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Solar PV System [Definition, Advantages, FAQs]

Did you know that going for solar energy saves you as much as 50% on electricity bills?

As many as 960,000 households in the UK have turned to renewable energy. The cost of PV technologies has also gone down by 88% since 2010.

There's no better time to move to solar energy!

If you're considering installing it in your home, read on to find out how solar PV systems work and their many benefits.

What Is a Solar PV System?

PV systems capture solar energy to generate electricity using semiconductor materials.

Solar panels are the best-known components of PV technology. A solar panel or module is composed of PV cells that are linked together.

A PV cell is the smallest individual unit in a solar PV system.

A solar panel can be used individually or connected to form an array. It can be attached to an electric grid as part of a solar PV system.

A COMPLETE system is composed of the following:

  • One or more arrays of PV modules
  • Inverters
  • Generation meters
  • Mounting structures
  • A consumer unit
  • A solar battery

Solar PV systems can be grid-connected or off-grid systems.

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    How Does It Generate Electricity?

    When light shines on a PV cell, it absorbs a certain amount of energy. It creates an electric field that allows electricity to flow and generate DC.

    DC electricity is conveyed to an inverter, where it is converted into AC electricity for domestic and external use.

    The AC is transmitted to the generation meter that measures the electricity generated.

    The electricity produced passes into the consumer unit which controls how the electric power is distributed throughout the home.

    Any surplus electricity generated is stored in a battery for future use.

    Excess electricity can also be directed to export limiters that export solar-generated electricity to the National Grid to power other homes.

    The MORE solar energy is absorbed, the MORE electricity will be produced by the PV system.

    What Are the Main Elements of a Solar PV System?

    A solar PV system consists of several components to operate and generate electricity:

    PV Solar Panels

    A PV module consists of multiple PV cells that receive solar radiation. It is made of two layers of semiconductor material like silicon that directly convert sunlight.

    Multiple solar modules are called a string; this determines the voltage of the PV system.

    The combination of cells, modules, and the string is called the ARRAY.

    When solar energy hits the solar PV panels, they absorb photons and release electrons. These free electrons are captured, creating an electric field.

    The stronger the sun's energy, the more solar electricity can be generated. That being said, solar panels work even without direct sunlight.


    The solar inverter is an important element for generating electricity in solar PV systems.

    When the PV panels capture solar energy, this creates an electric current that generates a DC.

    The DC electricity passes into the inverter and is converted into AC electricity, which is an efficient kind of electricity that can power homes.

    This solar-generated electricity is conveyed into the consumer unit of the home through a miniature circuit breaker.

    If excess solar energy is being produced, it can be stored in solar batteries for future energy use.

    Alternatively, it can also be exported to the National Grid to provide solar electricity to other homes.

    Generation Meters

    The generation meter is NECESSARY to monitor the amount of solar energy produced by the solar system.

    Most meters automatically send readings. Some PV systems also include an online monitoring tool that system owners can access on their phone or computer.

    A generation or electricity meter is essential to register the total kilowatt-hour of solar electricity to comply with regulations.

    Mounting System

    PV modules and arrays can be mounted on the roof or the ground.

    An MCS and Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) surveyor must INSPECT the property before renewable energy technologies can be installed.

    Securing an energy performance certificate (EPC) for the property before mounting a grid-connected PV system is also recommended.

    What Are the Advantages of Solar PV Systems?

    Solar PV power is one of the FASTEST-GROWING energy sources globally. Let's check out the many advantages of going solar:

    1: Environmentally Friendly

    The best benefit of renewable technologies is the clean, green energy they generate.

    Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy production is NOT harmful to the environment. It can help reduce our carbon footprint and prevent further ecological damage.

    Solar power is also a renewable resource that does not deplete.

    PV cells can work virtually ANYWHERE because there's enough energy from the sun every day.

    2: Lowers Energy Bills

    PV panels can also help reduce monthly electric bills because your home does not rely on energy generated by the National Grid.

    To cover a larger percentage of your electric bill, it's best to use commercial or industrial-level solar cells.

    Grid-connected PV systems can also earn you money if excess electricity is generated.

    The SEG is a UK government-backed initiative that allows homeowners to get tariffs from utility companies when they export surplus electricity.

    It aims to encourage homeowners to shift to renewable energy.

    3: Low Maintenance Costs

    Though the installation costs for solar panels can be costly, their maintenance is relatively inexpensive.

    A solar PV system consists of few or no moving parts which means it requires less maintenance.

    A high-quality PV system from a reliable brand can work at an optimal rate for up to 20 to 30 years. Generally, one need only keep the surface of the solar cells relatively clean.

    4: Return on Investment

    PV panels are worthwhile investments despite their expensive initial cost.

    Other than minimising utility costs, they can also be a rewarding source of alternative income.

    Homeowners can export their excess electricity and sell it to energy companies to power even more homes.

    There are also government incentives that make installation for solar electricity even CHEAPER.

    What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

    There are THREE MAIN TYPES of solar panels that have strengths and weaknesses:

    1: Monocrystalline Solar Panels

    Monocrystalline solar panels are highly efficient and provide optimal performance. They have high efficiency rates that range between 15% to 20%.

    TRIVIA: Monocrystalline panels are typically more efficient in warm temperatures.

    Monocrystalline panels can be recognised by their dark colour and cut edges.

    These panels are manufactured from pure single crystal silicon using a procedure called the Czochralski process. This process is energy-intensive, which adds to the cost of production.

    Among the three types, monocrystalline panels are the most EXPENSIVE.

    2: Polycrystalline Solar Panels

    Polycrystalline solar panels are made from silicon fragments instead of pure silicon crystals.

    Because these panels are made from multiple silicon fragments, they have lower levels of silicon purity. This means this type of panel has a diminished performance.

    These panels have lower efficiency rates of about 13% to 16%, which means they produce electricity less efficiently per square foot.

    Polycrystalline panels have low heat tolerance and tend to perform worse in hot climates.

    They also do NOT perform well in low-light conditions.

    That being said, they are popular with homeowners because they are relatively more affordable than their monocrystalline counterparts.

    3: Thin Film Solar Panels

    Thin film solar cells are produced from multiple films of PV material, including:

    • Organic PV cells
    • Amorphous thin film silicon
    •  CIGS
    • Cadmium telluride

    These materials are then placed on a glass, metal or plastic surface.

    Thin film panels stand out for being lighter and more flexible compared to other panel types.

    It makes thin film panels ideal for building-integrated PV panels. This type of panel can be applied to smaller applications like roof slates, decks, and vehicles.

    The efficiency of thin film panels varies depending on the material used.

    Generally, thin film panels have lower power and lesser efficiency than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.

    They have efficiency rates of about 7% to 18%, which can mean more expenses to pay for enhancers. These panels also have SHORT lifespans.


    PV is a renewable technology that allows for the direct conversion of light into solar energy.

    Today, more homeowners in the UK are switching to solar power for its many benefits.

    Not only does it help cut utility costs, but it also helps save our planet!

    With the endless resource of the sun's energy, we won't run out of it any time soon.

    With this article, we hope you are better informed on solar PV panels, helping you to consider whether you should install them in your home.

    Did you know that Solar Panel Installation can match you with 3 local installers who will provide you with a free quote? Fill out our form today to get in touch with installers.

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    Mark McShane
    Content Writer
    Mark McShane is a seasoned professional in the solar industry and the owner of Skills Training Group, a leading provider of solar training and education. With years of experience in the field, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the latest trends, technologies and best practices in the industry. His expertise and passion for solar energy have helped countless professionals develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the fast-growing field of solar energy. Whether you’re an aspiring solar professional or an experienced industry veteran, Mark is an excellent resource for anyone looking to enhance their skills and knowledge of the solar industry.
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