Solar power seems all the rage nowadays, and follows along the ideals of the Green Deal scheme, but surely the UK has too much cloud and gets too much rain for solar power to be effective?
We look at whether solar panels are all the salesmen say what they are, and whether they really are effective or just a vanity purchase to impress the neighbours.
Solar power, the ability to harness the sun, and then conduct “free” electricity has been around for some time, however technology has moved on, with more efficient solar panels, better ways of “capturing” this green energy and the emergence of feed-in tariffs where excess electric is sold back to the national grid.
With the recent very wet months of November and December, and the subsequent floods, short of building our own ark, should we really be taking domestic solar power seriously?
A background to solar Power
This form of generating electricity was invented way back in the 1800’s by a French physicist and then later improved upon by Charles Fritts who developed the simple solar cell.
Not much change in technology has happened to solar panels up until recently, and a man called Russell Ohl was the first inventor to created the silicon solar cell in back in 1941.
The technology was still rudimentary and inefficient but in 1954, the three Americans (Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin) created a solar panel that had the efficiency level of 6% when placed under direct sunlight.
This advance paved the way for more practical application using solar power, however the invention of photovoltaic panels, far more efficient still, saw governments clambering to implement this new technology.
But do solar panels only work when the sun shines because we don’t seem to get much of the hot stuff in the UK?
How does solar power work?
The solar panels in use today are PV or photovoltaic and these systems typically need energy from the sun to generate electricity. They don’t actually need direct sunlight to produce electric, only good daylight, which is also the case in winter.
Many people wrongly believe that you need strong, direct sun, such as in hotter countries nearer the equator, and of course solar panels in these climes do work better and produce more electricity, but they still work in the uk, although of course not as well.
Solar power is not a magic cure to save money as let’s be quite honest, the weather in the UK is not good enough to generate enough power for a home to be self sufficient, although at least generating SOME solar power is helpful, but if you consider the cost, the amount of carbon etc. it takes to maker them, ship them to the store and then to your home, one wonders if the hassle is really worth it?
The cost of solar power
One of the main drawbacks in having solar panels fitted to your roof is of course the high installation costs because let’s face it, it really will take a heck of a long time, many years in fact, to recoup your investment.
However, the UK government has been committed to renewable energy for some time now and they launched the green deal scheme to help home owners combat the high cost of fitting solar PV panels to their homes.
In fact the government said..
“The Green Deal will become the most ambitious home improvement programme since the second world war” – Greg Barker – UK Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change
So with that in mind, what does the green deal for solar power entail?
The green deal.
(NOTE: Since this article was 1st published, the “green deal” scheme has ended.)
The government, in a bid to get our homes more energy efficient have launched schemes with grants or loans to cover areas such as:Energy-saving improvements include:
- insulation – eg loft or cavity wall insulation
- double glazing
- renewable energy technologies – eg solar panels or wind turbines
In using the tools provided by this incentive, we can not only become more environmentally friendly, but we can in many cases, save a lot of money in improving our homes.
To encourage home-owners to have solar power fitted, they ask that you locate a suitable and accredited supplier of solar panels, who have signed up to the green deal initiative, and they will do the work for you, in many cases without you having to pay up-front.
After this the government works with your electricity supplier and takes monthly payments from your electric bill. Bear in mind, the average house holder will take years to repay this!
They can do this because any spare electric not being used, is fed back into the grid, meaning that in a sort of “crowd-sourcing” exercise, the government gets home-owners to help generate the countries electricity.
This is called a feed-in tariff.
The benefits of this, taking the solar companies sales patter away, are fairly minimal.
To be frank, if solar panels generate more than about £300 worth of electric a year I would be very surprised. More savings would be had on better insulation around the house, meaning heating costs would be greatly reduced.
More info about solar power
More information can be found by calling the Green deal team on 0300 123 1234 Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday, 10am to 2pm
Please note, we are NOT a solar power installer, this blog post is for education and discussion.