5 Reasons to Go Solar

1. Price

To illustrate the financial benefits of solar panels, I will first provide some average figures. They are not to be quoted- the price you will actually pay will come down to specific details about the size of your roof, orientation, shading, the quality of the panels and much more. The figures are just a springboard into thinking about how financially rewarding solar panels can be over a long period of time.

Let’s say the average size solar panel system for a home in the UK is 4kWp (‘kWp’ refers to the maximum power the system generates under optimal conditions and is the standard unit used to identify the size of these systems). A 4kWp system is about 16 solar panels and will cost you around £9000 to have it installed. This sized system generates around 3600 kWh of electricity per year whilst the average home uses 2900 kWh per year.

Now you might think from those figures that the system would easily generate 100% of your electricity needs. However, because the solar PV system doesn’t perfectly store and make available all that 3600 kWh of electricity continuously throughout the day, you will still on occasion have to use the grid. Also, just being connected to the grid means the utility companies will charge you a basic monthly fee. There are ways to go fully off-grid, but for most people, you can’t completely disconnect yet.

However, what solar PV will provide you with is the ability to significantly cut your grid electricity consumption and reduce bills by 70%, 80%, even 90% ! So the system itself costs around £9000 (either upfront or through instalments) and your bill goes from £200 per month to £40. You will no longer be suffering significantly from the whims and fluctuations of grid prices, geopolitics and what policy decisions are made by big energy companies. And that will start immediately!

Furthermore, solar PV systems are meant to last for 25-30 years. So across time, month by month, your savings from these massive bill reductions accumulate and will eventually go over the amount you paid to get it installed. The only thing you have to be aware of is the maintenance of the solar cells which doesn’t take much time and money at all.

2. It’s Renewable and Green

Solar is a renewable energy source meaning it naturally replenishes itself. Energy is being generated from the fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. It never goes out, it is always there, 24 hours a day and humans don’t have to do anything to keep it going. Unlike fossil fuels where we are burning them and emitting carbon dioxide in the process, the sun is not an energy source people are affecting and manipulating. It is green and will eventually, along with nuclear, replace all fossil fuels as the source of energy because, by definition, we cannot continue to use non-renewable fossil fuels forever. Even if you don’t take into account the effects of climate change, they will eventually run out.

3. The Supply Chain is NOT as Damaging as is Propagandised

Some argue that even though the solar photovoltaic process is a green source of energy, the manufacture and supply of solar cells is bad for the environment. There is some element of truth to this in that any large-scale industry has an effect on the environment and sometimes aspects of the supply chain can do damage. However, the damage has been exaggerated by those looking to undermine the great work of those in this industry. Also, as more people and attention come to this industry, more work is being done to make the entire supply chain as environmentally friendly as possible. For example, Tesla, a global leader in this space, specifies in their 2022 impact report the policies they are signed up to including supplier codes, human rights, and responsible sourcing. They show how the sustainable energy economy, including batteries and solar panels, is significantly less harmful than the current fossil fuel economy. There are many examples of organisations and companies rising up that are focused on ensuring the supply chain is maximally environmentally friendly. Solarcycle is one such example, which is committed to recycling and repurposing end of life solar systems.

Something to be keenly aware of in this regard is the amount of disinformation and poorly researched activism that attempts to undermine the good work of people in this industry. This false information spreads like wildfire and makes consumers less likely to engage and commit to installing systems on their homes, because they believe solar is not actually good for the environment. It emphatically is.

For instance, take the recent 2023 annual shareholders meeting at Tesla where someone representing ‘Investor Advocates for Social Justice’ accuses Tesla of not doing enough to eradicate child and forced labour from their supply chain. One of the factors they refer to is the mining of cobalt that is used for battery packs. Tesla and Elon Musk at that meeting then commit to doing a third party audit and putting a webcam around their mines to ensure that no children are involved in the removal of the small amount of cobalt they use in their battery packs. It is also shown that the majority of the Tesla battery packs are iron based NOT cobalt based. Some of their other battery packs are nickel based and use a tiny bit of cobalt as a binder, but it is a very small amount. It is then pointed out that the mobile phones we all use are 100% cobalt based and these are the companies that need to be investigated!!

Though this is a slight deviation away from solar panels, it reflects a growing movement of people that distort the work of good people that are working hard to make the future sustainable and more ethical. It is extremely pernicious and irresponsible for people to exaggerate unethical practices about organisations. It undermines public and consumer trust and has a detrimental effect on the sustainable energy industry as a whole.

4. They Work in all Types of Environments and Countries

The idea that solar panels will only be worth it if you live in the tropics or a country where it is sunny all the time is wrong. The intensity of light coming through the atmosphere (air mass index) will indeed be affected by whereabouts in the world you are, what the season is and what the weather is like but they still work in cloudy conditions in northern climates. In fact, solar cells can benefit from a cooler temperature by an increased voltage. Essentially, it is important to know that even if you have an East or West facing roof in a country like Scotland or Canada, solar panels can still be hugely beneficial.

*North facing roofs are problematic in the northern hemisphere.

5. Independence & Freedom

The installation of solar panels is a genuine move towards energy independence for you and your family. Even if the solar panels are only supplying 50% of your energy needs, and the rest is provided by the grid, it is a significant step towards reclaiming control and becoming less dependent on the grid. It doesn’t get much more important than how and where you get your energy from. More people are now waking up to the fact that they don’t have to be dictated to by big energy and governments, living at the mercy of geopolitical and macroeconomic forces. I honestly believe that installing solar panels is a revolutionary act!