Here at Next Day Solar, we really believe that solar energy is going to play a big part in shifting the world over the next 30-50 years to a more self-sustaining way of living. Many things that we do such as using hot water, transporting ourselves around, operating machinery, all require electricity, and if we can make that from the sun, rather than through burning something, surely, we will be better off.
In this short article we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of solar, as well as some interesting and un-expected applications.
Top 5 Advantages of Solar
- Low maintenance – Solar is typically something you install and then pretty much forget about. The panels are often installed at angles, so the rain naturally clears the panel, unless some rather unforgiving bird decides to have its moment as it flies past. Solar panels are generally rated to last 20+ years, so you won’t be doing replacements every couple of years (much like most of our technology today). Similarly, panels have reached a point of high efficiency, so you are unlikely to have another panel come along in 5 years’ time, which is going to double or treble the output. Once you’ve had your system installed, it’s important to have it periodically checked, but equally you’ll probably forget it’s there for most of the time, until you smile at your low energy bills.
- Quick & easy to install – The installation process is generally quick and painless. Good planning is essential and likely the larger part of your job. Panels can easily go up in a single day, and the connection to your grid / supply is likely to take another day unless there are complications. Your supply is likely to be un-interrupted, as your solar system gets installed into your electricity board like a new ring of sockets, so you really won’t know it’s happening whilst the install takes place.
- Works all year round – It is a myth that solar doesn’t work in the winter. Yes, the days are shorter, and therefore light output is reduced, but you are going to see free energy all year around. If you are keen to get the very most out of your panels, and you benefit from a ground mount or more flexible system that isn’t fixed to your roof, you can always angle the panels upward in the winter months, to match the sun’s lower path, to ensure you capture as much of its energy as possible. In the summer, you’ll want to rock them back to take advantage of the sun’s higher position.
- Flexible – Solar is a wonderful form of energy. Whether you are wanting to power a small 12V car battery, or a much larger industrial 3-phase 400V system, solar can work in all scenarios. The plug and play nature, along with the very physics of electrical energy means you can store the energy and use it when you want and convert the energy into the type of electricity you want, be that for charging your car battery, or heating your hot water tank. The versatility of solar makes it an incredibly useful form of electricity generation to work with. Below you can see us powering a 12V Clay trap, that would otherwise be charged from the grid.
- Clean & Green – We’ve saved the best to last, but of course the biggest benefit of solar energy is that its silent, it doesn’t make a noise whilst you are generating energy, unlike many of its counterparts. Whilst over 90% of all panels come from China, there are several firms in the UK who have started to produce panels, as well as some of our friends in Europe, so it’s not impossible to find a system that hasn’t come 5000 miles to get here. Solar doesn’t emit any harmful fumes or gases.
Top 5 Disadvantages of Solar
- Slow Payback – Yes, sadly Solar isn’t going to save you enough on your energy bill in your first year to cover the costs. Typically, you are looking at 12+ years, before you see your investment repaid, but of course this does depend on so many factors, equally energy prices are set to be more volatile and increase over time so this picture may change in the future. If you are set to be in your property for the next 15 years, then surely the fact that you’ve got price security on your energy bill (as you won’t be paying a great deal of it), a return on your investment in +10 year, plus the added benefit of independency, and clean green credentials for you and your property.
- Size, Space & Orientation – One of the challenges Solar has, is the vast size of panels required to generate a good amount of energy. A 400W panel is typically 2m in height and 1m in width. Homes in the UK suffer from roofs with lots of hips and gables, so you may be hard pressed to find space on your roof to fit the panels, but it’s always best to check with an installer first, before you totally give up on the idea. Similarly, you’ll need to ensure your roof is at least East/West facing or ideally South Facing. An ‘East / West’ system will capture the sun in the morning well, and the sun in the late afternoon well, but will be less efficient at capturing the sun during the middle of the day when compared to a south facing system. That said, East / West systems, are worth putting in. You can check your roof’s suitability using a free tool online
- Only 1493 hours! – The UK on average receives 4 hours of sun per day, based on 1493 hours for the year. Solar is far more effective when there Is no cloud cover, and you will see between 10-15% efficiency on a cloudy day, and up to 80-90% efficiency on a bright sunny day, so the weather really does have a massive impact. If you are thinking of an off-grid scenario, its important you’ve got a backup supply / system in-case there isn’t enough energy to power your loads or consider ensuring your system is large enough to cater for all eventualities.
- Requires a specialist for Home Installs – If you are looking to benefit from reduced energy bills, you’ll need an installer that is certified to connect you to the grid. The MCS (Micro Generation Certification Scheme) is an industry body that is widely recognised by all energy companies when it comes to this. You’ll be asked by your energy company for your MCS certificate number, which you’ll only be able to get if your installer is signed up to the scheme. Your installer will also have to notify your energy supplier of your system and ensure that the system is compliant to current regulations. So sadly, installations can become expensive due to the level of skills and competences required to put the system in place.
- Benefits from a battery – If you are looking to get the most out of your system, you really ought to be considering a battery, however that’s going to be one of the most expensive parts of your package. Batteries help you save energy and use it when you need it, rather than just pushing energy back to your grid supplier and receiving a small credit for the favour. Solar panels and systems themselves will not store energy at all, so if you are not using it right away, and you don’t have battery storage, whilst it’s not wasted, you will be losing the best benefit of it.
So there you have it, our top 5 ad's and dis ad's of solar energy. Whatever you decide to do, you'll be making a great step forward for the planet, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us.