a rooftop solar power plant. The costs of surveyors undertaking all the surveys are included in the system design cost. The draft design and detailed design with the preparation of required documentation come under system design cost. Usually the installing company charges for these expenses in their installation contract.

4. Incentive Application

These costs are related to the application for government incentives like the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme in the past and Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) now available from the UK government. These costs are necessary to make the domestic solar power plant more viable with the possibility to sell/export excess electricity to the grid. The initial cost for incentive application results in faster returns from the solar power plant and reduce the payback period for the same.

5. Customer Acquisition & Margin

Any costs related to customer acquisition and margin on the sale of the solar power plant are all levied on the customer itself. The EPC companies doing the survey, installation and commission of solar power plants make money by gaining some margin in the whole deal. These costs are also included in the cost of the solar power plant.

Final Cost Of Installing Solar Panels In The UK

As discussed there are many costs related to the solar power plant in which costs of solar panels and solar inverters comprise the major costs and all other costs are minor costs. As discussed above for a 4kW system if solar modules cost £5600 and the solar inverter costs £790, this total comes out to be £6390. If all the other costs mentioned above comprise another 15% of the solar module and inverter cost combined, their costs come out to be £958.

This makes the total cost of installing solar panels in the UK for a 4kW system around £7348. However, this is not an exact figure for a 4kW solar PV system in the UK but an approximate value.

[1] https://www.irena.org/costs
[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/solar-pv-cost-data
[3] https://www.zerohomebills.com/product/sma-sunny-boy-sb-3-6-1av-41-3-6kw-solar-inverter/
[4] https://www.ebay.co.uk/b/Enphase/bn_21824396

Solar Power In The UK

Did You Know That The UK Is The Third-Highest Solar Capacity Among The Countries In Europe?

The UK has 458 large-scale solar PV plants, supplying close to 44% of the total energy demand. While all the countries in the world are trying hard to incorporate more solar power into their energy mix, the UK has already achieved a major milestone in its road to sustainability. It is quite exemplary to all the countries in the world.
The solar capacity of the UK was around 5,488 MW in the year 2014. In 2019, they recorded the net solar power generation as 13,259.MW. It is a 140% increase in just five years. It is quite amazing.

One of the main influences to uplift solar power in the UK was the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) system started back in 2010. Because of it, around 1,000,000 solar PV systems were installed since the introduction of the FIT system. 93% of the total number of installations is below 4W. With time, the legislation on solar power in the country has been revised. Today you will find the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) instead of the FIT system. SEG is meant to provide more support to the small-scale power generators in the country. However, with the increase in taxes (VAT) from 5% to 20% on solar panels, the government expects the growth of solar power to slow down a little compared to the previous years.

Solar power stands in fourth place compared to other renewable power generation methods in the UK. Almost 17% of the total renewables is wind power. Solar counts for only 3.9%. With the recession in the world economy and the increase in inflation, the growth of the solar PV sector has reduced quite a bit. However, the UK government is ambitious when it comes to green energy targets. It seems that they are working hard towards reaching sustainability goals, making it a top priority. By 2023, the UK expects to increase the solar power generation in the region to 15,674MW. That means adding an extra capacity of 2711MW.

The goal of the UK is to meet the net-zero target by the year 2050. In order to reach that goal, the UK needs to install a solar capacity of 120GW by 2050. It seems that the nation is right on track to achieve it. Scientists have found that if the UK can treble the current solar PV capacity, it will reduce carbon emission by 21.2 million tons annually. This is equal to 4.7% of total UK emissions in the year 2019. It is a significant improvement of the carbon footprint of the country.

In order to reach the net-zero target by 2050, the UK government has made it a milestone to reach 40GW by the end of 2030. Yet this is way less than what is recommended by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) of the UK. CCC recommends adding 11GW of more solar power into the energy mix by the year 2030. This not only saves the environment and the money, but it will also create many jobs for the people in the UK. It is assumed that there will be a 17 billion increase in economic activity if this target is reached by 2030.

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Is It Achievable?

Or is it too ambitious with the prevailing VAT on solar panels and repercussions due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Time will tell. But Solar Energy UK has stepped forward to propose the government reduce the VAT imposed on solar panels. They say that it is difficult to achieve the said targets with the current taxation. They also suggest the government break the technological barriers for “Contracts for Difference” auctions.

In the first quarter of 2020, total energy expansion in the UK was only 60MW. It was way below par. Despite all the negatives, the generation expansion of solar PV in the UK is 175MW. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects a 10% increase in solar PV generation annually.

Overall, it is clear that the UK is a nation that is taking green energy goals very seriously. With the current trend, the UK is on track to realize 40GW of power generation by 2030.

Is It Worth Getting Solar Panels in the UK?

Solar panels are worth installing if you are looking for a long-term investment. If you have solar panels on your roof, you can generate electricity for free. Solar power is generated by converting sunlight into electrical energy. When you have a good amount of sunlight, you will have a good generation. Since electricity is vital to us, generating electricity free can really reduce costs and increase savings.

Besides saving your electricity bill, you can also sell electricity to the electrical grid. There is a government-backed initiative called Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). It allows small-scale power generators to sell their electricity to the electric grid. The utility provider will pay for the low-carbon generation supplied to the utility lines.

So, besides the savings, when you sell the generated electricity to the grid, you can break even quicker.
Installing solar panels on one’s roof will only be worthwhile if that person gets higher returns to cover the investment quicker. As explained earlier, the return is the addition of electricity bill savings and income gained through selling electricity to the utility provider.

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Therefore, there are two factors to consider, making sure your solar PV installation is worthwhile.
• Electricity consumptions of your home
• The size of your solar PV system

Electricity Consumption

According to statistics, an average household with three people consumes 242 kWh of electricity per month. Based on the climatic conditions in the UK, average solar PV generation in the UK is around 59 units per kW of power per month. So, if you do the maths, an average household needs around 4kW of solar power to cover their electricity needs.
But the requirement may vary based on several distinct factors like no of residents in the house, amenities, and how long they use electrical equipment.

Size of the Solar PV System

The size of the solar PV system you can install on your roof depends on many factors.
• How much you can spend?
• The size of your roof
• What sort of return you are looking for?

Solar power is not for you if you are looking for quick returns and short paybacks. It is more like a long-term investment. It might take several years to break even. But afterward you, every penny you receive will be pure profits because there is very little maintenance involved in Solar PV systems.

The size of your roof is another decisive factor that can limit your return through solar. A solar panel has an area of around 2 square meters. If we assume that the wattage of the solar panel is 450W, you will need around 9 panels in total for a 4kW system on your roof. That means at least you will need 18 square meters (194 square feet) of roof area. If you have a larger roof, you can even consider installing a much larger system.

According to the solar PV market in the UK, you have to spend somewhere between £6000 to £8000 to install a 4kW system. By saving the electricity bill and selling extra generation to the grid through SEG, you can save approximately £270.00 each year. The saving might differ from one area to another. It will also differ from one utility provider to another.

The table given below shows the yearly electrical energy output of solar PV systems of varied sizes in the UK.

output of solar PV systems

 

 

 

These are average values for each system size. There can be significant differences between these values based on your location and the utility provider.
The table below gives average savings for each system capacity, varying from 3kW to 6kW.

average savings for each system capacity

 

 

 

However, solar power is not only about monetary gains. It gives low-carbon electricity to the national grid. In other words, it reduces the burning of fossil fuels like coal to generate electricity. In this way, it helps both the environment and society as a whole. Therefore, solar is more about sustainability than just about profits. Solar gives a wonderful opportunity to all citizens to contribute to sustainability, which is a national need in the UK.

How are solar panels installed in the UK?

The most visible component of solar power plants is the solar panels on the roof or ground. It is also the most important part of the whole system. Well like most of the northern hemisphere, in the UK solar panels are placed facing south to get maximum sunlight. In the southern hemisphere of the Earth, the solar panels are placed facing north for the same reason. The tilt angle of the panels to the ground is calculated based on the latitude of that location and in most general scenarios; the tilt angle is the latitude degree of that location.

Well, to get the maximum out of the solar panels, design and system installation has to be perfect. From the tilt of your roof to the type of inverter you choose and install, it is all a play of efficiency. The solar panels do not convert all of the sunlight or photons of light to electricity or direct current, they have a particular efficiency of doing this. From the solar panels to wiring and Inverter to transmission or storage, the efficiency drops with each component.

Installation of solar panels is a process to be carried out by trained and professional installers but the person spending money on the solar generator should be aware of all the aspects of installation and working. So let us look at the process of installing solar panels or the whole solar photovoltaic system in the UK.

Get your location assessed is always recommended to get the location assessed by a certified surveyor to check the viability of a solar power plant at that location. For a typical UK home, an EPC assessment is carried out to rate the energy efficiency of the building. Here EPC stands for “energy performance certificate” and it is required to know the energy behaviour of the building.

To qualify for the latest SEG or smart export guarantee scheme, EPC is required.
Similarly, a solar surveyor can check the inclination of your roof, its orientation and do shade analysis. Based on these factors, solar PV system output can be assessed and a rough idea on savings from solar investment can be calculated. Also, the roof strength to bear solar PV system weight and electrical connections are checked to finalise the design and recommend amendments if required.

1. Finalise a solar system with detailed finances

For a layman, all the solar panels will look the same and work as same to generate electricity. All the components from solar panels to inverter and wiring etc are standard equipment with specific ratings and outputs. Now, solar PV system design based on specific location is calculated by a certified engineer whom we need to trust. It is the awareness and duty of the homeowner to get the details of the investment noted.

The person who is getting a solar power plant installed on the roof of his home should know the total investment and expected return from the investment. It is good if the solar power plant pays for itself within 5 years of installation. This will give at least 20 years of free electricity and reduced bills. The solar investment and return should be understood in detail to get the best results.

2. Define roof access

Most of the UK’s typical homes have slanted roofs and all do not have clear roof access. To install the solar structure on the roof, scaffoldings are installed first. These are temporary structures that are installed according to the requirement. Whole system installation can be made easy with proper scaffolding installation.

It is desirable to have access identified even after the solar system is installed on the roof. As the only maintenance required with solar panels is cleaning them for better efficiency, so reaching them is essential. So at the time of defining roof access for solar panel installation, it is advisable to also identify roof access to clean the solar panels. Safety of personnel working to install solar panels and of the person to clean solar panels should be a priority and setup should be adequately designed.

3. Installation of the mounting structure

The mounting structures vary in design depending on the placement of the power plant. For ground mount and flat roof locations, the mounting structure base is fixed with concrete. These flat surfaces give the ability to tilt the panel at a specific location for maximum sunlight exposure.

For tilted roofs of homes, the mounting structure frame is hooked with the rafters of the roof on which tiles or slates are fixed. The earlier survey is very important in the respect of ensuring the load-bearing capacity of the roof. If additional support is required to fix solar panels on domestic roofs, for which additional expense is required. Solar system installer or surveyor should figure this out as a priority. For industrial and commercial roofs with slanted metal sheets, the mounting structure is fixed with iron beams and roof sheets.

The strength of the roof, strength of the mounting structure, leakproof fixing of structure, the orientation of the structure and most importantly the angle of the mounting structure should be very adequate for successful solar installation.

4. Fix and connect panels on the mounting structure

Once the mounting structure is fixed to the roof or to the ground, the panels are fixed to it with clamps. The mounting structure holds the heavy panels at a particular inclination. Domestic solar panels weigh 15kg per sq. meter and add additional weight to the roof[1].

After fixing the solar panels to the mounting structure they are connected to each other to form an array of panels. They are wired to each other as per the design, which means the amount of current and voltage required from the solar panel is determined by how they are tied to each other. When panels are wired in series, the voltage of panels adds up and when they are wired in parallel, the current (amperage) adds up. The solar array of panels is connected in a way to get desired voltage and current values. The array of solar panels is basically an electrical circuit where panels are connected with specific connectors (like MC4[2]) to each other in series and parallel connections.

Series connection: When +ve of one panel is connected to –ve of other

Parallel connection: When +ve of one panel is connected to +ve of other.

The circuit connection of the solar panels is under the panels and is not visible from the front of the solar panels.

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5. Connect solar panels to the inverter

The inverter is the second most important component of the solar PV system after solar panels. The solar panels generate direct current or DC and we use AC or alternating current in our homes and offices etc. The DC from solar panels can directly power DC running appliances, which are seldom now. But solar panels can charge a battery directly with direct current, which we’ll discuss later.

So DC from solar panels is converted to AC with help of an inverter. The inverter is usually connected to an array of solar panels. The design of the system specifies the output from the solar array and adequate inverter for the same. The inverter connected to the solar array is called a string inverter with a running life of 10-15 years with possible extended warranties from some suppliers.

Another type of inverter is the micro-inverter which is placed with each solar panel. Where string inverter converts DC to AC of an array of solar panels, the micro inverter does that with each individual panel. The life of micro-inverter is around 25 years as that of solar panels and are much safe in system design too.

If a string inverter is connected to the solar array, it should be placed near the main electricity panel indoors. The inverter can be placed outdoors but should be in shade and away from direct sun. The electricity from the inverter is supplied to the transmission line of the house or is connected to the grid as required.

6. Connect the inverter to main electrical panel and grid

The inverter is connected to the main electrical panel to supply electricity to household appliances. If it is a grid-tie solar inverter, the AC electricity from the inverter is connected to the grid with help of circuit breakers.

In a UK household, the grid-tied solar inverter will satisfy the electrical demands of the household during the day and any excess electricity is supplied to the electricity grid the supplier. In UK Ofgem[3] approved system and meter are installed to supply electricity to the grid.

It is essential in a grid-tie inverter solar power plant to match the frequency of the grid electricity to that of electricity supplied by the inverter for optimal operation. Also, the installer should install adequate circuit breakers to shut down the solar power plant or create islanding in case of a grid electricity outage.

7. Connect to batteries, if required

In case solar power is to be used at night, energy storage technologies like batteries are required. Solar panels are either connected to batteries with charge controllers or via the inverter. Additional electricity generated during the day can be saved in batteries and the same can be used at night.

This system is good for locations with no access to the electricity grid. Otherwise installing batteries with a grid connection is an expensive choice with additional space required to place batteries.

The inverter in case of excess electricity supplies direct current to the batteries where it is stored. At night or during very less sunlight, DC electricity from batteries is converter to AC with help of an inverter and supplied to household electrical loads.

8. Safety checks and MCS registration

After installing the complete system the installer does safety checks before starting or commissioning the power plant. All the plugs and connectors with their connections are thoroughly checked.

Also to avail of government benefits, a micro generation certificate is to be applied. As the solar power plant is registered, it can supply electricity to the electricity grid under the SEG scheme.

In the End

Solar panel installation in the UK is underway with great zeal and effort from citizens and the government. It is up to the installer to undertake each installation with great precision and design. From understating the site and specifications to guiding profitable solar panels and components and connecting it to make a long-lasting electricity generating system, the solar installers are the key.

[1] https://www.building.co.uk/focus/solar-pv-panels-heavy-loads/5036590.article#:~:text=The%20average%20panel%20weighs%20in,and%2060kg%20per%20square%20metre.
[2] https://www.solar-electric.com/learning-center/how-to-use-mc4-connectors-cables.html/
[3] https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/

Solar Panels UK Pros and Cons

Looking at the energy mix over the years since 2010, it is truly clear that the UK has laid firm policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Incorporating solar energy into the energy mix is increasing exponentially. The generation capacity of renewable energy has outpaced fossil fuels in 2020. Solar energy handles such a rapid increase in renewable energy usage in the UK. This is good evidence for the commitment of the UK to become sustainable.

However, amidst the climate change issues, the world had to face the COVID-19 pandemic, which completely changed the way we do things. The pandemic caused turmoil in the energy markets throughout the world. The UK is also a victim of this world recession because of the pandemic. As a result, the cost of energy increased in all countries throughout the world. Shortage of supply and higher demand is the main reason for rising energy costs.

Amidst the rising energy costs, should you go for solar power? Is it cheap or expensive? Can you gain profit out of a solar PV installation on your rooftop? Is it hard for you to find out the answers to these questions in this tough time? Worry not! Many people want to go solar and be more sustainable. But they have lost clues to make sure that the investment is worth it.
This article gives you all the factors you should consider if you are thinking of going for solar power. When you consider installing a solar PV system on your roof, make sure it is workable. Here is a list of pros and cons for you to figure out whether your solar PV system is workable.

Pros of Having a Solar PV System on Your Roof

Reduce/Cut Electricity Bills

As explained earlier, energy bills are on the rise because of the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an energy crisis in all of Europe and in the UK. You can reduce the electricity bills or even cover your complete electricity requirement using solar power. Usually, solar panel manufacturers give at least a 25-year warranty period to solar panel performance. It is assumed that the lifetime of the solar panel can be as high as 40 years if they meet the standards. If you go for solar today, it means that you do not have to pay for electricity at least for the next 25 years.

Low Maintenance

When you install the solar panels on your roof, you do not need to do routine maintenance of the solar panels. The only thing that is advised to do is wash the solar panels once in six months just to get rid of the dirt. For that, you only need water and a mop.

Renewable Energy Source

The UK is on its course to realizing its goals of achieving sustainability. As explained at the beginning of the article, it is clear when you see the changes in the energy mix over the years. You will help the country realize those goals faster. Sustainability is important to make our planet habitable for future generations to come. Being sustainable simply helps you to create a better environment for your kids to live in.

Expandable Technology

You can expand the capacity of the solar PV system when you require it. You just must increase the number of solar panels and install a suitable inverter. Usually, the per capita energy consumption is increasing daily with the expansion of the economy. That means your energy requirement increases over the years. It is easy to scale up solar PV systems when you need them.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

This is essential to develop your social status. There are people who do not believe that there is a global warming issue in the world. There are others who really care about the environment. Using solar power to power your home will highlight you as someone who cares about the environment, we live in. Society recognizes them as people who lead to make the world a better place.

Availability of Financial Support

Both banks and solar PV installers offer loan facilities for homeowners, making it easy for them to get a system installed. The interest rates are also quite low. Earlier there was an interest-free loan scheme introduced by the government, but they stopped it in 2015.

Can Sell Power to the Grid

You can sell the solar power to the utility supplier at 5.24p per unit of electricity. If your system is above 30kWp, you might need a new net meter at your place. You can sell half of what you generate every day. This can be an extra income stream for you.

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Cons of Having a Solar PV System

High Initial Cost

According to statistics, a family of three needs at least a 4KWp solar PV system to run their day-to-day activities. It requires around 12 to 13 solar panels. The average cost of a 4kWp system is around £6000.00. It is a considerable cost. This acts as a negative catalyst in promoting solar PV systems among households.

Solar Power Generation is Weather Dependent

The UK has seasonal weather changes. There are four seasons. As we all know, solar panels generate electricity using sunlight. But in the time like the winter, the amount of sunlight hitting the solar panels is minimal. In those times, the generation reduces compared to sunny days.

Roof Should be Eligible

The roof should be spacious enough to install solar panels. It requires at least 20 square meters of roof area to install solar panels for a 4kWp system. In addition, you can only use two sides of the roof at most. Sometimes your roof might not be large enough for the required capacity.

Long Term Investment (Long Payback Period)

Usually, the payback period is several years for a solar PV investment. It might change a bit based on how you finance it. However, you sign agreements with the utility company for at least 20 years ahead. Since the initial cost is high, it takes some time to cover the investment. Some people dislike long-term investments, which take years to cover the investment.

Not Movable

When you fix the solar PV system at your house, it is difficult to move it to another place when you need it. Unlike a generator, solar panels are a fixed generation method. If you need to move it to another location, a solar PV installer might have to get involved in the process.

Solar Power Storage is Expensive

Even though a lot of homeowners started generating solar power, it has not found answers to the rise in demand for electricity. Usually, peak demand hits close to 32GW of power in the summer at around 7.00 pm. To manage this demand, it is best to store the solar PV energy and use it at peak time. But it is very costly because of the high prices of batteries.

These are the pros and cons of solar PV systems. But all these factors might not affect you. Honestly, solar power is quite profitable if you have the resources you need to go ahead with the installation. Therefore, it is your responsibility to weigh your resources, the pros, and the cons of solar PV installations, and see if it’s workable for you.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy in the UK

Every technology has its pros and cons, and solar energy technology is no exception. From being one of the cleanest energy sources to being one with varying energy output every hour, day and season. Its reliability is justified by the fact that it directly depends on the sun, similar to its intermittency, which questions the same justification.

The pros of solar energy outweigh its cons by a fair margin. Like the fact that the amount (173000 Terawatts) of solar energy striking Earth continuously is 10000 times the world energy consumption [1]. The sun’s position to Earth keeps on changing, and we are alive because of that change. To harness and use energy from the sun is an evolved science.
Grey winters and overcast days usually make people in the UK a bit sceptic about the use and purpose of solar energy.

However, the UK is among the top 3 countries in the region to install solar power plants, after Germany and Italy [2]. Let us look at the things which make solar energy precious and which don’t.

Advantages of Solar Energy in the UK

Clean and Sustainable

Solar photovoltaic panels capture the light of the sun and convert it into electricity, whereas solar thermal panels turn that heat of the sun into hot water and steam. The solar energy process is so clean that the industrial revolution of the UK under smoke and pollution vanishes away from the common sight. A typical UK home can save 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year by installing a solar photovoltaic PV system[3].

A Renewable Source of Energy

The sun is the source of life on this planet, and it will always remain so. Solar panels generate electricity for at least 25 years as per the manufacturer’s warranty. Now, the sun renews itself every single day, and it will supply unlimited free energy to the solar panels for the years they are installed. The popular demand of the masses to offset the use of fossil fuels is pillared by technologies like solar energy, which is the most popular renewable source.

Pays for itself

Electricity from solar photovoltaic panels or heat from solar thermal panels does have initial costs for the system and its installation. Earlier in the UK, a scheme like Feed-in Tariff was very profitable and still are for people enrolled in it and new scheme like the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)[4] makes solar installations precious. Also, the fact that there is no expenditure on buying the actual source of the sun makes it a profitable choice. If a technology pays for itself and does good for the environment and you, your petrol engine on wheels will be envious
.

Profitable investment

The reduction in energy bills and support from the UK government to make solar energy a profitable investment is doing well for the people and the planet. The price of grid electricity is on a gradual increase with time, and people are saying no to coal. So solar panels if looked upon as an investment will generate electricity at the same rate for at least 25 years. After 25 years, the gap between costs of electricity produced from solar panels will be far less than the electricity supplied by the grid. This scenario makes solar energy a profitable investment, like government bonds etc.

Job creation and reduce import

Solar energy is a rising technology among the masses in the UK. As more and more people adapt to it, more workforce is required. This has started happening and Universities and Colleges have specific courses related to solar energy in their curriculum. The skilled workforce is joining this clean energy technology with great enthusiasm. On the other hand, with increasing, solar energy sources at home will reduce any obligation to import fuels from overseas.

Low maintenance

This technology only requires you to clean the panels for more efficiency. Dirty panels will not produce much energy, and cleaning them at regular intervals is desired. Other expenditures are covered in guarantees as per the component and its manufacturer’s discretion. Otherwise, solar systems just sit on the roofs or the ground and generate electricity or heat whenever the sun is there.

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Disadvantages of Solar Energy in the UK

It is Expensive

Even the prices of installing solar energy systems like solar photovoltaic in particular have fallen to a great extent in the last few decades. The price of solar energy systems are still expensive. For an average UK house with a system installation of 3-4 kW, the price ranges from £5000, to £6000[5]. Even government supports solar energy installations; the price bracket in which it lies is expensive.

Energy storage

Solar is only available when the sun is available, and the need for energy storage is obviously required for off-grid systems. In places where electricity grid network is not available or where the homeowner does not want to get grid electricity, energy storage in the form of batteries is required. Adding batteries to solar installation makes an ideal choice to completely use the resource, but also adds a high cost to the whole system.

Weather condition

The UK being an island is affected by varying climate conditions all across the year. Insolation level or the radiation of the sun in many parts of the UK is just adequate for a solar installation. A depth survey of site and location with appropriate system design and costing is required to install a profitable solar energy system. The low-temperature conditions in the UK make solar panels more efficient, but a good amount of sunlight is required to make them actually work.

Space and refurbishment

Large scale solar systems are best suited on the ground with no shade on them. Small scale solar on home rooftops requires an additional survey for the strength of the roof and amendments based on it to install a system. The load-bearing capacity of the roofs and wiring design of the entire system requires some refurbishments along the way. It is best suited to plan and install a solar system for new build constructions for better layout and reduced costs.

Sources:

[1] https://news.mit.edu/2011/energy-scale-part3-1026
[2] https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/solar-power-europe/
[3] https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/energy/how-solar-power-can-cut-your-bills-and-your-carbon-footprint/#:~:text=The%20Energy%20Saving%20Trust%20says,in%20the%20UK%20you%20live.
[4] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/smart-export-guarantee/
[5] https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/solar-panels/cost#:~:text=Solar%20panels%20for%20the%20average,around%2020m%C2%B2%20of%20roof%20space.

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need to Run a Home In The UK?

Solar panels come in different capacities, technologies, sizes, and weights. To know how many solar panels, you need to run your home, you must check your electricity consumption. Usually, we install solar PV systems on the roof to reduce or cut the electricity bill as much as we can.
If you check your last month’s electricity bill, you will find the number of units you used for the month. The units are in kWh. The electricity usage of a household depends on several factors.

It depends on:
How many people are there in the house?
What appliances are you using?
How long do you use these appliances?

How To Calculate Solar Consumption

When there are many people in your house, it is quite clear that the electricity consumption will increase. It is because everyone must consume some sort of energy to do some work. However, the consumption depends on the power consumption of the appliance you are using.

For example, say your iron has a power rating of 2000W. If you use your iron for 2 hours straight, it means you consume 4 units (kWh) of power. Feel like Greek?

This is how do we calculate the power we consume:
2000W = 2000/1000 = 2kW (power in kW)
If you use the iron for 2 hours.
2kW x 2h (hours) = 4 kWh (kilowatt-hours or units)

Similarly, all the units you consume will sum up to the consumption in the electricity bill. Now that we know how to check electricity consumption, let’s see how many panels we need to cover our electricity bill.

Average Sunlight In the UK

According to statistics, the average electricity consumption of a household in the UK is around 10 kWh (units) per day. That means 300 kWh (units) per month.
To calculate the number of solar panels, the next thing you need to know is the number of sun hours you receive in your area.

Solar panels generate electricity using sunlight. Therefore, you need to have enough light to generate electricity using solar panels.

The path of the sun is not constant throughout the year for any country, and it is similar in the UK too.

You get the least sunlight in the UK in winter and the highest in the summer. However, the average number of sun-hours is around 4 hours in the UK. But this value will vary for different regions.
• England: 4.1 hrs
Scotland: 3.7 hrs
• Northern Ireland: 3.2 hrs
• Wales: 3.3 hrs

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How To Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need

If we assume the consumption of your house is 10 kWh (units), you can calculate the system capacity now. You know that the sun is up for 4 hours on average. Therefore, if we divide 10 kWh by 4 hours, you will get the solar system capacity you need to cover your electricity bill.
10 kWh / 4h = 2.5kW
The standard size closest to 2.5kW is 3kW. You should install a 3kW system on your roof.

Now you can calculate the number of solar panels you need because you know the total system capacity. As mentioned before, solar panels come in different capacities and sizes. The number of solar panels you require for a 3kW system will vary depending on the capacity of the solar panel you use. Many good solar panel brands are selling solar panels with different capacities.

Usually, solar panel capacities vary from 300W to 600W.
If you choose a 300W solar panel:
No. of solar panels for 3kW (3000W): 3000W / 300W = 10 panels
If you choose a 450W solar panel:
No. of solar panels for 3kW (3000W): 3000W / 450W = 6.67 panels = 7 panels

Likewise, you can calculate the number of solar panels for any system capacity you might need.
However, it is important to note that there are a few other factors you need to consider in deciding the right solar panel.
• Warranty
• Cost
• Size
• Weight
• Technology
• Efficiency

You should choose the solar panel wisely, taking all these factors into account. There are different constraints to homeowners.
Some may have limited space on the roof. In such cases, it is wise to pick a higher wattage. However, when the capacity increases, the cost per solar panel also increases equally.
Some may have a limited budget. In that case, they should be more concerned about the cost rather than other factors.
Whatever brand you select, despite the number of solar panels you install, always make sure that your solar PV installation project is workable.

Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

The development of renewable energy technologies and solar energy, in particular, is revolutionizing the energy market. To reduce the impact of changing climate with the use of clean energy sources is the need of the hour. Solar energy is much developed renewable energy technology among others with large scale deployment in different parts of the world.

The intermittent generation of energy, either heat or electricity, is one hurdle that is usually substituted with energy storage technologies like batteries etc. Another hurdle in solar technology or solar photovoltaic (SPV) technology, in particular, is the efficiency of solar panels.

The electricity-generating solar panels are made up of metalloids like Silicon, Germanium, Tellurium and transition metals like Cadmium and Gallium etc. The metalloids and metals generate electricity when they are made impure or are doped with impurities like Boron and Phosphorous, etc. The main component of an SPV installation is the solar cell, which is connected in series and parallel to form a solar panel with a certain electricity generation output capacity.

It is the composition of the solar cell which defines the type of solar panel, in other words, what the solar cell is made up of defines the type of solar panel. These are monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, thin-film silicon, Cadmium Telluride and many other types of solar panels . From these, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are most common.

Both these types of solar panels are made of silicon as the main component, but it is present in different crystalline forms. Monocrystalline solar cell is manufactured from single silicon crystal and polycrystalline from multiple silicon crystals. These solar panels differ in many aspects related to their manufacturing, efficiency, look and life, and we can review them one by one.

1. How Are They Manufactured?

The first step in manufacturing Mono and polycrystalline silicon solar cells is the same until the purification of silicon. Quartzite or Silica sand (SiO2) is used to extract out pure silicon. This is done by melting quartzite with carbon, distillation and zone refining. After getting pure silicon, the process of making mono and polycrystalline silicon differs.

For monocrystalline solar cells, the Czochralski process is used, in which a single silicon crystal seed rod is dipped in molten silicon and pulled up with heat and rotation to create an “ingot” of single-crystal silicon. This cylindrical ingot is sliced to 1 mm wafers and is doped with phosphorous or boron to form a p-n junction. These silicon wafers or cells are connected to form a panel.

For polycrystalline solar cells, the molten silicon is poured into square moulds to form cubic blocks. These cubic blocks are cut into wafers and doped with impurities to form solar cells. These polycrystalline solar cells are connected in series and parallel connections to form a solar panel.

2. How Do They Appear?

To a layman, all solar panels look the same, but there is a clear distinction between different types of solar panels. This difference is again because of the material used and their manufacturing process.

Monocrystalline solar panels have solar cells stacked to each other in the panel, with a diamond shape gap between each of them. These panels look black, as pure silicon cells reflect black colour after sunlight strikes them.

Polycrystalline solar panels have solar cells of square shape or rectangular shape with no gap between the cells. These panels give a blue hue in bright sunlight, with different shades of blue crystals when looked upon closely.

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3. Which One Of The Two Is More Efficient?

Mono and polycrystalline solar panels are the most researched and developed of all the solar panels, and their efficiency is highest among other types of solar panels. Still, between the two of these solar panels, monocrystalline solar panels are more efficient because of the single silicon crystal structure.

The efficiency of monocrystalline solar panels is in the range of 15-20%, whereas the efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels is less and is in the range of 13-16% . For confined space scenarios, monocrystalline solar panels are chosen compared to polycrystalline solar panels.

4. Which One Of The Two Costs More?

The process to make a single silicon crystal cell with the Czochralski process is energy-intensive, time-consuming and silicon waste generating. This makes the mono-crystalline solar panel the costlier of the two, despite being more efficient.

The process of making polycrystalline solar cells and solar panels reduces 20% cost compared to making a monocrystalline solar panel. The use of less energy and generating less waste are the reasons for poly being much cheaper.

5. How Long Do They Last?

Monocrystalline solar panels degrade 0.3%-0.5% per year, and panel manufacturers give a warranty for 25 years. Still, these panels are seen working for more than 40 years with reduced output.

On the other hand, polycrystalline solar panels tend to degrade faster at 0.3%-1% with companies giving a 25-year warranty. These panels also tend to generate electricity for more than 25 years with reduced efficiency .

6. How Do They React To Heat?

Solar panels are meant to be out facing the sun, and they behave accordingly with temperature changes. In colder temperatures with good bright sunlight, solar panels are most efficient.

Of the two mono and polycrystalline solar panels, the latter is less efficient in higher temperatures and its efficiency of generating electricity is reduced. The temperature coefficient of monocrystalline solar panels is –0.3% to -0.4%, and that of polycrystalline is -0.5% per degree Celsius rise in temperature.

In the End

Both of these two types of solar panels are recyclable and around 90-95% of parts of these solar panels can be recycled. These Silicon solar panels are a choice of the masses where monocrystalline solar panels are more efficient, costly and with more lifespan. On the other hand, polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient but far cheaper and a common choice for large scale solar power plants. Each of these solar panels is used depending on the project specifications and economics designed for the same.

Sources:

https://www.irena-istra.hr/uploads/media/Photovoltaic_systems.pdf

https://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/elmat_en/kap_6/illustr/i6_1_1.html

https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/monocrystalline-solar-panels-vs-polycrystalline-solar-panels-find-out-which-ones-are-right-for-you/

 

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in the UK?

The prices of solar panels reduced drastically over the last decade (2010 – 2020). The average cost of a 4kW domestic solar PV system was around £20,000. However, you can install a 4kW domestic solar PV system at £4000 – £6000 in 2021. It is a 70% drop in solar PV prices compared to 2010.

Solar panels are becoming affordable than ever. As a result, it is becoming quite common among households in the UK. The cost of a single solar panel may vary between £350 – £400 However, as explained in the second half of this article, it can change depending on a number of factors.

What Caused Such a Decrease in Prices?

With the advancements in solar PV technology, solar panel production increased to meet the demand. The mega factories all over the world started producing solar panels. The price of silicon became cheaper because of the massive consumption. Through research, manufacturers could also increase the efficiency of solar panels. Increasing the efficiency means you can get a higher yield from a solar panel of the same size compared to a solar panel with lower efficiency. All these factors affected to reduce the cost of solar panels dramatically over the last ten years.

Factors Affecting the Cost of Solar Panels

• Solar Panel Technology
• Materials used
• Efficiency
• Capacity
• Brand
• Shipping Costs

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Solar Panel Technology

Through innovations, manufacturers have found different methods to build better solar panels. For example, solar panels differ based on the connection of solar cells inside the solar panel. Half-cut solar panels are such a type of solar panel with two parallel strings of solar cells inside the solar panel. It divides the solar panel into two parts. Because of this division, one is independent of the other in power generation. It indicates that if one section of the solar panel is shaded, the overall solar panel’s power output is unaffected. Therefore, half-cut solar panels cost more than conventional solar panels with single-cell strings. Similarly, many other manufacturers use different technologies to improve power generation capabilities. They price the solar panels, taking the technology of the solar panel into account.

Material

The price of solar panels can also vary based on the materials used to produce the solar panel. Mainly, there are two types of solar panels in the market.

• Monocrystalline solar panels
• Polycrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar panels contain only pure silicon. But polycrystalline solar panels contain silicon with an added impurity. Because of this reason, there is a price difference between the two types of solar panels. The average cost of a polycrystalline solar panel is around £225 – £250. Monocrystalline solar panels cost between £350 – £450.

Efficiency

In 2015, the efficiency of solar panels was around 15% – 16%. This range is for polycrystalline solar panels. Manufacturers introduced monocrystalline solar panels with higher efficiencies (20%) in the beginning at higher prices. In 2021, there are solar panels with efficiencies as high as 45%. When the efficiency of the solar panel is high, the price is also equally high.

Capacity

In 2015, polycrystalline solar panels were popular. The capacity of the polycrystalline solar panels was around 320W – 360W. All solar panels with a power higher than 360W were monocrystalline. With increasing efficiencies and novel technologies, you can find solar panels with over 600W of power. It is visible in most Chinese solar panel brands like Jinko and Trina. High-power solar panels mean higher generation capacity within a small area. When the solar panel capacity increase, the cost of the solar panel also increases proportionally.

Brand

The solar panel prices vary according to brand. There are many solar panel brands in the world. Jinko, Trina, JA Solar are a few of the “Tier 1” Chinese photovoltaic panel brand names. Other brands like SunPower, Suntech, LG are also in the “Tier 1” category. Different manufacturers build up brands to position their products in their customers’ minds. For example, some panels may be premium while others can be economical. The price will also depend on the manufacturers’ brand.

COVID-19 Effects

However, because of the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of silicon supply. On top of that, there is an energy crisis affecting most high GDP countries, like China and countries in Europe. Because of this reason, the prices of all goods and services increased. It affects the solar panel industry as well. China has closed down several manufacturing plants to save power. Because of this situation, the prices of solar panels increased in the last quarter of 2021. However, economists say that this situation may prevail until the end of winter.

The Efficiency Of Solar Panels

The efficiency of solar panels is a key factor in determining how much electricity you can generate. If your solar panel’s efficiency is too low, then the amount of power it generates will be less than what you need to run your appliances and charge your devices.

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything that you need to know about the efficiency of solar panels so that you can make an informed decision when purchasing them!

When it comes to solar panel efficiency, there are two main factors that you need to consider: the type of solar panel and its size. The most efficient type of solar panel is the monocrystalline solar panel.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient option, with excellent electrical characteristics and long life. They use a single crystal to create electricity that is then converted into DC power by their integrated inverters.

The best monocrystalline cells have an efficiency of approximately 22% in converting energy. Monocrystalline solar panels offer high-quality performance at very affordable prices

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

If you’re looking for a less expensive and less space-consuming option, then polycrystalline solar panels may be a better choice for you. Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of many small crystals, as opposed to a single large crystal.

Most polycrystalline solar panels have an efficiency rating of around 15-16%, which is lower than the 18-20% rating of most monocrystalline solar panels. However, because polycrystalline solar panels are cheaper to produce, they can be a more cost-effective option in some cases. If you’re on a tight budget and want to go solar.

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Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels

Finally, there are also amorphous silicon solar panels. Amorphous silicon is a type of silicon that has no crystalline structure. This makes it less efficient than crystalline silicon, but it is cheaper to produce and can be used in flexible applications.

Amorphous silicon is often used in solar cells, as it can be produced in large quantities using a printing process. It is also being investigated for use in other renewable energy applications, such as thermoelectric and fuel cells.

Amorphous silicon has several advantages over traditional crystalline silicon:

  • It is cheaper to produce
  • It can be produced in large quantities using a printing process
  • It can be used in flexible applications
  • It performs better at low temperatures than crystalline silicon

In general, larger solar panels tend to be more efficient than smaller ones. This is because larger solar panels have more surface area that can capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. However, large solar panels can be difficult to install and may not fit on your roof.

When shopping for solar panels, it’s to keep these factors in mind so that you can pick the best option for you!

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