We love renewable energy because it accomplishes most of our electrical needs at no expense to the environment (and without a hefty utility bill every month). But nothing is perfect, and so before investing in your first piece of renewable energy kit, it is worth taking into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.
Did you know that since 2021, renewable energy in the UK and Europe has represented over 20% of energy consumed, and with those numbers climbing every year, we can hope to achieve a climate-neutral status by 2050.
But if you’re wondering how solar power works, whether it’s a good investment for UK homeowners or businesses, and how to get started building your solar system, all will be revealed!
9 Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
There’s a reason for the rapid increase of solar energy in homes and work establishments across the UK and that is because it offers multiple benefits in comparison to traditional resources, such as gas and electricity.
Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Advantages of Solar Energy
Before we get started, we need to debunk the common misconception that solar power kits need 24 hours of sunlight seven days a week in order to function - they don’t! Okay, now that that’s cleared up, let’s look at the benefits:
- Solar power can dramatically decrease your energy bills because you can store solar power to cover your needs during the most expensive peak times of the day, even if your solar system is on the smaller side and you’re still reliant on grid power.
- One of the key advantages of solar energy is it is far more environmentally friendly than traditional energy resources. Climate change is a problem we cannot afford to ignore any longer and we all need to be doing our bit to look after the earth - and it needs to be more than just recycling our Coke cans!
- Multiple applications that exceed domestic or residential usage.
- Next to no maintenance fees or expectations.
- Long-term money-saving.
- Continued improvement of efficiency. While solar energy is nothing new (on the contrary, it has been around since roughly 1839), the efficiency of the technology continues to radically improve on a yearly basis.
- Possible government incentives for businesses, such as grants, schemes, and tax rebates.
- Increase in value of your property.
- The possibility of completely moving away from grid power.
Solar Energy & The Environment
So, as outlined above, one of the key benefits of solar power is its environmental impact (or lack of). This means:
- Lowered greenhouse gas emissions.
- Generating energy via the sun, as opposed to less eco-friendly options, such as gas, coal, and electricity.
- Less pollution on a local and global scale, which helps protect us humans, as well as wildlife and ecosystems.
- Improved soil and water quality.
Solar Power & Saving Money
In short, you won’t be billed for using solar panels! If you’re still on the grid and are using solar power to reduce your reliance on grid power, you can expect to see a radical drop in the money you spend on electricity.
The sum of your annual savings depends entirely on your unique situation (your solar system, the size of your home, how many people live there, how many appliances and gadgetry is in use on a daily basis, etc), so we can’t give you an exact amount regarding how much you can expect to be in pocket on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis - but you will notice a sizeable drop.
As well as saving money on your utility bills, you may be able to earn money via surplus energy that you don’t use and that is exported back into the grid via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). This is more likely to happen in the warmer months when there is more sunshine.
Solar Power & UK Government Incentives
The UK government founded what’s called the Green Deal, which is designed to help British homeowners make energy-saving improvements to their properties.
As well as renewable energy, these improvements can be insulation, heating, draught-proofing, and double glazing.
You can learn what’s the best solution for you via their assessment.
Solar Power Maintenance
As we mentioned earlier, solar systems are low-maintenance. They don’t need yearly servicing, or anything along those lines, and there are no hefty upkeep costs.
Generally, all you need to do is keep your panels clean (which isn’t too trying here in the UK, as our regular doses of rain will do that for you!). This means keeping it free of muck, excess dust and grime, and possibly de-icing them in the wintertime.
But generally speaking, as panels are designed to go on your roof, they’re pretty much self-cleaning (if nothing else, for safety purposes), so be wary of anyone trying to sell you products/equipment to clean them - you shouldn’t need them!
As for the rest of the system, solar batteries won’t last forever, and will need to be replaced at some point. Their longevity depends on the type you opt for. There are multiple battery options on today’s market, but the two most common types are lead-acid (5 - 7 years) and lithium-ion (11 - 15 years).
As for the panels, their typical lifespan is circa 25 years.
Disadvantages of Solar Power
So nothing is perfect and solar power does have a few disadvantages; however, the benefits do outweigh them quite considerably.
- Efficiency can vary. Quality differs from supplier to supplier and you should always opt for a reputable solar power company when buying your equipment. Like many things, you get what you pay for with solar devices, so if a piece of kit seems absurdly cheap - you can bet the quality isn’t good.
- Weather. While the UK’s weather often leaves a lot to be desired, that doesn’t mean solar equipment is rendered totally redundant. However, panels do require sun rays to function, so you may notice the amount of energy you generate on overcast days, or in the winter when the sun goes down early, is lessened.
- The rest of your equipment. It isn’t just your panels doing all the hard work, the effectiveness of the power you generate depends on the rest of your kit, such as your battery (and its storage system) and all other components. Each part of the system plays a crucial role, so if the quality of any part isn’t great, you can expect the system as a whole to be unrewarding.
- Set-up costs. So, while you will inevitably save more than a few pennies on your electricity bill, the purchasing of the equipment, as well as the installation, can have a hefty price tag. You need to be willing to pay for the best equipment to see the best return on investment. The golden rule is, good solar panels aren’t cheap and cheap solar panels aren’t good.
- The location of your property. This means the type of roof you have, the direction the panels are (south-facing is the best option, if doable), and whether or not your home is in a shaded area. For example, if you own a bungalow that is obscured by live oak trees, you may find solar panels to be ineffective.
- Space. You need a good amount of roof room to have a decent amount of solar energy flowing into your home. The size of your roof depicts the number of panels you can have. Be mindful that any less than two panels isn’t likely to be overly effective.
- Installation. Yes, it’s possible to install your solar system yourself, but it’s not advisable. Your best bet is to hire a professional to ensure the system is put in place safely and effectively. This will also increase the initial cost.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy: FAQs
What is the average cost of installing a solar system in the UK?
Depending on the system you opt for, the supplier, the size of the panels, the power requirement, and several other factors, you can expect to pay anything between £2,000 to £18,000 to install a solar system in your home in the UK.
Do solar panels work in the winter?
Solar panels work in all climates - including below-freezing temperatures - as long as they have adequate access to sunlight. However, because the sunlight hours in the winter are considerably less than that of the summer, you can expect to generate less power during the winter months.
Other than that, solar panels are dependent on the sun’s light - not its heat.
Does solar power keep your house warm?
Generally speaking, the purpose of solar power is to provide electricity, so if you have a traditional gas central heating system in your home, then no, it won’t.
However, some larger set-ups offer hot water arrays (panels), which can contribute circa 10% of heat.
Where can I find the best solar equipment for my home?
Always do your homework when shopping for your solar system and always seek advice from professionals before making a purchase.