Solar panels are key tool in Brighton and Hove's fight against climate change

Climate change is already having a big impact on our planet and we need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy alternatives like solar panels.

From devastating floods, to horrific forest fires and melting ice, the entire world is facing the effects of rising temperatures. 

In the face of rising concern about the effects of climate change, coupled with rapidly increasing energy bills, it’s unsurprising that more and more homes and businesses across the UK are turning to renewable energy solutions for their heat and power needs.

Renewable sources of energy in the UK now generate more electricity than fossil fuels for the first time since the industrial revolution. 

There is still plenty of scope to increase energy generation from renewable resources, but it is clear that this is a trend that will continue to accelerate.

Solar panels are the option most frequently used on buildings in Brighton and Hove, given the warmer weather experienced in the South East, and also the absence of a local river for use as hydro-electricity.

In this article, we set out to clarify some of the misconceptions that people may have about solar power, starting with the important question – what is a solar panel?

    Is your property a good fit for solar power? 

    Book a BHESCo energy survey to find out

    What is a Solar PV Panel?

    Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels capture the sun’s energy and use it to produce electricity using cells comprised primarily of silicon semiconductors; photo meaning ‘light’ and voltaic meaning ‘electricity’.

    These cells are arranged in layers on a panel and convert sunlight directly into electricity. The panel looks like it is made up of squares. 

    When sunlight shines on a cell, an electric field is created: the stronger the sunshine the more electricity is produced.

    Solar panels may be roof mounted on a frame, ground mounted or even incorporated into solar tiles.

    The generation power of a solar PV panel is measured by its’ kilowatt peak (kWp), which is the maximum generation capacity of the system operating at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the Summer.  

    Roof-mounted solar PV panels, installed by BHESCo at the Alistair Fleming Design workshop in Lewes, Sussex. Many businesses are introducing renewable energy solutions to drive down operating costs and to improve their environmental sustainability

    The Benefits of Solar Panels

    Those homes and businesses in Brighton and Hove who have chosen to introduce solar power to generate electricity or to heat water can expect to enjoy a significant number of benefits.

    Solar power doesn’t generate harmful climate changing gases such as carbon dioxide and it is a renewable resource, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which will eventually run out. You will see a reduction in your utility bills as installing solar power decreases your reliance on power bought from utility companies. 

    Your roof can become a valuable asset, generating electricity and heat for your property for little running cost. In fact, as fossil fuel prices continue to increase at an alarming rate, solar energy solutions will become more commonplace, as people take advantage of generating their own energy at less cost.

    The economic benefits of solar power have been highlighted by the recent energy price rise crisis in the UK, which is set to have a major impact on the finances of households and businesses alike.

    A large roof-mounted solar PV array installed by BHESCo at Brighton Road Baptist Church in Horsham

    Installing Solar Panels for your home or business property in Brighton and Hove panels for electricity or a solar water heating system can be mounted on sloping and flat roofs, ideally south facing (but can also be east/west facing).

    The initial outlay involved in installing solar panels can put people off. Although prices have reduced significantly as the systems have become more common place, a typical domestic installation can cost between £4,000 – £5,000.

    To help overcome this financial hurdle, BHESCo offers a Pay As You Save financing model whereby we can install a solar panel system in your home or business for no upfront cost through our ‘Pay As You Savefinancing. 

    You agree to buy the electricity or heat generated by the system we install for a price that is cheaper than you would pay from an energy supplier. This means that there is no installation cost to you, and that you start to see a saving on your monthly energy bills immediately.

    A portion of your monthly savings are used to repay the installation cost to BHESCo over a set number of years that we agree at the project outset (called a Hire Purchase Agreement). 

    In this way, your business or organisation is able to transition to your own affordable renewable energy system, without worrying about the upfront costs or the complexities of designing the an appropriate solar power array for your needs and situation. What’s more, for the duration of the Hire Purchase Agreement, BHESCo will monitor the performance of the solar panels to ensure that they are delivering the savings expected, and will will address any issues that arise.

    If you meet the criteria, you may also be eligible for a grant to help towards the cost of your solar panels – find out more.

    Take a look through some of our Case Studies to see how other customers have installed solar panels with BHESCo’s help

    What is a Solar Water Heating System?

    A solar water heating system (also known as solar thermal) uses a type of solar panel called a collector. It looks different to a solar PV panel but, like a solar PV panel, it can be roof mounted.

    Heat from the sun is used by the collector to heat up water which is then stored in a hot water cylinder. Water is a very efficient way of storing energy. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter or to heat water when solar energy is unavailable.

    The water that passes through the collector’s tubes is not the water that comes out of the tap, the water from the collector is kept in separated pipes in the cylinder and in the heating system. 

    Hot water from the collector can also be run through pipes under the floor, creating radiating heat, improving the temperature and comfort of a space.

    There are two types of solar water heating panels:

    • Evacuated tubes: these are more distinctive as you can see the tubes which make up the panel, through which the water passes .
    • Flat plate collectors: these can be fixed on the roof tiles or integrated into the roof. This can give a neater look – similar to Velux windows – and saves money on other roofing materials .

    Evacuated-tube collectors have a higher efficiency than flat-plate collectors, so they may be a good option if you only have a small area of space.  

    Find out how BHESCo’s unique ‘Pay As You Save’ financing can help to cover the upfront cost of your solar panel project

    Solar photo-voltaic thermal (PVT) - a two-in-one solution

    Solar photovoltaic thermal (PVT) is still not common in the UK but it has great potential when used in appropriate situations. Its use looks set to grow, particularly on commercial buildings which have a year round need for large amounts of hot water. 

    PVT is a hybrid photovoltaic (PV) and thermal unit which generates both electricity and hot water. In the UK, air or water is usually used to cool the PV panels within the unit, improving the efficiency of its electricity generation. The warmed air or water is then used to contribute to a hot water supply and/or a building’s heating system.

    Combining solar panels with other low-carbon technologies to achieve maximum financial and environmental benefits

    Solar photovoltaic thermal (PVT) is still not common in the UK but it has great potential when used in appropriate situations. Its use looks set to grow, particularly on commercial buildings which have a year round need for large amounts of hot water. 

    PVT is a hybrid photovoltaic (PV) and thermal unit which generates both electricity and hot water. In the UK, air or water is usually used to cool the PV panels within the unit, improving the efficiency of its electricity generation. The warmed air or water is then used to contribute to a hot water supply and/or a building’s heating system.

    solar panels and air source heat pump in sussex
    Roof-mounted solar panels are used to power and air source heat pump at the Monetessori Place School in Framfield, East Sussex. Combining low-carbon technologies is the best way to deliver affordable energy costs while reducing carbon emissions

    Busting the myths around solar panels

    MYTH: Solar panels don’t work when it’s cloudy or cold

    False. Solar PV and solar water heating systems don’t need direct sunlight to generate electricity or heat, they can still generate in cloudy or cold weather. In fact they are more effective in cooler temperatures.

    Cloudy weather reduces the generating capacity of solar PV by approximately 50%, in comparison to direct sunlight. However they still remain a viable, and most importantly, renewable way of generating electricity.

    Not convinced? Germany is the world’s leading producer of solar power and it has a comparable climate to the UK.  

    MYTH: Panels mounted on my roof will cause damage.

    False. Panels attach to rails which fix onto brackets. On a tiled roof, these pass under the tiles and fix to the rafters in the roof. This method of mounting solar panels is very secure and provides distribution of the load.

    Some tiles will need to be removed in order to attach the brackets but the installer will replace these after the bracket has been attached.

    Depending on the tile shape and size, it may be necessary to make a small groove in the overlaying tile.  Panels can be mounted on most roofs regardless of type. 

    Solar panels can actually benefit the portion of the roof they cover by protecting and preserving it. In the unlikely event that the roof the panels are sitting on is damaged and needs to be repaired, the panels can be removed easily since they aren’t directly attached to the roof; they are just mounted on top of it.

    Make sure your roof is free of damage before installing solar panels and that you completely understand the works that the installer intends to undertake before going ahead.

    MYTH: I Need to get Planning Permission to Install Panels

    False. In most cases planning permission is not needed as solar PV and water heating panels normally fall under ‘permitted development’.

    However, it is always best to check with the Brighton and Hove City Council/ East Sussex County Council, or West Sussex County Council planning authority before going ahead, especially if you live in a listed building, or within a conservation area.

    MYTH: Having solar panels on my property will reduce its value

    False. As the panels are generating energy for free, reducing energy bills in the property, this will not decrease the value of your home.

    Moreover the value today of the energy generated over the life of the panels, can be quantified and incorporated into the value of the property. If payments are received from the former Feed In Tariff (FIT) or the new arrangements in place for after January 2020, the new homeowner could receive an income.

    MYTH: Solar panels require a lot of maintenance

    False. Solar panels are constructed to withstand harsh weather and, with no moving parts, should last for around 25 years with no or very little maintenance.

    In Brighton and Hove in particular the main concern regarding the optimal performance of solar panels is that likelihood of them becoming covered in seagull droppings. Whilst presenting some level of annoyance to PV owners, performance can be easily maintained if panels are cleaned once or twice a year. Alternatively, PV owners may want to consider installing an audio bird deterrent, as BHESCo did for our solar power installation at Werks Central.

    MYTH: My installation won't make any difference to climate change

    False. The more people throughout Sussex who have solar panels, the bigger the impact on the UK’s carbon emissions.

    As the number of people generating energy from solar increases, the more we reduce our CO2 emissions from burning coal or gas.

    Any electricity you don’t use yourself can be fed into the grid and reduces emissions from energy used by others.

    Myth: Solar power is not economically viable

    It depends. The government incentive to encourage people to install solar panels, known as the Feed In Tariff, has now ended and this has prompted people to question whether solar is still an economically viable option.

    The government is introducing a Smart Export Guarantee in January 2020, which will require most suppliers to offer at least some payment for your exported electricity. Some suppliers are already offering payment ahead of the deadline.

    The economic viability of solar panels depends on a number of variables:

    • Where you live in the UK. If you live in London or the South East, your panels can perform more efficiently due to higher levels of sunlight.
    • The initial cost of your system.
    • The amount of electricity your system can generate.
    • The location of your solar panels. South facing, unshaded panels generate the most electricity.
    • How much of the electricity generated you are able to use as opposed to exporting it to the grid.
    • The level of payment you can receive for your exported electricity.

    The Energy Saving Trust details the likely costs, savings and payback times of typical solar panel installations in different areas of the UK both with and without the Smart Export Guarantee payment.

    MYTH: Solar power is just for domestic buildings

    False. Solar power works well for businesses and community buildings such as schools or community centres. In fact this type of property may have more roof space or land where they can install solar panels.

    Furthermore, the typical heat and power demands of a commercial property are much higher than that of a domestic home, and so the financial savings that can be achieved from the introduction of solar panels are much greater.

    MYTH: I have to sell any excess energy I generate to the grid

    False. Often the installation of a battery that stores energy generated from your solar panels enables you to make better use of the electricity you generate. Rather than exporting energy that is not used, it can be stored for later use.

    The average cost of buying electricity in the UK is around 17p per kWhr. Early indications are that payments under the Smart Export Guarantee will be around 5.5p per kWhr. Based on these figures, it makes economic sense to use as much of the electricity you generate for your own needs rather than exporting it to the grid.

    See our case study about a domestic solar power and battery storage installation for more information.

    MYTH: I need a smart meter if I have solar panels

    Maybe. If you currently have solar panels installed on your property then you are under no obligation to have a smart meter. If, however, you are thinking of installing solar panels and want to take advantage of the new Smart Export Guarantee payment, you will need to have a smart meter installed.

    Under the old Feed-in Tariff scheme, households weren’t paid accurately for the electricity they exported to the grid. Payments were based on an estimate which assumed that everyone was exporting 50% of their solar-generated electricity – even if the true figure was much more or less than this.

    By using smart meters, the new Smart Export Guarantee payments will be fairer and more accurate. Most smart meters record your energy exports every half an hour.

    Project Contact Form

    If you are interested in working with BHESCo to revolutionise the way that your business or organisation sources it’s heat and power then please provide your details in the form below and a member of our Projects Team will get back to you to discuss next steps.

      Have you heard other statements about solar power that you are not sure about? Let us know in the comments section below and we’ll tell you if they’re true or not.

      If you have any questions about solar panels, solar thermal, renewable energy generation or the Pay As You Save model please get in touch with us to find out more.


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      Patricia Geeson · 30/11/2019 at 12:02

      Agree with all above. Big But though is nuisance with pigeons nesting under the panels for about 8 years. They made a terrible mess and clawed through the cables. We tried putting gutter brush round edge of panels but that was no barrier for nesting pigeons looking for a cosy nesting place.

      We’ve resolved it at last by fitting wire mesh tightly round panels

        Dan Curtis · 03/12/2019 at 17:24

        Pigeons and seagulls can often add a layer of complication with solar panels.
        We have enjoyed success in the past by employing a ‘Scarecrow’ audio deterrant –

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