PHOTOVOLTAIC

Solar Panels
Photovoltaic (PV) panels, also known as solar electric panels, convert sunlight directly into electricity. If you are looking for information on solar panels for producing hot water, please see our solar water heating section.
 
While the UK is not one of the sunniest countries in the world, there is still a lot of solar energy available for us to use: Over the course of a year, a surface of just one square metre receives around 800 kWh (units) in the form of solar energy - that's a quarter of the annual electricity bill of a typical UK household.
Currently, photovoltaic solar electricity is an expensive technology with high up-front capital costs, and often other investments - particulary energy conservation measures - offer better environmental benefits per pound spent. However, the Feed-in tariff (FiT) incentive scheme means that PV can be financially viable in good locations.
 
At the C.A.T. site we saw different types of solar panels, one that was very interesting was one that had a motor on it which would allow the panel to follow the sun and tilt to get the optimum array of sunlight. This proved to be less efficient than the still ones as the energy to move the panels was more or equal to what it was producing. This was put down to the fact that wales has minimum sunshine and plenty of clouds.
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It takes a lot of energy and money to produce PV panels, therefore financial andcarbon payback times under UK conditions are long and a very long lifetime is important to make the technology attractive, both in economic and ecological terms. The government state a cell has a life span of 25 years but with maintenance it could be longer.
 
A typical 3.5kW grid-connected PV roof (covering about 25 square metres) is likely to cost around £6,000. Take a look at a Solar Calculator to estimate the cost for smaller or larger systems, and to see how long it will take to recoup this cost.
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