Solar photovoltaics (PV) are materials that convert light directly into electricity, using no moving parts. It is made out of semiconducting materials, most usually silicon.
Apart from the solar material itself, modules also contain a glass front surface, an aluminium frame and polymer resins to seal the panel and prevent water getting inside.
For more details on space required, capacity, and typical costs, see our solar panel price page.
Adding all this together, the optimum orientation is facing due south at a pitch of 30 degrees. However, because of the contribution of diffuse light from the sky, there is a very large hotspot of high performance. Roofs between SW to SE, and 10 to 50 degrees will be producing 95% of optimal. East or west facing arrays will also produce about 85% of optimal. So whilst south facing orientations are best, almost any roof will generate substantial amounts of electricity.
Generally, solar panels can be installed on any roof or free terrain with enough space to accommodate them, whilst trying to avoid shady places.
Solar can be installed on virtually all rooftypes – tiles roofs, slate roofs, flat roofs, trapezoidal metal roofs, standing seam roofs, and even integrated with turf roofs.
It is possible to install on other structures as well – we see solar carports, canopies, walkways, louvres, facades and pergolas.
Solar panels can of course also be installed on the ground as well, from back-garden arrays to solar fields.
View our solar PV mounting systems page to find more information on different types of solar installations. For a more detailed insight into specific installations take a look at our solar case studies.
Shading can be very detrimental to solar PV performance. First, any shade will reduce the amount of light landing on an array and reduce output. Second, because panels are wired together in a chain (called a string) the performance of that string is only as good as its weakest link. So shade, (eg from a chimney) can affect not just the one panel that is shaded, but the whole string. As designers we use software to estimate the effects of shading for a particular building, and modify the design to minimise shade.
We should also point out, that the above is electricity for lights and appliances only -it does not include demand for hot water or space heating (which are typically fuelled by gas in the UK, but not always). Increasingly we are seeing customers wishing to use solar to meet demand from electric vehicles as well, which is an additional electrical load.
However if this is not the case, and this happens most of the times you can lose the roof warranty by installing solar panels.
Pigeons, as other birds, are always looking for perfect places for nesting. The most preferable places are covered ones, where they can leave the eggs on safe, and the best option is a warm one to avoid freezing during the winter. That’s the reason that under your solar panels, which are orientated to receive all the solar energy which they can, are the perfect place for them.
To prevent this, solar panel manufacturers have designed extra covers to surround your panels, leaving out of under them any kind of bird without disturb the panel function at all.
Solar panels have a surface coating on them to help water and dust run away, and they are considered self-cleaning if pitched at greater than 10 degrees.
However, in some locations there is too much dust, plant debris (leaves etc) or bird excrement, so the panels can get dirty. You can clean it with hot water if you want to keep them perfectly clean, but use no abrasives or chemicals, as these will damage the specialist coating.
Click here for more information on solar PV maintenance.
If you move out of a property that has had solar PV installed at the very least the new owner/occupier will benefit from reduced energy bills which should be seen as a plus. However the quality of the installation is also important. To give yourself the best chance of increasing the value of your property with solar it is important that you look for a reliable installer who will be available in the future to respond to any questions or issues.
This will depend on the size of the installation. Typically a residential installation of solar PV will take 1 day to complete, though more complex systems may take longer. This excludes the installation of scaffolding which will typically take 1 day to erect in advance and 1/2 a day to remove for a residential installation.