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Photovoltaics - solar electricity
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Using Photovoltaic Panels
Electricity can be generated from the sun using “solar” photovoltaic (PV) panels. They don’t have to be receiving direct sunlight in order to work – any daylight will generate electricity. However full summer sun will generate more power than an overcast day in winter and the more of it the panels receive, the more cost effective they will be. PV panels come in a wide range of different sizes. For domestic installations, the new Feed-In Tariffs (FITS) allow you to sell surplus electricity back to the grid and so easily recoup your initial investment.

Different Uses for PV Technology
PV panels come in various different sizes and can be used for a range of different applications. Very small PV cells can be used to charge all sizes of batteries for home use.

Small PV units can be a good solution for providing light and power away from the grid, such as in an outbuilding. Large 12V batteries will be needed to store the power and an inverter will be needed to convert it into useable 240V electricity.
Large PV panels can also be installed either with a series of 12V batteries for remote locations unconnected to the grid or they can connected directly into the National Grid. Using a two-way meter, surplus power can then be sold back to your supplier.
Mini solar pv cells can be used to charge electrical devices such as mobile phones, mp3 players or cameras.

photo - solar mobile phone charger

Larger, flexible panels are now being integrated into items such as rucksacks and shoulder bags. Again, these can be used to charge small electrical devices.

photo - laptop bag solar charger

At the other end of the scale, huge arrays of large pv panels (pictured here in Nevada, USA) are being used to generate 10 to 14 megawatts of electricity.

photo - solar farm

Cost Effectiveness
Prices for PV panels vary hugely, depending on the scale of the technology. Solar battery chargers, for example, begin at about £10, while small off grid panels range from about £250 - £1000. Larger PV panels, costing £8000-14000, should be seen as an investment, and have been shown to add to the value of a property.

The cost effectiveness of a domestic PV system depends on the site, size of panel and on the electricity market. The panels should face between SE and SW to maximise output. Because neither sunlight nor your electricity needs are constant, you will still need a mains supply for when you can’t generate enough. However, the feed-in tariffs incentive (see below) makes it possible to sell excess electricity back to the national grid. This will make a significant difference to the cost effectiveness of installation. Generally, larger panels will pay for themselves more quickly than smaller ones.

Ultimately, the size and orientation of roof and the amount of energy required dictates the size of panel to be purchased. We recommend you consult a professional installer or manufacturer.

Feed-In Tariffs
Feed In Tariffs (FITS) is a new Government-backed initiative to make it more worthwhile installing renewable or low carbon energy technology, including wind PV solar, in your home, business or community. By using a special two-way meter, FITS allows you to sell electricity into the national grid at a higher rate than you would buy it. Fully insulating your home and using as many energy saving technologies as possible will maximise your income from the scheme. In addition, you get paid for any energy you produce, even if you use it all yourself. Thirdly, even if you’re not fortunate enough to become self sufficient in electricity, the amount you have to buy in from your supplier will drastically reduce.

The exact amount earned and saved depends on the type and scale of the technology. Generally, over the lifetime of the tariff you will easily recoup the initial investment. The tariffs will be index linked to allow for inflation.

To qualify for FITS payments you must use an MCS registered supplier or installer. Generally, small-scale solar pv installations will not need planning permission unless you are in a listed building or conservation area but you should check with your local authority first.

Renewable energy in Belper
There are a growing number of solar panels visible in Belper - go to our renewable energy in Belper page for more details and some photos of installations.

Further Information:

General information
Energy Saving Trust - 0800 512012 -
Centre for Alternative Technology - 01564 705950 -
MCS Registered Products and Installers - 020 7090 1082 -
Solar Trade Association - 01908 442290 -

Suppliers and Installers
Please note that this list is not exhaustive. The companies listed are offered as a starting point for enquiries but with no implied recommendation of any product or service.
MDB New Energy Ltd based in Ripley- 01773 513443 / 07855 368224 -
T4 Sustainability - 0845  4561332 -
Evo Energy based in Nottingham
Aspire Solar based in Chesterfield
Ownergey - 020 7173 5010 -
Southern Solar Ltd - 0845 456 9474 -
Wind and Sun Ltd - 01568 760671 -
Dulas Engineering - 01654 705000 -
Greenearth Energy - 01981 241399 -
Solar Century - 020 7803 0100 -
Solar Energy Alliance - 01502 515532 -

Supplier and Installer Directories

Information compiled by Marches Energy Agency June 2010 –

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