Solar photovoltaics (PV) are more known commonly as solar panels, or just PV in the industry. These are the large flat, black glass panels that are usually put on roofs to convert sunlight into electricity. PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon, and come in a variety of shapes and colours; from roof and wall mounting panels to grey "solar tiles" that can look like roof slates. There are even panels available with the solar cells spaced apart to allow some sunshine through for conservatory roofing, for example.
A solar panel or photovoltaics panel is a packaged, connected assembly of solar cells.
The solar panel can be used as a component of a larger photovoltaic system to generate and supply electricity in residential applications. Groups of cells are mounted together in panels or modules that can be mounted on your roof.
When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced; however, solar panels will still produce smaller quantities of electricity on a cloudy day. The technology behind them is improving at an impressive rate, allowing them to become more and more efficient and effective at generating electricity regardless of what you might think about the UK weather!
The power of a PV cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp). Most solar panels have a life expectancy of 25 years.
Why Use Solar Panels?
Solar panels, also known as solar photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun's energy using photovoltaic cells which then produce electricity. The electricity generated can be used to run your household appliances and any excess electricity can also be sold back into the National Grid. By generating your own electricity and the additional payments from selling your excess electricity back to the National Grid, solar panel installations can usually be self-financing after a number of years.
This payback time is determined by the cost of the installation, the amount of electricity produced and sold as well as the level of payments offered via the Government's Feed-in-Tariff.
• Get paid for the electricity you generate: the government's Feed-in-Tariff pays you for the electricity you generate, even if you use it yourself!
• Sell electricity back to the grid: if your system is producing more electricity than you need,
or when you can't use it, you can sell the surplus back to the grid.
• Make energy savings: a 2.9kWp system can generate up to 2,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a year - that's around three quarters of a typical household's electricity needs, and it can save over a ton of carbon dioxide every year.