Harnessing Solar Power and turning
it into Electricity

The PV solar panel

As well as using solar thermal panels to provide hot water in your home, solar power can also be harnessed and turned into electricity to reduce your energy bills even further. Imagine the freedom of not being affected by rising electricity costs forced upon everyone by utility companies. You will be generating home grown electricity, and be completely self sufficient. You can even sell back the excess electricity you don't use to the supply company...That's right! They pay you!

There are even companies in America, where PV is relatively common, that promote the concept of living utility free!

How do PV solar panels work?

PV panels use the photovoltaic process to convert photons - found in sunlight, into electricity.

Firstly, a PV solar panel has no moving parts in it. The solar panel is made from lots of PV cells with conducting metal strips running through the middle.

When photons from sunlight strike the panel, electrons are knocked out of their usual orbit, and are allowed to flow, creating an electrical current. The panels are manufactured using a semiconductor such as silicon, to achieve this. The stronger and more direct the sunlight, the better the flow of electricity, although panels do not need direct sunlight, just the same as solar thermal panels. The DC current produced by the panels is then converted into an AC current, so it can be effectively used to power appliances in the home.

PV panels tend to be much thinner than solar thermal panels, as there is no requirement for pipes carrying water through them etc., so they make a much more visually appealing installation when sited above the roof tiles. Similarly to solar thermal panels, planning consent is usually not necessary for on roof installations, unless you live on a world heritage site, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, or similar. Even then, the likelihood is that consent will be given, in the giant push for renewable energy that we are currently seeing.

If you are seriously considering installing a solar power installation for electricity generation, we would recommend getting hold of 'The solar electricity handbook', by Michael boxwell, available on the right. This book looks into all aspects of PV design and installation, along with some best practice tips to ensure you get the most from your PV equipment. In addition, you can monitor the progress of one PV installation at www.uksolarcasestudy.co.uk This is a UK PV installation case study, developed to monitor the effectiveness of the Governments Feed in tariff. Read more about the feed in tariff here

Click here to read about payback on solar through the Feed in tariff

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