Solar Panels For Domestic And Commercial Use

An introduction to solar power

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.

Now Is The Time To Go Solar

The incentives to go solar at home are better than ever.
Government guarantee schemes and increasing electricity bills, combined with dwindling fossil fuel resources and the dire need for solutions to climate change make solar panels a compelling solution for the eco and budget conscious homeowner.

So what is solar power anyway?
Solar power uses photovoltaic (PV) cells on the roof of your house to convert light from the sun into electrical energy which can be used in your house, or fed back into the national grid. A chemical reaction creates a flow of electrons in the solar panel (direct current or D/C), which feeds into an inverter to convert this into alternating current (A/C) to power your house.

What if I don’t live in a sunny climate?
Solar panels don’t actually need sunshine to work, the photovoltaic cells react to daylight. So even on a completely overcast day solar panels can generate 40% of their potential electricity yield. And you are still connected to the electricity grid, so outside of daylight hours you can draw from the grid just as before. Plus, any extra electricity from your panels which you don’t use will be fed back to the grid and you’ll actually get paid for it! (See below)

The environmental case for solar
The environmental case for renewable energy is becoming louder and more critical all the time. Barely a week goes by without a major news story involving the rising price of oil and gas, the terrible environmental impact of fossil fuel recovery methods such as “fracking” and tar sands which leave areas of land devastatingly polluted and emit up to 45% more greenhouse gas than even traditional oil and gas (and of course 100% more than solar). With peak oil production rapidly approaching, solar is widely seen as an integral part of the low-carbon future, and thankfully one which you can start to benefit from now.

The financial case for solar
Arguably just as important as the environmental benefits, there are now real cost savings to be made by going solar. Government schemes both in the UK and US now provide homeowners with compelling cost incentives for installing solar panels at home. Last year in the UK the government introduced the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) as an incentive scheme to encourage homeowners to invest in solar PV. The FIT ensures payment of 43.3 pence for each unit of electricity that their domestic solar system produces, irrespective of whether they use that electricity in their home or not. Additionally, the FIT also pays 3 pence per unit for electricity not used in the home and exported to the National Grid. The scheme is guaranteed for 25 years, and the amount will increase with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index.

With this in place, homeowners can make around £12,000 ($19,000) profit over the lifecycle of their solar panels. This is on top of savings on electricity bills of between £70 and £130 ($114 and $212) every year.

So what’s stopping you?
Installation and all the technical know-how are handled by the solar panel provider, along with maintenance over the life of the panels. In the vast majority of cases you won’t require any planning permission to install solar panels.

Although the initial cost of the panels is between £8,000 and £14,000 ($13,000 and $23,000), the feed-in-tariff, and bill savings ensure you will start earning this back from day one. Also, many solar panel providers offer free panels in exchange for rights to the feed-in-tariff until the cost is paid off. So there really should be nothing stopping you from going solar at home.

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.
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