Solar energy is booming. The renewables sector, and solar PV in particular, has seen exponential levels of growth over the last decade, with global capacity increasing by 107GW in 2020 (a 291% increase on 2011’s figure!). In the space of ten years, solar PV has evolved from a niche small-scale market to a mainstream electricity source. The latest edition of Aberla’s blog delves a little deeper…

The first question to answer is how does the renewable technology actually work? How do these panels, made up of thin layers of silicon and glass, enable you to switch your lights on? Once the panels have been installed, the process is relatively simple:

  1. Solar cells within the panels absorb the sun’s energy, converting it into a direct current (DC) voltage.

  2. DC is then passed through an inverter, transforming the energy into useable 240V alternating current (AC)

  3. A generation meter records the system’s level of production

  4. The electricity generated can then be used to power homes, businesses, leisure centres and everything in between

  5. Any unused electricity can be fed back into the National Grid, or stored in a battery for later use

Solar systems are measured in kilowatt peak (kWp), the maximum rate of electricity generation at peak performance. It is important to note that a 1kWp system will very rarely generate 1kW of power, it will likely be lower due to environmental impacts, such as how sunny the location is, orientation of the system (i.e. which way the panels face) or if there is any shading. Typically, a 1kWp system would be made up of 3 or 4 panels depending on their size.

The electrical energy generated by these systems can be measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), the same unit which is shown on an electrical bill.

The next question is how many solar panels do you need to power your home and/or business?

In the UK, average annual electricity usage for a house is around 3,000 kWh. You can expect an annual return of between 750 and 1100 kWh per kWp installed. Therefore, you would need roughly 3.5kWp of solar PV installed to generate 3,000 kWh per year, equating to 10 350W panels.

For a business however, it would be a little different because it may need a lot more energy to power a building than it would for a typical house. We have come up with a formula (see across) which you can plug your numbers into, to estimate how many panels would be required to generate the electricity you need to power your building.

Constant innovation has led to installation prices becoming more and more competitive, enabling solar energy to become the main source of energy for a lot of households across the UK. According to the Solar Trade Association, around 900,000 British homes have PV installed.

The key benefits from using solar energy include:

Renewable Energy

The most important benefit is that solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. If we were able to harvest all of the energy radiated from the sun for one hour it would power the earth for one year.

Reduces Electricity Bills

Savings will obviously be dependent on the size of the system and the amount of electricity you use in your household / business. Because you will have harvested some of the energy you need to power your home from a renewable technology, you wouldn’t have to purchase as much from the grid (or none at all if you had a large enough system!)

Meets green agenda

As the climate crisis worsens, more and more businesses are focusing on reducing their carbon emissions. Installing solar panels is a superb step towards achieving your sustainability goals.

Generates income

Any energy generated by the PV system which has not been used to power your household / business can then be sold back to the National Grid for a fee.

Predictable payback terms

As the system reduces your electricity bills and has the potential to generate additional income, it should take approximately 8 years to pay for the installation costs. Most solar panel installations, assuming you’ve chosen your installer and maintenance team wisely (like Aberla), remain active for over 25 years.

Protects against market volatility

The cost of electricity generated from the grid fluctuates over any given time, due to a number of dynamic factors. Being able to power your household/business with solar energy protects you from market volatility, providing steady and reliable electricity at predictable prices.

Aberla Energy is proud to provide these systems to households and businesses across the UK. Across the team, we have worked on some of the most innovative projects in the industry, delivering 40MWp of solar PV to our nationwide clients.

We offer clients a complete turn-key solution for the delivery of solar PV, including feasibility, design, supply, install, commissioning and aftercare maintenance.

Solar PV is just one of many renewable technologies that sit within our core energy offer. Others include EV charging, battery storage, smart grids, heat networks and air source heat pumps!

Read more about Aberla Energy's capabilities here