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PV solar panels Photovoltaic Panels for house extensions - should you be including them?

The cost of installing these PV solar panels have come down enormously over the last 5 years mainly due to the numbers being produced, competition, and the economy of scale aspect - very much like the early large flat screen televisions did.

The new feed in tariffs are also very generous so there is a lot of incentives and the payback period is now within 5 to 7 years so they say. There are even some installers out their offering you free panels and fitting with free electricity but as always there is a catch or two - there is never any free lunches in the world of commerce.

I personally still remain sceptical about all these new energy ideas - remember how each house was going to have its own wind turbine for a quick fix carbon reduction technique - complete rubbish that was fortunately very short lived. However, these PV solar panels do seem rather more robust and long term but what happens when the generous feed in tariffs are removed or not subsidised anymore?

The questions I would want to ask for PV solar panels are:-

1 - What is the life span of each PV panel - some manufacturers are only guaranteeing 5 years - that’s no good at all.

2 - What are the strengths of these panels and can they withstand a heavy firework dropping out of the sky?

3 - Should one PV panel break or fail how easy is it to replace and will the same type and size of panel be available from the same manufacturer. The design shapes and interconnectivity seem to be evolving very quickly so you could be faced with having to replace the entire panel set all over again. Roofers have this problem with most of the dry fix hips, ridges and verges - they are virtually impossible to repair or replace because the design of the fitting has changed even within 5 years and manufacturers do not keep lots of redundant design stocks.

4 - Can they withstand the odd gale force winds we have in the UK and what code of fitting are the installers working too. I foresee a lot of problems highlighted on this issue given the rapid expansion of the PV systems and the clammer by certain companies willing to leap onto the current carbon reducing band wagon.

5 - Given the UK’s lack of direct sunshine for most of the year how efficient are they compared to the optimum sunshine levels for maximum production of electricity. I fear that you may only be getting around 20% of their capability levels and much of the theoretical proving calculations are based upon higher efficiencies - rather like those old style pension growth forecasts that never ever lived up to the reality of their suggested performance leaving most of the people very disappointed and let down.

So, should a home owner having a house extension be including PV solar panels within the roof slopes of the new or exiting roof? Only if you have a flexible unconstrained budget and you do it for your own moralistic and lifestyle reasons rather than pure financial issues. I do think that these PV panels are only a small part of the answer to using renewable energy.

To make you think how quick the renewable energy industry is changing and why PV solar panels may now be on the cusp of being considered ‘old hat’ , Spain (an early adopter and promoter of such energy systems) is now restructuring the incentives and replacing PV farms with thermo solar as this is far more efficient that PV panels.

Thermal Solar is the use of many mirrors to heat a boiler to create steam and to drive the turbines. The initial trials of these systems have been very rewarding as they can also produce electricity at night where as PV solar cannot due to using an alternative liquid as a thermal store that can be heated up to 400 degrees C. Also the land area required is about half that of PV for producing the same amount of electricity. Again, I suspect that even these renewable energy systems will be just one part of a multi-use electricity system.


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