Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert solar energy into usable electricity. The solar panels generate a Direct Current (DC) and a solar panel system will include an inverter which converts this DC into an Alternating Current (AC) which can be used by your electricity system. By converting sunlight into clean, green energy, homeowners and organisations can reduce their carbon footprint, make savings on bills, and receive guaranteed payments for the electricity that they produce.
The differences between domestic and commercial installations
As a general rule, all installations not on a home will be classed as commercial. For example, if a farmer had solar panels installed on his house, this would be classed as a domestic PV system. If that same farmer had panels on his barn, it would be classed as a commercial installation as it would not be for domestic purposes. It would also probably be much larger than his domestic installation to meet different energy needs.
Commercial solar panel systems tend to be much larger than domestic ones. A domestic solar system will usually not exceed four kWp in output, whereas a commercial system can be hundreds of times this. However all systems should be designed to the specifications of the building in question and be tailored to fit the energy needs of the inhabitants. The energy requirements of a school or hospital would be much greater than a family home.
Benefits of solar power
In April 2010 the government introduced the Feed-in Tariff as a scheme to incentivise homeowners and organisations to install renewable energy sources such as solar panels as a means of reducing their carbon emissions. The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) ensures that solar panel owners are paid by their energy provider for every unit of electricity which is produced from their solar panels for 25 years, whether or not they use it. They are also paid an additional amount for each unit that they export into the National Grid for others to use.
Aside from the environmental benefits of significantly reducing a carbon footprint and lowering dependence on fossil fuels,payments provide a strong financial inventive to investing in solar panels, as they pay an average 11% tax-free return on investment. Another key benefit to investing is solar is the free electricity that a system produces. By generating their own electricity, homeowners and businesses need to buy much less from their energy providers, ensuring bill reductions. They also protect themselves against future energy price rises, as they have their own source of generating electricity. Installing solar panels can be particularly useful for companies or organisations needing to achieve certain set emissions or energy targets.
System sizes and the Feed-in Tariff
Photovoltaic system sizes vary according to the building size and the specific energy needs, however another factor affecting the size of a PV installation is the Feed-in Tariff itself. For example, the tariffs for a domestic system will vary slightly depending on the size of the installation. Most homes installing a retrofit solar panel installation on an existing roof will select a system up to or including 4kW as these systems which will ensure the largest payments from the FIT. Installations which are larger than this will receive slightly lower payments per unit.
The size of a commercial installation is also linked to the amount of Feed-in Tariff income that it can generate. From the 1st August 2011, commercial solar PV systems installed which exceed 50 kWp will receive lower FIT payments than they currently do. This is to ensure that the resources of the FIT are available to all installations including ones for homeowners and to ensure a steady rate of growth for the solar PV industry.
With a growing understanding of the necessity of renewable energy and the financial incentives of the Feed-in Tariff, more and more solar PV systems are being installed across the UK. Once a system is installed, all of the clean green electricity which it produces is free for the owners of the system. Thus increasing numbers of homeowners and organisations such as schools, farms and businesses are choosing to provide themselves with electricity in this way.
Article submitted by Carlo Ruggiero.
Carlo Ruggiero is a green aficionado who is passionate about getting the word out on renewable sources of energy and all things green, from funding your hot water to making money from your electric heating. You can follow his struggle with social media and daily musings on Twitter.