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13 Facts You Need to Know About Solar Panel Systems Before Installing Them

We know that the sun plays a big part in many of the Earth's processes. For one, the water cycle wouldn't be possible without solar insulation.

Further to this, we have also been using the sun's energy since around the 7th century BC for cooking and heating, as well as to provide light at night by lighting torches using mirrors.

As time has passed, we have learnt to gather and convert the sun’s rays into solar energy.

In this article, we'll tell you some fun facts about solar panel systems that might interest you!

13 Facts About Solar Panels You Should Know

Below are 13 of the most interesting facts about solar panels you should know:

1) Solar Power Is the Earth's Most Abundant Energy Source

Solar radiation is comprised of heat and light radiation from the sun's rays. These can be collected and converted to generate electricity.

What's interesting about this is that the amount of solar energy hitting the Earth in one hour is enough to power the world for a year.

The Earth receives around 174 petawatts of solar power in the upper atmosphere of which 30% bounces back to space, while the clouds, landmasses, and water forms absorb everything else.

That means that if we can work out how to absorb this solar energy, even for just one hour in a day, we'll have enough renewable energy to last the rest of the year!

If we can learn how to collect and store this energy efficiently, we won't ever again need to rely on natural gas, fossil fuels, or any other non-renewable energy source.

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    2) Wind Turbines Beat Solar Panels in Efficiency

    Solar and wind energy are two big sources of renewable energy.

    On a larger scale, wind farms will beat any other renewable energy facility (even a solar power plant) in terms of efficiency.

    That's because wind turbines have an efficiency rate of up to 60%, while solar energy has a maximum of 25%. Furthermore, turbines can generate electricity even in the evenings or on cloudy days.

    However, turbines are noisy and aren't practical for densely-populated areas. Wind energy is also quite unpredictable compared to solar energy.

    This is why wind farms are typically found only in the windiest areas, such as by the sea.

    Because of that, solar energy is the more utilised renewable energy source by some distance.

    Although solar and wind energy are both free, solar panels require less space and maintenance.

    They're quiet and do not break down as often as wind turbines.

    3) Solar Panels Are 99% Cheaper Than in 1977

    Would you believe that you would have needed to pay £64 per watt for a simple solar cell in 1977?

    Fortunately, a solar cell now costs around £0.17 per watt. This translates to roughly £0.32 per watt for an entire assembled module.

    This makes utilising solar energy even cheaper than fossil fuels!

    It's also predicted that as the solar energy industry expands, solar energy-related costs will continue to fall.

    4) You Can Break even on Your Solar Panel System Within 10 Years

    Solar panels can last several decades, giving you lots of time to make up for the cost of installing them.

    However, it's possible to break even in ten years.

    That's because you can look for financial plans that can help you offset some of the huge costs of going solar.

    For instance, the UK offers smart export guarantees (SEG) which allow homeowners to earn from the excess solar energy they generate.

    The UK also offers 0% VAT until 2027 on solar installations, as well as other energy-saving materials.

    5) China Is the Leading Solar Energy Provider

    China has the world's largest solar power plant, generating around 24.4 GW in just the first half of a year.

    In the UK, the renewable electricity production capacity installed increased to 43% in 2020 and solar energy made up 28% of that. This translates to around 13,158 GW.

    6) Solar Panels Are Very Versatile

    The technology used for solar panels is very versatile. After all, PV cells can be used on any surface, such as buildings, roads, bridges, and even satellites.

    Innovations are further pushing the solar industry forward. For instance, lighter and more portable panels are already being used for solar blinds and phone chargers.

    Companies are also looking to create solar-powered cars and boats.

    The largest solar power plants are built on large, empty spaces for better and newer electricity production capacity.

    7) The First Solar Panel Was Made in 1883

    The very first solar panel was invented in 1883 by Charles Fritts. These solar panels were coated with a thin layer of selenium and another extremely thin layer of gold.

    However, they only had 1% efficiency.

    Despite that, this invention started the movement to improve solar technology for improving the harvesting of solar energy.

    8) Solar Panels Can Improve Grid Reliability

    If you’re producing solar energy on your own, you might be tempted to go off the grid, meaning you're not connected to any power system or utility company.

    However, having grid-tied solar power systems results in better grid reliability. It can help improve several factors, including:

    • Voltage regulation
    • Dynamic control
    • Inverter ride-through
    • Power quality

    These can help reduce peak loads. For instance, hot summer days require more energy for air conditioning, which may overload the grid.

     By retaining grid-tied status, you'll be able to generate enough solar energy for yourself while possibly giving the excess to the grid.

    9) Solar Panel Systems Have Multiple Components

    New solar power systems have five main parts:

    • Solar panels absorb solar energy
    • Inverters convert solar energy to electricity
    • Solar batteries store solar energy
    • Charge regulators prevent the batteries from overcharging
    • Wiring and other support materials connect and protect the whole system

    As you may have noticed, these systems don't have moving parts, which also means they don't contribute to noise pollution.

    10) An Average Solar Panel System Has an Efficiency Rate of 20%

    Solar panel efficiency depends on the manufacturer and the kind of solar panels you have. But, in general, an average system will have an efficiency rate of 20%.

    This means that the solar panels will convert 20% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity.

    Certain higher-efficiency panels can reach up to a 24% efficiency rate.

    11) Solar Power Plants Can Last Several Decades

    Power purchase agreement customers are typically involved when building a solar power plant.

    The agreement lasts about 20 to 25 years. However, the power plant itself can be upgraded to last up to 40 years or more.

    For instance, solar panels can be replaced with more efficient modules for better electricity generation.

    Admittedly, fossil fuel power plants can last just as long. However, the Earth's reserves for fossil fuels will eventually run out, meaning solar plants will function for far longer.

    12) You Can Utilise Solar Energy Even Without Solar Panels on Your Property

    The new power plant mix has already added solar energy to fossil fuels and other energy sources.

    However, that means you're not always entirely sure that the electricity you're using is generated by a solar plant rather than by a natural gas or fossil fuel power plant.

    To ensure you're being eco-friendly, it's best to just have your rooftop system.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has the space to accommodate this.

    As such, there are community solar projects where interested consumers can have a power purchase agreement to be able to use the electricity the solar energy produces from those projects.

    13) Solar Panels Are Impressively Durable

    At first glance, solar panels might seem quite fragile — after all, they're only a few millimetres thick.

    However, they can generally last 25 to 30 years.

     To achieve this, they're rigorously tested to withstand extreme weather, such as:

    • Strong winds
    • Heavy rain and snow
    • Hail
    • Heat

    The silicone in the panels is encased in tempered glass that's up to six times stronger than normal glass.

    This durability allows the panels to have a long service life. The worst degradation rate a panel can have is 1% per year.

    However, the average yearly degradation rate is 0.8%. Manufacturers should issue a warranty that covers your solar panel's life expectancy.

    Final Words

    Solar energy is the fastest-rising renewable energy in the world.

    It has been used since ancient times; however, it wasn't until recent years that the industry introduced innovations that helped us capture, store, and utilise solar energy better.

    Despite coming this far, there's still so much we can learn about solar energy and panels.

    Because of how convenient this renewable energy is, having your solar panel system at home (or being part of a community solar project) is highly recommended!

    Aside from saving money on your energy bills, you might even be able to earn money if you generate any excess energy.

    Of course, this also means becoming more eco-friendly.

    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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