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What do we mean by 'solar power' and 'solar panels'?

When we talk about 'solar power' or 'solar panels' we are talking about using energy from the Sun to generate electricity or heat for our homes, businesses, or other needs such as transport.

For electricity this is called ‘Solar Photo-Voltaic’ or ‘Solar PV’ energy which is generated using solar panels that are usually fitted to a rooftop or can be ground-mounted.

For heat we call this ‘Solar Thermal’ energy which is used to generate hot water and is typically captured using black ‘solar collecter tubes’ mounted to a roof.

Both types of energy are considered to be clean and renewable energy because they do not emit any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and because new energy can be generated any time the Sun is shining (as opposed to fossil fuels which are highly polluting and also take many millions of years to form in the first place).

Energy Saving Business Organisation - Renewable Energy Solar PV - Case Study School
Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) panels installed by BHESo at the Montessori Place School in Uckfield

It used to be the case the generating energy using solar power was expensive and was usually out of reach for most people due to the high costs involved.

However, over the last 10 years the prices of solar panels have dropped by as much as 75%, making the installation of a solar power system much more cost-effective and available to a wider section of the general public.

When considering the introduction of solar power it is often advisable to install a solar battery storage system as well. This allows a property to accumulate energy during the day and release it during the night or whenever necessary.

How much do solar panels cost?

The cost of a new solar power system depends on the wattage of the system and how many panels are to be installed.

A typical 4kW domestic solar PV system will cost around £5,000. The number of solar panels that can be installed by a property is limited by the shape and size of the roof as well as the structural integrity of the roof. For example, a typical domestic system of twelve solar panels needs around 28 square metres of roof space.

A solar thermal system takes up a lot less roof space but will still usually cost around £4,500 according to the Solar Trade Association, but this price does include installation by an accredited installer.

The cost of solar battery storage varies depending on the capacity of the battery, which will be dictated by the size of your solar array as well as your home energy consumption levels and usage patterns. A battery can cost in the region of £5,000, going up to £8-9,000 for a top of the range Tesla Powerwall.

What are the benefits of solar panels?

Solar panels will cut down your bills, protect your home from the fluctuations of international energy market prices and significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

In terms of financial savings a 4kW solar PV system can save you at least £200 a year on energy bills in addition to reducing your carbon footprint by roughly 4 tonnes (that’s about half of the average UK resident’s annual carbon emissions).

What are solar panels - solar thermal panels - brighton hove energy services coop
Solar thermal panels mounted on a rooftop

A solar thermal system can save you anywhere from £55 a year when replacing gas or £95 a year when replacing LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).

In terms of carbon savings solar thermal can reduce emissions from 275kg CO2 per year when replacing gas to 325kg CO2 per year when replacing LPG.

By using solar thermal panels to generate renewable heat you may also be eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (RHI) run by Ofgem. Participants in the scheme receive a financial subsidy in relation to the amount of renewably sourced heat they generate on a quarterly basis.

The addition of solar batteries allows users to consume an additional 30% of energy that is generated, which is of far greater economical benefit than exporting excess electricity to the National Grid.

If you don’t already have solar panels installed it can be a good idea to opt for a solar panel and battery combination deal. For example, UK solar battery business Moixa offer a 4kW solar and battery combination which they estimate will generate 3,800kWh of electricity annually, equating to financial savings of £515 a year.

Commercial Case Study - Solar panels and battery combination at Dyke Golf Course

In 2017 BHESCo partnered with Dyke Golf Course to replace the existing diesel generator that was used to power the maintenance facility with a more environmentally friendly solution.

BHESCo designed and installed a 7.7kW roof-mounted solar PV array in combination with a 10kW battery storage system.

Annual Savings:

£2,261   

3.9 tonnes CO2.

Solar Panels on the maintenance roof at Dyke Golf Club
BHESCo rooftop solar panel installation at Dyke Golf Club, 2017
Domestic Case Study - Solar panels and battery combination for a terrace house in Brighton

In 2019 BHESCo were engaged to design and install a solar power and battery storage combination for a Brighton resident who lives in a terraced house in the Hollingdean area.

Following a detailed survey of the property and an analysis of the customer’s energy bils BHESCo proposed and installed a 4kW rooftop solar PV array backed up by a 4.8kW lithium battery storage system from Moixa.

Together, these technologies will allow the property to generate 90% of its own electricity directly from the Sun.

Lifetime Savings:

£5.694

20 tonnes CO2

solar panels - brighton hove energy services - domestic solar and battery storage
Roof mounted solar PV on a domestic property in Brighton
Want to install solar panels? Here's what to do next...

If you are interested in solar power for your home our business then the first step is to request an energy survey for the property. Before you shell out several thousand pounds on your shiny new solar panels it is vital to make sure they will perform well in your environment and that they will be cost-effective with regard to your specific needs and usage.

In addition to evaluating the generation potential and cost-effectiveness of solar power, an energy survey from BHESCo will also analyse your energy bills and identify ways that you can reduce costs through efficiency improvements.

Can't afford solar panels? Try our 'Pay As You Save' initiative

We make our service available to you at zero upfront cost, which includes the installation of energy equipment including solar panels.

BHESCo will pay for the installation of the equipment on your behalf, which means that you will start to see savings immediately.

A portion of the savings you make from your energy bill is then used to repay the cost of the installation over a number of years. Once repaid, you will get the full financial benefit of all the free electricity that is generated for the lifetime of the solar panels.

Read about the different financial models available.

Watch the Pay As You Save video explainer.


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