Solar Energy - Frequently Asked Questions

If you've got a question that isn't in the list below, send it to us through our contact form.

What does a solar PV system cost?

The installed cost of a PV system depends upon the roof type, the size of the system, the type of solar modules used and how the system is mounted. A rough price is between £2,000 - £3,000 per kWp installed. Your installer will conduct a detailed survey of your roof and then issue you with a detailed quote. A typical family using 4000kWh per year should look to install a 4kWp system, which would cost roughly £10,000.

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Will I need to get planning permission?

No, most domestic and commercial properties will not need planning permission, because solar energy systems are part of 'permitted development rights'.

Some exceptions are listed buildings and properties in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or conservation areas where planning permission may be required. In all cases you should contact your local authority to seek clarification.

All properties should inform the local building control department of the local authority, but they will not normally make a charge for this.

More information may be found in the Government's guidance for planning: Planning: A Guide for Householders.

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I've heard that solar panels take more energy to make than they generate in their lifetime, is it true?

No. As you can see from this document from the Energy Bulletin, the average panel will pay back the energy used to manufacture it in less than 4 years, and with a more than 30 year lifetime that gives at least 26 years of pollution free energy generation. We also use many UK manufactured solar panels, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of our installations.

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What does PV mean?

PV is short for photovoltaic, pronounced fotovoltayik, which comes from Latin: photo (meaning light) + voltaic (meaning energy).

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What do kWp and kWh mean?

Watts are the units used to measure electrical power and a kilowatt is a 1000 watts.

kWp stands for kilowatt peak, which is the power that a solar panel will produce if it has ideal conditions.

kWh stands for kilowatt hour, which is how many kW (kilowatts) are produced, or used, in one hour.

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How does it work?

Solar PV generates electricity from daylight. The more light that shines on the panels the more electricity they produce. See our page on how solar works.

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How much space do I need?

You need at least 8m2 of unshaded, uninterrupted roof space to fit a 1kWp system, which is the smallest system you should consider.

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What is the difference between solar thermal and solar photovolatics?

Solar thermal technology uses the heat of the sun to warm water which can be used to heat your home or directly in a bath or shower. Solar photovoltaics are panels made of silicon cells which convert daylight into electricity to power electrical appliances.

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How much energy does a solar array produce?

Each kWp of Solar PV produces between 800 and 1200kWh per year depending on where in the country it is installed, the orientation and inclination of the panels and whether they are shaded at all.

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Will solar power protect me from power bill increases?

The prices of oil and other non-renewable sources of energy are increasing and this trend looks set to continue into the future, getting more dramatic as shortages of supply increase. The price of your electricity from solar will never increase because the fuel is free!

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What grants are available?

The old grants that were available have now been replaced by the Feed-in Tariff, please see our Feed In tariff page for details.

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Can I get paid for generating electricity?

Yes! Through the Feed In tariff.

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What is the Feed-in Tariff?

The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) is a Government incentive scheme to encourage uptake of renewable energy technologies; Electricity utility companies are obliged to buy renewable electricity at fixed above-market rates set by the Government. Please see our Feed-in Tariffs page for more details.

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Does solar power reduce global warming?

Absolutely. The major contributor to global warming is the emissions of carbon dioxide from power stations burning fossil fuels. This is changing our climate and causing more severe weather patterns around the whole planet. Every time we use conventional electricity we are contributing to this massive problem.

By installing a solar PV system you are opting out of the fossil fuel and the nuclear world and becoming an independent supplier of clean green electricity for your own use and export to the grid.

Friends of the Earth have more information on Climate Change.

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How much carbon dioxide will it save?

By installing a PV system you will be producing your own electricity therefore reducing the demand for fossil fueled energy and the production of carbon dioxide. The emission factor used by Government is 0.43kg of CO2 / kWh. A typical 2kWp system will save almost 1 tonne of carbon dioxide each year.

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