Solar Photovoltaic Technology in the UK

Solar Photovoltaic Technology in the UK

Over the last 40 years, solar photovoltaic panels have developed from an expensive, experimental source of energy into an increasingly affordable solution that powers as much as 15% of the UK.

Interest in solar power developed in the 1970s, after the 1973 oil crisis and 1979 energy crisis affected the affordability of crude oil and made energy providers and end users interested in alternative sources of energy.

Since solar panels were produced in the late 1970s, the cost of solar photovoltaic technology has declined while usage has grown exponentially. In 1977, the average price per watt for solar photovoltaic cell technology was approximately £50.

Today, the price per watt of solar PV technology has decreased to just £0.19, making a form of energy that was previously viewed as an expensive luxury one of the most cost-effective energy technologies available for home users and businesses.

Solar usage in the UK has grown at a rapid pace over the past five years. Solar power generation almost doubled in 2014 alone, indicating that solar is on track to become one of the UK’s most popular and effective forms of energy.

Almost 650,000 solar installations across the UK

As of 2014, there were almost 650,000 solar installations across the UK generating an estimated 5,000 megawatts of solar energy. Solar photovoltaic panels are now a common sight on UK homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities.

More than any other energy technology, solar photovoltaic has grown at an amazing pace. In 2006, the UK had a total installed capacity of just 12 megawatts – just 0.24% of its current solar energy generation capacity.

There are numerous reasons for solar energy’s growth. The rapidly declining cost of solar photovoltaic panels are arguably the greatest reason, making solar much more affordable for homeowners and UK businesses alike.

Why solar photovoltaic technology works in the UK

Think of sun and the UK likely isn’t the first nation that pops into mind. Although the UK has one of the lowest levels of solar potential in Europe, its average insolation is more than sufficient to generate a huge amount of solar energy.

Southern England, the UK’s sunniest region, receives approximately the same total amount of sunshine as Germany. On average, it takes between seven and nine years for a solar installation in the UK to pay for itself through generated electricity.

With economies of scale reducing the price of solar photovoltaic panels, solar energy has never been more affordable. Declining costs and increased interest in generating green energy mean that solar usage is likely to continue growing throughout the UK.

How Solar Photovoltaic Panels Work

Although solar photovoltaic panels can seem complex, the principles of generating solar energy are actually very simple.

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells – cells with two electrical fields, one of which is positive, and the other negative. When light touches the solar cells, the electrons inside the cell move from one field to the other, generating electricity.

Since solar panels generate electricity from sunlight, they only create electricity in sunny weather. This electricity can be used to power your home or building. It can also be stored in batteries and used at night or during periods of overcast weather.

Would you like to learn more about solar photovoltaic technology? Read our guide to solar power (How Solar Energy Works) to learn more about how solar PV panels generate electricity and the unique benefits of solar energy technology.