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 of us would actually consider adding 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, most people surveyed said ‘yes’ (but only just at 51%). The remaining 49% said ‘no’.
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 feel that solar panels are cost-effective.
Despite such divided opinion in the UK, it seems that 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.
But what exactly 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 falls into the category of renewable energy sources along with wind and tidal. This means that we cannot run out of it, and will have access to this source until the sun dies. According to NASA, we have another 6.5 billion years of solar energy to harness.
Through solar power we are able to meet the energy requirements of this generation without compromising the future of generations to come.
It is incredibly environmentally friendly
As well as being non-renewable, traditional fuel sources like gas and coal have the added problem of pumping harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. On the other hand, harnessing solar power causes far less pollution. The only potential pollution it causes will be associated with the manufacturing, transportation and installation processes involved, but it will still generally be much lower than fossil fuels.
The technology is constantly developing
Tackling climate change has become a top priority for countries around the world. For the UK, the Climate Change Act of 2008 commits us to reducing our carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050 (from levels seen in 1990). Solar power will play an incredibly important part in that, and as a result, the technology is constantly being developed and improved upon. This means that the development of new and more efficient solar power technology will be a top priority, which means it’ll inevitably become cheaper and more effective.
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. There are a number of myths floating around about solar energy, and we’re here to bring you the truth.
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 a number of schemes to help you manage the cost - check out the government’s website on feed-in tariffs for more information. Many companies also offer discounted schemes for those looking to add solar panels.
IKEA has been selling them online to the general public since April, which underlines the point that the technology is becoming more accessible.
What about solar panels for small businesses?
Solar panels aren’t just for homeowners; a growing number of companies are now starting to cater to businesses of all shapes and sizes who are looking to become a little greener. Switching to solar power can help to lower your bills and your 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 cut. Although you will have to pay for the initial investment, panels can pay for themselves in just a few years. Thanks to government initiatives such as the feed-in tariffs schemes, you can even start to earn money back from the electricity you generate, without having to pay for power from the National Grid. 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 own 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 actually 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 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 a number of 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 greener, most recently, the US, Canada and Mexico who together pledged that 50% of their power would come from clean energy by the year 2025. That’s a huge promise, and solar power is going to play an enormous part in hitting such ambitious targets.
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?