Solar electricity generation (photovoltaic)

What is Solar Power?

Solar Power or ‘Photovoltaic’ (PV) converts sunlight into energy. A photovoltaic solar panel, (known as a ‘PV panel’ or ‘solar module’) soaks up photons from the sun & converts them into an electrical charge.

Where PV is used

PV panels and arrays are used in both stand-alone power supply and connected generation systems, as well as in other small applications, like weather stations, some road signs and parking meters.


Key components of PV systems

PV systems are typically made of these key elements:


  • PV panels, cables, and mounting or fixing hardware
  • An inverter and controller 
  • Batteries, back-up generators, and other components in off-grid situations
  • Special electricity meters, in the case of grid-connected systems


How much electricity do PV panels produce?

The amount of electricity a PV system generates depends on the intensity of the sunlight to which it's exposed. PV still produces electricity on cloudy days, but less than with direct sunlight.

Obviously PV panels generate no electricity at night, and less in the morning and evening than in the middle of the day. How much electricity you will get from your PV panels per day can be worked out when designing your system.

In a whole day, a well-located PV panel will typically generate between 2.5 and 5 times its rated power output. So a 1kWp (kilowatt peak) PV panel could produce between 2.5kWh (kilowatt hours) and 5kWh per day, or between 880kWh and 1750kWh per year.

Where can I use PV panels?

PV panels work well in both rural and urban conditions. The best places to use PV is in places that get a lot of sunshine each year and where the sky is generally clear rather than cloudy.

PV works best in north-facing places with year-round sun.  Panels are usually installed on roofs but can also be placed on facades, conservatory roofs, sun shades, garages or specially-built stands on the ground.


Make sure your site:

  • North facing
  • Is free from shade and exposed to good sun all year
  • Has enough space - a typical 1kW unit needs an area of around eight square metres.