In 2016 there were 709,000 solar panel installations in the UK, almost double the previous year's total, bringing the number of households in the UK with solar panels to almost 1.5 million.
Experts predict that by 2020, 10 million homes will be equipped with solar panels, meaning up to 40% of the total energy used in the UK in the summer months will have been generated by the sun.
But, there are both advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. We take a look at the pros and cons of solar panels.
Pros of solar panels
There are some undeniable advantages to using solar panels!
Firstly, the energy created by solar panels is renewable and clean. Our current ‘less clean’ sources of energy are coal, oil and gas, whose reserves are rapidly depleting with a prediction to be all but eliminated by 2088. Research suggests that the energy it takes to make a single solar panel, is offset within the first four years of its life.
When considering solar energy pros and cons, people often assume solar panels can only be used in summer. However, rather surprisingly, the weather in the UK actually helps make the panels more efficient, as cloud coverage doesn’t hinder electricity production.
As well as this, once installed, solar panels have a lifespan of up to 50 years.
As traditional energy prices rise, solar power is becoming a much more viable option. The more solar panels that are installed, the cheaper energy becomes for everyone, thanks to economies of scale.
Cons of solar panels
Despite some clear advantages, there are some inevitable disadvantages of solar energy.
Due to advancements in technology, the cost of installing solar panels is coming down and is actually half what it once was. But, the initial outlay to install solar panels is still relatively high, at between £4,000 and £6,000 for a 3kW unit to power the average family home.
The panels can’t store energy, meaning they can only power your house during daylight hours. The rest of the time you will have to draw your energy from the national grid. Solar batteries are currently in development but are still being tested and are incredibly expensive.
Also, if you don’t have a south facing roof, you will produce 15% less energy than those that do. If you have a north facing roof or if your property is shaded, the solar panels won’t be as effective.
As well as this, there’s no denying it, they aren’t aesthetically pleasing.
Installing solar panels
If, after weighing up solar power pros and cons, you’re convinced that installing solar panels is right for you, there are a few things to remember, including:
- You may not require planning permission to install solar panels on your home, you may fall under permitted development. However, it’s always best to check with your local planning authority just in case, prior to you installing them. Bear in mind that restrictive covenants may prevent the installation of panels - so it's vital you check
- If you’re selling the property and own the panels outright and you benefit from the government’s feed in tariff, the panels might be attractive to potential buyers. However, if you only lease them, a potential buyer might not be keen to take over the lease
- If you’re considering buying a property with solar panels, speak with your mortgage lender, as the panels could affect their lending decision
- There’s a potential the solar panels could impact the property value, both positively or negatively
- If you’re buying a property with solar panels, find out who installed the panels and that they had MCS accreditation. Find out the age of the system also, as this will dictate the feed in tariff payments that you will receive, and when you will have to start replacing parts of it