Solar panels have been popping up on roofs all over the UK, but how much do people really know about the technology? And how many more of us will add them to our home, whether it’s for the good of our wallets or the environment?
Research conducted by Love Energy Savings has discovered that public opinion on solar power is fairly evenly split. When asked if they believe solar panels are worth the initial investment, only a slight majority, 51%, said ‘Yes’.
Digging deeper into the results, it seems that young people are more likely to agree that solar panels are worth investing in. 78% of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed, but the number of people who support solar technology dwindles as you move up through the age brackets. Just 29% of 55 to 64-year-olds believe that solar panels are cost-effective.
Despite such divided opinion in the UK, the worldwide demand for solar power is drastically increasing. Whilst less than 2% of the world’s electricity is currently generated through solar photovoltaic technology, a recent report estimated that this figure could increase to as much as 13% by the year 2030. During 2020, over half of UK power was generated via renewables for the first time, signifying an upward trend in alternative power sources like wind, solar and tidal.
But what is solar power, and how can it contribute to the ongoing battle against climate change?
What is solar power?
Solar power refers to the electricity that is generated by harnessing the power of the sun’s rays. This is done through photovoltaic (PV) technology or solar panels, which capture the light and convert it into energy.
The panels can either be installed freestanding on the ground, or they can be fitted on to buildings, most commonly on to roofs. Whereas only a few panels at a time can be added to buildings, thousands can be grouped together in solar farms - the largest of which is located in the Mojave Desert in California, which houses more than 170,000 panels.
What are the advantages of solar energy?
Solar power is renewable and sustainable
Unlike sources such as coal, gas and oil, solar power is a renewable energy source along with wind and tidal. This means that we cannot run out of it, unlike finite resources. According to NASA, we have another 6.5 billion years of solar energy to harness.
Through solar power, we can continue to meet the UK’s energy requirements without compromising the future of generations to come.
It is incredibly environmentally friendly
As well as being finite resources, traditional fuel sources like gas and coal have the added problem of pumping harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Harnessing solar power causes far less pollution and generates less carbon to be released into the atmosphere.
The only pollution solar panels generate is through the manufacturing, transportation and installation processes, but it is still a much cleaner energy source than fossil fuels.
The technology is constantly developing
Tackling climate change is a top priority for countries around the world. For the UK, the Climate Change Act, 2008 committed us to substantially reduce our carbon emissions by the year 2050 (from levels seen in 1990). Subsequent legislation has increased that target to zero emissions by 2050.
Solar power will play an incredibly important part of this significant shift that will involve changes in how the UK sources energy in the future. Solar technology, particularly energy storage, is constantly developing and improving.
Love Energy Savings predict continue investment into new and more efficient solar power technology, which means it will inevitably become cheaper and more effective.
Is it worth investing in solar panels?
For those looking to save money on energy bills in the long term, solar panels do offer a way to not just reduce your electricity bills. Homes with solar panels already installed can make money via the feed-in tariff scheme which enables you to sell the energy you generate to the National Grid.
Please be aware that this scheme stopped taking new application on 31st March 2019, so it’s important to bear that in mind when making your decision. However, some positive news is that the Government has announced a Green Homes Grant Scheme, with successful applicants being able to make energy efficient improvements to their home worth up to £5,000 or £10,000.
There is a huge amount of variation in solar technology and how effective they are depending on multiple factors including the numbers of panels, storage facilities, your home’s location and even the inclination of your roof. You can calculate how long your panels will take to pay for themselves here.
For those looking for a more immediate way to reduce your household bills, switching to a cheaper home energy contract should be prioritised.
Top four myths about solar panels
Whilst people may be aware of some of the basic advantages of solar power (it’s clean and green), many are yet to be convinced - as the research by Love Energy Savings suggests. Several myths are floating around about solar energy, and we’re here to set the record straight.
Myth: Solar panels don't work when it is cloudy
Fact: Solar panels are unaffected by temperature and still work in cloudy conditions. Even if it was snowing, the sun is still shining so they can still convert the sun’s rays into energy. In fact, Germany gets incredibly cold temperatures but it is still the world’s top producer of solar electricity. It is thought that the panels can actually work better in colder weather.
Myth: They require constant maintenance
Fact: Once they have been installed, solar panels will require very little future maintenance and should only need replacing if, for some reason, a fault develops. The most upkeep they will require will be cleaning a couple of times a year maximum.
Myth: They are too expensive
Fact: For domestic customers looking to install solar panels on their own homes, there are some schemes to help you manage the cost - check out the government’s website for information on the Green Deal (which covers investment in solar panels) to learn on how your home can secure funding for investment into solar technology.
Some companies also offer discounted schemes for solar panels for business. For example, the government’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). This scheme is for small-scale low-carbon electricity generators to profit from any energy they export back to the National Grid.
The UK is installing solar panels faster than any other European country, and panels are now available from thousands of national and local retailers. With the uplift in demand, IKEA has been selling solar panels public since 2016, which underlines how accessible the technology has become.
What about solar panels for small businesses?
Solar panels aren’t just for homeowners; a growing number of companies are now starting to invest in solar panels and become a little greener. Switching to solar power can help to lower your company bills, potentially generate income and improve your business carbon footprint.
In the past, we have explored how businesses can invest in being green, and it’s never too late to start thinking about reducing your carbon footprint! Investing in solar panels for your business is the perfect place to start. Here are a few reasons why you should get on board…
Cut your business expenses
The first and biggest advantage of installing solar panels is that your business expenses will be reduced. Although the initial investment might seem significant, panels can pay for themselves in just a few years. This is particularly true if you are planning on investing in an electric vehicle fleet, as with solar energy you can drastically reduce not only your premises running costs but your companies travel expenses.
Government initiatives such as the feed-in tariffs schemes, allow businesses who already have solar panels to earn money back from the electricity you generate, without having to pay for power from the National Grid. Again, please note that the scheme is no longer taking new applications. To learn more about the current feed-in tariff rates, and how to apply, Ofgem is your go-to source.
Phil Gilbert, Head of Business Solutions at E.ON, told us:
“Energy costs can have a significant impact on a business’ bottom line, and generating your own power can put control firmly into your hands. Cutting down waste, using smart technology to manage buildings and possibly generating your own power are all options to consider.
“Investing in energy efficiency or in new generation technologies such as solar make sound investments, often paying back in only a few years. Across Europe, we are seeing customers profiting from improving their energy efficiency. As well as the bottom-line impact, investing in new energy solutions can also unlock new growth and improve productivity and overall competitiveness.”
Boost your reputation and earn the public’s trust
With climate change and the environment grabbing the headlines so often, people are naturally becoming more green-focused and are more conscious about the companies they choose to work with. Adding solar panels to your business can show people that you are committed to helping the environment, and is certainly something that is worth shouting about!
Annabelle Bean from Romag, says that the benefits of solar energy to SMEs can really go far beyond saving money:
“Nothing will position your company as an environmentally-conscious brand more than investing in renewable energy for your business. Not only will you be able to have the peace of mind that you are using green energy, but the fact that you are doing so provides a great PR opportunity.
“Being a sustainable business counts for a lot in the current marketplace, where the spotlight is well and truly on companies who do not prove their environmental credentials. When your customers see that you are setting yourself apart from the crowd and investing in a cleaner future, you will soon build up increased brand loyalty and trust.”
Improve your carbon footprint
By cutting your dependence on electricity generated from burning gas, coal and oil and instead of turning to renewable forms of energy; you will be helping to drastically reduce your business’ carbon footprint.
Phil Foster, Managing Director of Love Energy Savings, commented:
“There are so many small things that businesses can do to cut their carbon footprint, but solar panels are a huge step forward towards our goal of slashing emissions. Here at Love Energy Savings, we want to see the technology developing further and becoming more readily available both to domestic and business customers.
“Even if the installation of solar panels is a little outside the budget of some SMEs, we always advocate using greener sources of energy. We work with many different independent suppliers, some of whom source a proportion of their energy supply from renewables, to give you a wider choice when switching your energy supplier.”
There is no doubt about it; clean energy is the future. More and more countries are stepping forward to announce their commitment to being green, with the UK the first major economy to commit to zero emissions. That’s a significant challenge and solar power is going to play a key role in helping us play our part in the global effort to combat climate change.
Whether you’re a business or domestic customer, if you want to learn more about solar energy or the green suppliers that we work with, the team at Love Energy Savings are always on hand to answer any questions. So why not get in touch today?