June 14, 2023

Solar PV Panels and Energy Storage: 7 Common Questions Answered

Solar panels and energy storage - 7 top questions answered by the UK’s leading training provider in sustainable energy installation.

Solar PV Panels and Energy Storage: 7 Common Questions Answered

Solar PV Panels and Energy Storage: 7 Common Questions Answered

Whether you’re considering a qualification in Solar PV and Energy Storage, or you’re already fully qualified, there are many reasons that homeowners would want you to install solar panels and energy storage systems. 

However, this is still relatively new technology for the general public to be utilising themselves. 

So, it’s only natural your prospective clients will have questions on how it all works, and why solar energy is worth investing in. 

Below, we answer the most commonly asked questions around solar panel installation - to support you in closing sales and creating a greener, more sustainable future for your customers!

How do solar panels work? 

The brief version is that solar panels capture light from the sun and convert it into electricity. This electricity can be used to power anything electrical in the building, from mains power to plugged-in appliances. 

In more detail; solar panels are also known as solar photovoltaic panels, or simply ‘Solar PV’. 

A solar panel system consists of cells made of semi-conducting materials - most commonly silicon. The cells absorb sunlight and generate a direct current (DC) of electricity.

However, household appliances use alternating current (AC), a different type of electricity. So, an inverter is installed along with solar, to convert DC electricity to usable AC. 

This electricity is then used throughout the home, or exported to the grid.1

What are the benefits of installing solar panels?

Solar power is a type of renewable energy. It has benefits for both the planet and the customer, including:

  • Lower electricity costs: Producing your own energy can reduce your reliance on the national grid. This means you can cut down or even eliminate your monthly electricity bills, saving you money in the long run. 
  • Good for the planet: Unlike fossil fuels, like oil and coal, solar panels use energy from the sun, which is a clean and renewable source of power. As a result, this reduces a household’s greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and dependence on non-renewable energy sources. All contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.
  • Return on investment: While there is an initial cost of installation, solar often pays for itself over time - in many cases it takes only a few years. Check out the solar power calculator to see how much a property could save.
  • Energy independence: Many people dream of living off grid, but what they actually mean is energy independence and security. Producing your own energy on site protects you from rising electricity prices and potential power outages.
  • Tax incentives and rebates: Current UK government incentives can significantly offset the initial installation costs and make solar more affordable. (Read more about this below).
  • Increased property value: Solar panels are seen as a desirable feature due to their potential for energy savings and environmental benefits. They can make a home more attractive to potential buyers. 
  • Durability and low maintenance: Solar PV panels are designed to withstand various weather conditions and have a long lifespan. They require minimal maintenance, typically limited to occasional cleaning to ensure optimal performance.

Why is storing solar panel energy important?

As you can see above, there are several benefits to solar panel energy. 

However, unless you have an electrical energy storage system (EESS), you must use the electricity as it’s generated. 

Depending on the time of year, this is most likely throughout the day. And not everyone is home all day.

So, if you’re out of the house from 8am - 6pm, solar battery storage is absolutely essential for getting the most out of your panels.

In most cases, this will mean installing lithium ion batteries alongside solar PV. 

The benefits of solar battery storage

  • Banking energy for off-peak times: Battery storage of solar energy allows you to bank energy from the day for when you actually need it. Which for many people is in the evening, when it’s much less likely to be generated, especially over winter. 
  • Balancing energy output during: Being able to use excess energy stored in the form of a solar battery, rather than the ‘live’ version, means a constant flow of electricity for daytime activities like working from home.
  • Reduced energy consumption: Generating and using your own energy often makes people think twice about how their homes are run. If you’re aiming to use only your own battery storage supply, with no supplementation from the grid, turning appliances off at the plug and other energy-saving hacks are more likely to be used. 
  • Reduced carbon footprint: Battery storage can be used for general household power and appliances, meaning more of your home is run on green energy. But other areas that would otherwise use fossil fuels can also be powered. For example, large solar batteries can charge electric vehicles and turn any appliance in your home into a “solar-powered” device.2 All this helps to reduce the carbon footprint. 

What happens in a power outage?

Solar panel battery storage can increase your resiliency to local power outages, as you’re not as reliant on local power systems.

If you were fully solar powered, you wouldn’t be using grid power anyway and so an outage would not affect you.

If you were relying on supplementing your solar power with grid power, the overall impact of a power outage would still be reduced. But the extent to which you could function without local grid supply would depend on your solar battery storage capacity and output.

For example, if you had a small solar battery, you may still be able to watch TV but you may not be able to charge an electric car or do something else that required more energy than your battery could handle. 

Is my home suitable for solar? 

What are the practical requirements for solar panels?

Deciding whether a property is suitable for solar panel installation depends on a few factors. 

  • Orientation of the roof: South-facing roofs are the most suitable orientation for solar panel systems, as they’re exposed to the most sunlight. East and West facing roofs are also an option, but North facing roofs are not recommended. 
  • Angle of panels: An angle of anything from 15 to 40 degrees is considered optimal for solar panel installation. (Most UK houses have roofs with a tilt of 40 to 50 degrees).
  • Potential obstacles: Shading from trees, chimney stacks and other buildings must be taken into account, as shade will impact the solar energy generated. 
  • Roof space: The most common size of solar panel is 1.6m2 which would produce around 350W of energy. A 3 bedroom house is most likely to need a 3.5kWp solar PV system, which would require 10 panels - around 16 square metres.
  • Roof integrity and age: Installing panels on a structurally unsound roof, or one which is expected to need re-roofing in the next few years would be unwise given the outlay of installation. 

Can I generate enough solar energy to power my own home in the UK? 

A common question from UK homeowners is can we generate enough energy to actually power ourselves? This is often meant in a few ways.

Weather concerns: The good news is that solar panels still work when it’s cloudy, just not as much as when the sky is clear. They use both direct and indirect sunlight. 

What’s more, this has nothing to do with warmth. In fact, evidence suggests that solar panels actually produce more electricity in short sunny days of winter than in summer, as electrons are able to move more freely in colder temperatures.

Energy usage considerations: How much energy you see yourself using is also something to consider.

Whilst one home may generate and store enough electricity to power themselves without supplementation from the grid, another may not. It completely depends on the home, its inhabitants and what is being powered.

Do I need planning permission? 

In general, installing solar does not require planning permission to be obtained by homeowners. 

However, discussing with the local planning authority does ensure that everything is done to the correct standards. And that if there are any local regulations to abide by, you’re well informed. 

Are solar panels expensive?

One of the most common domestic sizes is a 4kW solar panel system, which costs around £6,400 and will cover around 29 square metres of your roof.3

Solar panels certainly aren’t cheap, but their return on investment is what draws most people in. 

In 2022, the Energy Saving Trust stated that solar can cut your electricity bill by up to 25%. But with current energy prices, this could be even higher in 2023. 

Government schemes to help homeowners 

There are also government schemes to help homeowners with solar installation:

  • Design of the Energy Company Obligation ECO4: 2022-2026: ECO4 allows low-income households the opportunity to replace their inefficient heating system with a more efficient and environmentally friendly system, such as solar panels.
  • Smart Export Guarantee (SEG): money for exporting renewable electricity you’ve generated: SEG enables small-scale low-carbon electricity generators to receive payments for any surplus energy they export back to the grid. As an SEG Generator, you can shop around for different SEG Licensees to see who offers the best price per kWh that is exported. 
  • 0% VAT on solar panels: UK government is extending the VAT relief available for the installation of energy saving materials (ESMs), introducing a time-limited zero rate. A typical family having rooftop solar panels installed will save more than £1,000 in total on installation, and then £300 annually on their energy bills.

Can I sell excess electricity back to the grid?

Yes! Under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), you can sell your unused electricity back to the grid. The cash received in return will depend upon the contract. 

Generally, the rate is now between 1p and 8p per kWh. Because you can choose any SEG Licensee, even one that’s different from your electricity supplier, shopping around for the best rate will get you the best deal.

Based on a 7.5p per kWh rate, the average owner of a three-bedroom home with a 3.5 kWp solar panel installation will currently earn £112 per year under SEG.

The catch is the property must be fitted with a smart meter, so the exports can be measured easily. And some suppliers will stipulate which solar battery storage systems they accept exports from. 

Do solar panels require maintenance?

Solar PV systems don’t need much in terms of maintenance. Rooftop solar panels are often at such an angle that rainfall will clean them regularly - especially in the UK!

But if your panels are not at an angle for rainfall cleansing (below 15 degrees tilt) then they may require hosing down every now and then.

Additionally, if they’re consistently near trees, or in a dusty area, they may need debris removed more often than rain can offer. 

How long do they last?

A solar panel system will typically last 25+ years. So in terms of return on investment, the lifetime benefits of installation can be significant on both energy bills and environmental impact. 

A solar inverter (needed to convert solar energy to useful electricity) tends to last 5-10 years, depending on the supplier. With each inverter costing at least £500, this is also a maintenance cost to consider. 

Great info - but I still need to become qualified!

As you can see, there’s a few different ways to justify solar PV and energy storage to your clients. Luckily, the benefits are plenty and practically sell themselves.

The next step is offering a fantastic service. 

If you’re yet to achieve your official qualifications, Universal Skills Group can help with that!

Our Solar PV/Energy Storage Course offers a fast track to achieving recognised and trusted qualifications.

You will:

  • Sit your 3 day Solar PV first and achieve your LCL Level 3 Award in the Installation and Maintenance of Small Scale Solar Photovoltaic Systems. 
  • Embark on a 2 day Energy Storage course achieving a LCL Awards Level 3 in the Design, Installation and Commissioning of Electrical Energy Storage Systems (EESS).
  • Gain knowledge in health and safety, DC and AC installation layouts, EESS and PV system design and installation, testing, wiring, maintenance and so much more

Plus, with an Ofsted Outstanding training centre, you’ll train with some of the best mentors and facilities in the UK.

Explore the Solar PV/Energy Storage Fast Track Course

Sources:

  1. Solar Panels - Energy Saving Trust
  2. Solar energy storage - Aurora
  3. How much do solar panels cost in 2023? - GreenMatch

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