Solar power is used throughout the world in order to convert sunlight into electricity. The potential for Photovoltaic cells has been know about since the late 19th century - Albert Einstein himself advanced research in the field, part of what won him the Nobel prize. Since the 1980s, solar power has been used on a large industrial scale. The world's largest plant is found in California.
Why use solar panels domestically?
However, over the past 20 years, the advances in technology have started to reduce the cost whilst increasing the efficiency of solar panels. As a result, using solar panels on your home is now significantly more affordable, and offers excellent money saving opportunities.
There are two types of solar panel which are widely available in the UK today: Solar Thermal Panels, for heating your mains water, and Solar PV Panels, for generating your electricity. The two can be used together.
At the moment, it is estimated that a system of solar PV panels can generate up to 40% of the energy needed to run an average family home in the UK. Since the sun in the sky is absolutely free, there are obvious money saving benefits once the system has been installed. As well as this, solar energy helps a household reduce its carbon footprint.
What is needed to install solar panels?
Solar panels need to be installed on a wall or roof which receives a good amount of sunlight throughout the day. This means that the ideal location would be a south facing roof or wall. However, as long as it does not face any more than 90 degrees away from due South, it should be fine. The basic science is fairly self evident - the more sunlight the panels can be exposed to the better!
The panels can be fixed on top of your roof, or alternatively screwed into the roof. This latter solution is more expensive.
Planning permission is almost never needed for solar panels, but if you live in a listed building, or if you've had problems with planning permission in the past, then it is probably worth checking.
The other thing to consider is that as well as the panels, there will need to be a battery installed somewhere internally as well as a system of cables; however this will not take up too much space.
Solar Panel Cost
Prices obviously vary, but as a general guideline, you should expect to pay between £10,000 and £14,000 for a system to suit an average home. There is of course another cost benefit, since there are various schemes whereby a household can sell excess energy back to the national grid.