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Do you want to know more about Solar Energy and how it can benefits your organisation? If so, we're covering an introduction to this powerful energy source and how it can help with your carbon footprint.

What is Solar Energy?

In the simplest terms solar energy is utilising the sun’s power to generate electricity. This is done via the photovoltaics cells which convert the rays into electrical energy. Following this, the energy is either put into the grid or used at the source at which it is generated.

Let’s investigate that a little bit more.

What do we mean by ‘source’. This is something like rooftop solar which could be on a domestic home or public/commercial buildings. The energy and electricity generated would then be used to power the building that the solar panels are on.

In terms of the putting the energy into the grid, this is the national grid in which electricity is distributed across the country. Solar energy to the grid will usually come from larger solar parks, like our own Bowerhouse II in Somerset.

Image shows a birdeye view of the Bowerhouse II Solar farm, fields filled with solar panels.

Bowerhouse II Solar Farm

How does Solar work?

Solar energy can be small amounts of kilowatts from rooftop solar panels which can be used to supply a home or hundreds of megawatts taken from a solar park.

The amount of kilowatt or megawatt potential the solar panels have is effectively the potential electricity they can generate. For example, a 5-megawatt peak solar park could theoretically produce 5 megawatts of electricity in ideal conditions. In practicality, inefficiencies and circumstances affect the practical export, like the strength of the sun, cloud cover and temperature. Typically, depending on the technology and efficiency, an average solar farm produces a load factor of between 10% and 13%. Assuming a load factor of 12% means a 10MW solar park typically generates 10,500MWh of electricity per year.

Solar panels will produce the energy when the sun is shining so peak times will be in the summer months and usually around mid-day for the strongest sun.

There are lots of different types and sizes when it comes to solar panels too.

Bi Facial panels, which we have at Bowerhouse II, catch reflection from the ground and there are also panels that track the sun as it moves across the sky during its daily cycle. Both of which are designed to maximise sun capture opportunity. There is research happening all the time into the efficiency of converting the sun’s energy into energy using different elements and materials. The scope for solar is increasing all the time.

What benefits does solar energy bring?

The biggest one is that it is renewable, with zero carbon emitted when generating electricity. If you’d like to take a further look into what renewable means and the green alternatives for energies more closely, please head over to read our recent blog here.

The upfront cost for having a solar park can be a large expense, however once operational, the ongoing expenses are typically much lower than conventional types of electricity generation (e.g. gas).

Once a solar park is up and running it’s all about maintenance and replacing the equipment when this is needed. Depending on the equipment used some needs to be replaced more often than others, however generally some panels can last up to 40 years. It is important to keep in mind that the efficiency will decrease slightly over time too.

Cleaning of the panels is very important and needs to be happen often, especially in the UK with our ever-changing weather conditions. Depending on the area in which the solar park you need to look at the close environment and keeping things like overgrown grass at bay.

Additionally, having a solar park or rooftop solar will help mitigate the risk of volatile and high wholesale energy market prices which feeds through to energy invoices. Something we are seeing in 2022. By being able to sell electricity (ground-mount solar), or by using it at site (rooftop solar), you are mitigating your energy cost risk.

Are you interested to know more about Solar Energy?

We have a dedicated Zero Carbon team who can provide advice and support with your solar queries. Reach out to our team using our contact us button.

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