The power of the sun – powering your home or business? What you need to know about solar!

The biggest energy source in our galaxy is the sun, without it we would have no life on our planet, period. But over recent years we’ve made huge developments in harnessing solar energy for our own energy needs. It makes sense when you think about it, why work against nature when we can harness her power? The sun has provided free reliable energy for as long as the universe has existed and to give you an idea of the possibilities, if we were to fill the Sahara desert with solar panels we’d have enough energy to power the whole world!

Ok, so in reality in the UK we’re short of 2 things the Sahara has in abundance, space and sun but solar can still slash your energy bills and boost your green credentials both at home and at work.

How does solar energy work?

Solar literally captures the power of the sun. Solar panels can be fitted to any semi flat surface, roof, field or shelter. Solar panel systems are sized in kilowatts (kw), the higher the kw the higher the maximum potential energy generated by the system - but this is potential energy only. The amount of energy produced depends on where the panels are positioned, where in the sky the sun is, and its intensity. It is a complicated business; well positioned panels can create more electricity on a cloudy day than poorly positioned panels on a sunny day!

Without getting too technical, the electricity generated is fed to your home or workplace from the panels via in ‘inverter’ so that it can be used, instantly if needed. This is needed to convert the “Direct Current” (DC) power into useable “Alternating Current” (AC) power.

Depending on the number of solar panels, a typical residential system will generate 3kw/hour when the sun is at its highest. In a best-case scenario, a house in southern England with a south facing roof can produce 30kw day, which is roughly equivalent to £10 worth of electricity. This could meet the energy needs of the typical household entirely, whether it’s used immediately, or stored for later use in a battery.

The typical 3kwh residential solar system with an element of battery storage costs under £10,000 installed, so you can see how you could recoup the investment over 3 years fairly easily as long as you have some battery storage options. Of course, this can be as simple as storing it in your electric car in some cases.

How can I learn more?

The examples above are best-case scenarios, and every solar installation is different - that's why it's essential to get expert advice before any buying decision is made. We work with some of the UK's best solar installers, and a range of green finance providers.

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