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Myth Busting: Solar PV

 

Many organisations overlook the benefits of solar PV installations based on myths and half-truths about the technology. It means they could be missing out on savings and a potential revenue stream.

Clean power will play a key role in the decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity generation. In fact, almost 40% of the UK’s electricity in 2020 came from burning gas in power stations, so let’s look at the opportunities to displace that with clean power in the form of solar PV, which is a viable solution for many non-domestic buildings.

This article looks at seven common misconceptions and aims to demonstrate that, despite the end of the Feed-In Tariff, solar panels are a worthwhile investment to help achieve your energy, cost, and carbon saving objectives. We also identify some key considerations to take into account before embarking on a solar PV project.

Myth 1: Solar panels don’t work in the UK

Wrong! In fact, the UK has perfect conditions for solar panels to successfully produce power.

  • Solar power produced 4.3% of total grid electricity in the UK between April-2020 and March-2021 and this figure is steadily rising each year.
  • As of March 2021, there was more than 14 GW of solar PV capacity in the UK, enough to meet the power demand of more than 3 million homes.
  • Around half of the country’s total capacity is made of micro or small generation systems (<200 KWp)

Myth 2: Solar panels don’t work in adverse weather conditions

Wrong! Solar panels convert daylight into electricity. This does not need to be direct sunshine and so it means the UK weather conditions are suited to successful solar PV electricity generation.

  • Cloud Cover – Although it is true that the output of solar panels can be reduced on very cloudy days, some energy will still be generated.
  • Cold Temperatures – It is not true that cold weather reduces the effectiveness of solar panels, in fact, very hot weather can have a greater negative impact on their effectiveness.
  • Snow – Solar panels will still generate electricity even if they are covered in snow.

Myth 3: Solar panels must be south facing

Wrong! While it is true that south-facing panels will maximise the potential electricity generation, any direction can generate meaningful power.

  • Panels which face east or west can generate around 80% that of a south-facing panel.
  • Even panels facing north can generate around 50% that of a south-facing panel.

Myth 4: Solar panels require planning permission

Wrong! Unless you exceed a certain threshold size, planning permission is not usually required on non-domestic PV installations, although there are some exceptions.

  • The majority of solar PV projects fall under permitted development rights
  • Listed buildings will require planning permission.
  • Any buildings in conservation areas or Areas of Natural Beauty will be limited regarding where they can install solar panels. However, installations are still possible provided they are sympathetic towards their surroundings.

Myth 5: Solar panels are difficult to maintain

Wrong! Generally speaking, solar PV is ‘fit and forget’, with only limited maintenance required

  • Most manufacturers offer a 10-year warranty on solar panels, with a 25-year performance guarantee being the norm.
  • Annual checks and cleaning is recommended.
  • Costs to replace the inverter at around 10 years should be factored into any budget.

Myth 6: Solar panels are only suitable for specific roof-types

Wrong! There is virtually no limit to the type of roof that solar panels can be fixed to.

Solar panels can be installed on:

  • Flat roofs
  • Tiled roofs
  • Corrugated fibre cement roofs
  • Trapezoidal sheet metal roofs
  • Standing / round seam roofs
  • Ground mounts

Myth 7: Solar panels are too expensive

Wrong! Although a solar PV installation is clearly a capital investment, the costs are reducing all the time.

  • This year the average cost of microgeneration systems between 10 kWp and 50 kWp is around £800 per kWp, offering a very quick return on investment.

What to consider before investing in Solar PV

Understand your electricity consumption to help size the project correctly. A system that is too small won’t provide much reduction in your energy costs, while a system that is too large will result in the capital costs outweighing what you can sell back to the grid.

Ensure you have actioned simple housekeeping to reduce your general energy consumption. This might seem obvious, but maximising your BMS controls; and a stringent approach to switching off lights and equipment will help to ensure your energy consumption is as lean as possible to maximise the return on investment in solar PV to power your school.

Understand how you will use the power generated to avoid any waste.

If you would like to understand more about how a solar PV installation could benefit your organisation, please contact us. We can provide advice about funding options and help you understand the business case.

28 May 2021

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