Solar power is the fastest growing energy choice in the UK right now.
In the last 3 years the industry grew by 45% … and by 80% in 2022 alone.
We can probably work out why this is the case:
Fuel scarcity, the war in Ukraine and oil companies pulling in record profits while bills soar.
Also, people are much more informed about renewable energy and the benefits it can bring to the planet, the wallet and the home.
So, let’s get even more informed with 17 Solar Energy Facts.
1. The Sun Isn’t Going Anywhere
The sun is the centre of our solar system and has been for the last 5 billion years, give or take a few millennia.
Our life-giving star is a source of incredible energy, churning and burning with nuclear reactions and bombarding the Earth with photons.
Photons are tiny particles that comprise waves of electromagnetic radiation and they whizz through space at the speed of light until they hit something and bounce off … which is how we can see stuff … or get absorbed into something which converts their light energy into a different energy.
Remember, the First Law of Thermodynamics states:
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another”.
Hence solar panels converting those photons into electricity – and we can rely on that energy coming from the sun for the next 4 billion years.
2. Solar Panels Have Been Around For Ages
Solar has a long history, humans have been using the sun’s energy for as long as people have been able to sharpen a stick.
The earliest examples we have are from the 3rd Century BC when magnifying glasses were used to light religious torches.
Of course, it wasn’t long before that power was harnessed for war as the Ancient Greeks used curved shields to direct sunlight at wooden boats to set them on fire.
Fast forward a thousand years or so and the first solar collectors were made in the 1700s, using glass and lead, to cook food on the go.
Less than a century later, Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect of silicon, and we got the first solar cell.
It took another century before we got commercially available solar panels – but they are now better than ever…
3. Solar Panels Are Getting Better
As we mentioned above, PV panels are really coming on, with increased efficiency and more recyclable materials.
Polycrystalline panels used to be the industry norm, with many silicon crystals mushed together to turn 18% – 20% of the sun’s energy into electricity.
The latest and most popular panels are half-cell monocrystalline. They use single crystals, split in half, to give efficiencies of up to 24%.
Boffins in labs all across the world are working on new types of PV panels with more reactive materials and, therefore, more efficiency.
4. Solar Power Just Keeps Getting Cheaper
Although the outlay for a solar energy system is a significant investment, it is a great deal cheaper than it has been in the past.
In the last decade, the price of solar panels and equipment has reduced by over 80% and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has projected a 59% reduction in the cost for electricity generated by solar PV by 2025.
On the flipside of that, oil, gas and coal are all becoming more expensive due to their diminishing supplies.
5. It Doesn’t Need To Be Sunny For Solar
No need to move to Philidelphia to generate your own electricity, as sunny days are not necessary for PV panels to do their thing.
A more accurate way to describe the ‘energy’ needed to create PV electricity would be ‘daylight’.
From the minute it gets light in the morning, ‘til it gets dark at night, a PV solar will be producing energy.
Obviously, the stronger the light, the more the power, but panels perform very well when it’s cloudy, or raining, or even snowing.
So, remember, daylight, not sunlight – though, strictly speaking it’s the same thing.
6. Battery Storage Is Improving
One of the biggest barriers to installing solar energy was the fact you could only use the electricity when that daylight was around.
Now, most if not all systems come with the option of energy storage.
When domestic solar was in its infancy, battery storage took up lots of space, cost a fortune and wasn’t very reliable.
Lead acid batteries were used, and these can be dangerous, unreliable and short lived.
However, once Lithium-Ion batteries became more developed, thanks in part to the EV market, we were able to make exceptionally reliable batteries, with long lifecycles, to store the energy you make during the day for use at night.
Other materials, such as graphene, are now being experimented with which will make storing energy even cheaper and more reliable.
7. Panels Last Forever
Well, not forever but for a pretty long time!
As panels have no moving parts and are inert from the day they are installed until the day you get rid of them, they are unlikely to sustain any damage from producing electricity.
They are open to the elements, of course, but they are made specifically for that environment and are tested to withstand hurricanes, extreme heat/cold and even hail.
Damage can happen if panels are mistreated, or the weather gets super-gnarly, but apart from that the only thing that stops a panel from working is the degradation of the silicon.
This happens at about 0.5% per year, so after 25 years they are still producing up to 80% of their original efficiency – which is why solar panels usually come with a 25-year performance guarantee.
You can still get electricity out of them for nearly twice as long as that though.
Learn more about how long solar panels last.
8. Panels Are Recyclable
One of the most prevalent myths about solar panels is they are super bad for the environment, all ending up in landfill.
But, this is absolute hogwash!
For a start it’s illegal to put solar panels in landfill anywhere in the EU or the UK.
On top of that, almost everything in a solar panel is recyclable so it’s just bad business to chuck them away.
Steel, copper, silicon, glass and rubber can all be reused, and that’s pretty much all a solar panel contains.
The more popular solar becomes the more dedicated recycling businesses will spring up to take advantage of the rewards.
Learn more about solar panel recycling.
9. Solar Is Everywhere
That seems like a daft statement as, obviously, ‘solar’ is everywhere the daylight is, but what we mean is it’s used in 1000s of everyday ways.
Councils all over the world are using solar panels to power street furniture and warning signs, turning waste bins into rubbish compactors and allowing remote roads to be safe.
The falling cost of solar has made it a much more attractive prospect than digging up roads to lay cables and then paying £1000s a week to keep everything running.
If we are using solar to power our cities’ trashcans and level crossings, we should be using it more in the home too.
10. You Can Get Paid For Going Solar
We aren’t talking grants here, we are talking about selling your excess electricity into the national grid.
Energy supply companies in the UK are legally obliged to offer a buy back scheme to their customers who have renewable energy generation systems.
Of course, some companies, such as Utility Warehouse, offer nominal buy-back prices at 2p per kWh.
Whereas renewable energy trail-blazers Octopus will pay up to 24p+ per kWh if you are on their popular Flux tariff.
So, once your batteries are full, you can start earning money instead of spending it.
11. You Don’t Need Planning Permission For Solar Panels
Installing your own energy generation system at home is a big move and can be made more stressful if you have to wade through miles of red tape.
Wind turbines require planning if they are over a certain size or attached to a building, so anyone in your area can object to you putting up a wind turbine and this can cause tension between neighbours.
However, roof mounted solar needs no permission and, so long as it’s fitted correctly, no one can complain about it.
From a customer point of view, the installation does have to conform to building regulations which your installer will take care of.
Just make sure they are accredited or aligned with EPVS, MCS, HIES and NAPIT – even Trustmark, if possible.
12. Solar Is Very Fast To Install
You’d think that having your electricity system fitted would be a massive job, full of form filling, quotes, and endless cups of builder’s tea, but the opposite is the case.
A solar installation team can have your system up and running within a day or 2.
The process is so simple:
- Put up scaffolding
- Put the panel brackets on the roof
- Install the panels
- Connect the panels
- Install the inverter and batteries
- Connect to house supply
- Take scaffolding down
It really is that easy as it’s all self-contained, you don’t have to touch the electricity supply or distribution unit, you don’t need to dig anything up and you don’t need to move any wiring.
13. Solar Creates No Noise
There are very few silent ways to produce electricity as most of them involve a turbine of some kind
Simply put, coal, gas, nuclear and oil all rely on heating water up to create steam that is fed, under pressure, through high velocity nozzles to spin a turbine and produce electricity.
Wind, hydro, wave and tide all use their power to turn the turbine and, in the case of wind, the turbine is the windmill.
Solar, however, is entirely passive and noise free.
In fact, if your solar energy system is making a loud noise you need to get an engineer in to look at it!
14. There Are Places Powered Entirely By Solar Panels
It’s the future – entire complexes or cities powered by the sun!
At the moment it is businesses that are leading the charge to 100% renewables with companies like Apple, Tesco, Amazon and John Lewis all aiming to use nothing but green power to run their businesses.
What this means in practice is the companies invest the amount of money they would usually pay for their energy in a renewable scheme – solar farm, wind farm or hydro station – and that pays for their supply.
Now, the energy they get may come from a number of sources but it’s the investment that pushes the grid towards becoming 100% renewable.
There are other places that have gone totally solar though.
Babcock Ranch has made a name for itself as the first solar-powered town in the United States … La Plaz, Mexico was up to 64% of it’s energy coming from solar in 2015 and there are places in China that run entirely on Solar… but they do build enormous solar farms!
15. You can go off grid with solar
With a little planning, enough panels and intelligent use of your electricity, you could detach yourself from the grid completely.
You would need an emergency generator, or supply, for a lot of the months in winter, but that would still probably work out cheaper than buying from an energy company.
That said, going off grid in a normal, urban home would be a little risky and it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth… but it would be nice to get a bill that’s only the standing charge.
16. Solar Saves You Money
We have already mentioned that you can make money by installing a solar system, but the real beauty is the money you save.
An average system in the UK will produce enough energy in the summertime to power your home completely, so long as you have batteries.
That’s 24/7 electricity without paying a single penny to the energy companies.
That gives the impression it’s sunshine that makes that possible, but it’s the number of hours the sun is up that ensures you have energy all day long.
In winter, with the shorter days you will have to take energy from the grid, but your system should still keep the house going during the day.
The average payback time on a UK system is 11 – 15 years and, after that, your electricity is totally free!
17. Solar Creates Jobs – Locally and Internationally
This one seems kind of obvious, as the more popular something gets the more jobs it creates.
But solar is expanding across the world, so it’s not just local fitters and engineers that benefit from it.
This can be a problem when it comes to extracting materials from the earth as countries with poor worker’s rights seem to be the ones with all the natural resources.
The industry is addressing this and, as the people going solar tend to be interested in global issues, this year the Solar Energy Industries Association pledged to remove forced and child labour from any solar products on sale.
Nearer to home, the solar industry is now heavily regulated to ensure customers and workers are protected in equal measure.
All in all, the future looks bright.