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Solar electricity (PV)

 

Solar panelsSolar PV (photovoltaic) uses the energy from the sun to create electricity to run appliances and lighting. PV requires only daylight - not direct sunlight - to generate electricity, so can still generate some power on a cloudy day. PV systems produce no greenhouse gases.

 

What are the costs and savings?

You could be saving between 1 and 2 tonnes of CO2 a year and earning hundreds of pounds per year from the feed-in tariff, plus saving on the electricity you use when the panels are working. The amount of energy each solar PV cell can generate in full sunlight is measured as kilowatt peak (kWp). Costs for the average domestic system are now typically around £1500 per kWp installed, and  most domestic systems are between 1.5 and 4 kWp. The Energy Saving Trust gives more details on costs and savings. See also Feed-in tariffs: the essentials and Feed-in tariff for solar panels: how the sums stack up

Stafford Area Community Solar

If you live or have business premises in Stafford Borough, you are eligible for a discount on solar PV under a scheme set up by Sustainability Matters in conjunction with Stafford Borough Council. This can give you a discount off the installer's normal price, making it a very attractive deal. See the SACS main page for full details.

 

Important points

  • To qualify for the feed-in tariff, your equipment and installer must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
  • All electricity generated qualifies for the generation tariff, and the proportion exported to the grid will earn an additional export tariff (typically estimated at half the electricity generated).
  • Solar panels will also cut the amount of electricity imported from the grid, and hence cut your bills. Savings will depend on how much electricity you use when the panels are working (i.e. on sunny days)!
  • You need a roof or wall that faces within 90 degrees of south, with no other buildings or large trees overshadowing it. If the roof surface is in shadow for parts of the day, the output of the system decreases.
  • Solar panels are not light and the roof must be strong enough to take their weight, especially if the panel is placed on top of existing tiles.
  • You may require planning permission to fit a PV system in conservation areas or on listed buildings.
  • If you intend to have major roof repairs carried out it may be worth exploring PV tiles as they can offset the cost of roof tiles.
  • PV systems connected to the grid require very little maintenance, generally limited to ensuring that the panels are kept relatively clean and that shade from trees has not become a problem. The wiring and components of the system should however be checked regularly by a qualified technician.
  • Note that the inverter - the box that converts DC to AC - will likely need replacing during the operating lifetime of the system.
  • A solar PV optimiser can divert surplus electricity to a designated load, such as an immersion heater, electric storage heaters, or underfloor heating, to maximise use on site, where the property already has a suitable load.