Saturday, 21 April 2012

S for Solar power

I would love to be able to install solar panels to my house. 

Photovoltaic panels convert light energy into electricity. In such a middling climate as we have in the UK the opportunities to be self sufficient in your own home with solar energy are more limited than in other parts of the world though many people have taken up the opportunity. For a domestic house you need to have a sloping roof facing the south or possibly west and east but definitely not north. It needs to have no interruptions to the sun’s rays – no shadows from trees or neighbouring buildings.
Row of solar panelled houses from The Guardian
Excess electricity produced which is most likely in the summer months, is sold back  - in the UK - to the electricity companies as the panels are connected to the national grid. Solar power is one of the cleanest methods of energy production known but of course nothing is ever as simple as we would like it to be. It seems that the technological barriers to harvesting this energy are great - think collection, distribution, and storage.

And there are issues about how solar power works alongside our existing electricity. It seems that in Australia for instance that

"The runaway take-up of rooftop solar panels is undermining the quality of electricity supplies, feeding so much power back into the network that it is stressing the system and causing voltage rises that could damage household devices such as computers and televisions."

It is pretty hard to imagine all this though. Most people find understanding electricity hard enough on its own!


  1. The barrier for me is cost at the moment. I assumed that one day, when we were all selling so much electricity back, we'd be pretty self-sufficient during the summer, and the National Grid would be a seasonal thing. Obviously that will be a long time off yet.

  2. Solar power does seem be a viable energy source for the future. The costs are the issue but long-term I think this area still needs to be pursued. We certainly can't carry on as we are!

  3. I've never understood electricity but I do know that there are a lot of houses round here that seem to have taken advantage of government grants to have solar panels fitted. We're not considering it ourselves just at the moment though!

  4. We are all hopeful that the great minds can figure something to fix these technological barriers. It would be such a waste to just let that abundant sunshine, which contains potential power, to simply dry us out in the summer. Solar panels are just the beginning of the age of self-sufficiency. There is more to come, I'm sure.

    Rolf Matchen