How Solar Panels Work
Solar panels are clean, green and energy efficient. This means that they are environmentally friendly and leave no carbon footprint as they use no fossil fuels and so have no carbon dioxide emissions. Solar panels work by collecting solar energy from the suns rays and converting it into electricity or heat. A solar panel is constructed of several solar cells, these are made from wafers of silicon.
The wafers are made by heating the silicon to extremely high temperatures and then adding phosphorous and boron. By adding these chemicals the silicon atoms become unstable. So when photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the solar cells the energy detaches electrons from the unstable silicon wafers. These electrons are then forced to flow along wires within the cells by electric fields in the panels and so create a flow of electricity.
The advantages of installing solar panels are that you can potentially supply yourself with free electricity and /or heating but also reduce your household energy bills. Additionally you can sell any surplus energy back to the national grid via the governments Feed in Tariff (FIT). There have been two schemes available; one for photovoltaic panels which produce electricity and one for solar hot water systems which produce heating.
The maximum grant available from the government is two thousand pounds per kilo watt of installed capacity up to a capped amount of two thousand five hundred pounds or fifty percent of the costs (which ever is the least amount). There is also an overall cap per household of two thousand five hundred pounds for all technologies.
To qualify for a grant you will need to have already taken steps to ensure that your home is energy efficient. You should have insulated the whole of the loft to a minimum of two hundred and seventy millimetres, installed cavity wall insulation (if possible), fitted low energy light bulbs (where appropriate) and installed room thermostats, programmers or timers for your heating system.
Having solar panels now and in the future:
Grants for photovoltaic panels are no longer available from the government but some local councils still offer them. Grants for solar hot water systems will stop once the allocated money runs out; at present the grant is thirty percent of the installed cost up to a maximum of four hundred pounds.
When this money has been used the government will be introducing a new scheme called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This will work like the FIT where households will be paid approximately eighteen pence per kilo watt hour for heat generated by their system, this is estimated at around three hundred and fifty pounds per year.
The FIT can pay up to forty one pence per kilo watt hour for any electricity sold back to the national grid, estimated at seven hundred and fifty pounds per year. This fee will reduce to a maximum of thirty seven pence per kilo watt hour for installations after 1/4/2012. Once installed the fee is guaranteed for twenty five years.