Now that we’re moving away from carbon and aiming for net zero targets, we are often asked how do solar panels work. It’s become more of a hot topic since gas and electricity prices started to spike in 2021. Solar panels in Ireland have many benefits, offering homeowners and businesses the chance to harness the power of the sun.
While the technology is readily accessible and fairly affordable, it’s only recently that consumers have been waking up to the appeal of PV systems. The government is also taking note, aiming to produce 80% of Ireland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Companies have also been getting in on the action. Power Capital Renewable Energy secured more than €100 million in European investment at the start of 2023 to fund solar projects across Ireland. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg, with a further €140 million expected to be added to the fund.
If you want to reap the benefits of this technology, you need to appreciate that asking the question “how do solar panels work?” can be complex. Along with ready access to sunlight, you’ll need efficient equipment and an installation that’s designed to meet your requirements. Ready to learn more? Our guide explains everything you need to know about solar panels, how they work and why they’re worth it.
Solar Power Explained
Solar panels harvest the energy of the sun, turning it into electricity you can use to power your home. Solar panels are typically made of photovoltaic (PV) cells and glass, which convert readily available sunlight into electricity.
Solar panels are a cost-effective choice for homeowners. However, commercial PV systems are also becoming increasingly popular, offering businesses a more affordable way to power their operations.
The applications of solar power are endless. As well as being suitable to support thermal heating requirements, solar panels generate electricity to power everyday appliances, lighting arrays, security systems, and anything electrical which is installed on the demand side of any clients fuseboard.
How do solar panels work to generate electricity?
Solar panels are typically fitted to a roof, before being connected to something called an inverter. This in turn is connected to batteries that store any electricity generated should the house load be fully satisfied with excess left to store. If a panel array is large enough, it can produce sufficient electricity to meet domestic demands at most times during the day.
As soon as sunlight reaches the surface of a solar panel, a direct current (DC) of electricity is generated. However, everyday appliances like fridges, televisions and EV chargers require alternating current (AC). So, how do solar panels work if they’re producing the wrong current? This is where inverters come in.
Inverters come in a few main varieties, although hybrid inverters and string inverters are the most common. Some systems also make use of micro-inverters, with these tiny components fitted to every panel. However, they’re not the most practical choice if you’re thinking about solar panels in Ireland.
How Do Inverters Work?
Once your solar panels have produced a direct current, it travels to an inverter, turning it into an alternating current. Inverters are relatively smaller and are usually installed in unused loft space. Wondering how do solar panels work and what makes them so efficient? A PV system only supplies current to fuse board circuits as and when it’s needed. This means you’re only using as much electricity as you need.
The cost-saving benefits are obvious, but you can also divert additional electricity to battery storage. Alternatively, if you have a hot water diverter installed, you can use it to power your central heating systems. Are solar panels worth it in Ireland? If you need more convincing that PV systems make a sound investment, consider that you can sell any surplus energy back to the grid.
Selling Electricity to the National Grid
If you’ve invested in solar panels in Cork or solar panels in Limerick, you may find that your system is producing more energy than you need. Thanks to the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS), you can make a small profit from any electricity you generate that you’re not using. Although rates began low and vary between utility suppliers they are now all following an upward trend as they compete for our export business, it’s a great way of seeing a quicker return on your investment.
How does this work in practice? Imagine your solar panels are producing 4,000W, but your domestic demands are only 2500W to power appliances. Let’s say that another 500W is being diverted to a hot water diverter or battery storage. Even then, you’ve still got a surplus of 1,000W that can be sold back to the National Grid at about 20 cents per unit.
However, to unlock this revenue stream, you’ll need to remain connected to the main grid after having your solar panels installed. Most homeowners choose to remain connected, even after investing in an array that can comfortably deliver their electricity requirements.
Ireland Introduces 0% VAT on Solar Panel Technology
In April 2023, the government announced a new 0% VAT initiative for the supply and installation of PV systems. The rules came into effect on 1 May 2023, although they only apply to private properties. However, for residential customers, the savings are significant. Someone who might have spent €9,000 on Solar panels in Dublin will now only be spending around €8,000. As well as the immediate savings, it shortens the payback period of solar panel installations.
How do solar panels work when it’s cloudy?
If you’re thinking about solar panels in Waterford or elsewhere in the country, this is a fair question. Despite what you may think, the Irish climate won’t stop you from making the most of solar power. Ireland receives between 1,100 and 1,600 hours of sunshine annually. During the summer months, those in the southeast of the country enjoy as many as seven hours of sunshine, every day. Unsurprisingly, solar panels work better on bright, clear days. However, they can still generate electricity reliably on cloudy or rainy days.
However, to get the most out of your system, you’ll need to know how to clean solar panels. If your home is near a lot of trees, keep an eye on foliage and other debris that might accumulate on your panels. Generally speaking, rain and wind will remove these, but there might be times when you have to gently brush them away.
Now and again, you’ll need to carry out more intensive cleaning of your solar panels. If you’re using a hose to clean more stubborn debris, make sure you’re only using a low-pressure setting. For best results, stick to warm water and a soft cloth. Just be careful not to apply too much pressure to the surface of your panels. Even a minor scratch can impair its performance and render it inefficient.
Thinking About Solar Panel Installation?
With energy costs showing no signs of coming down, there’s never been a better time to invest in solar panels. Thanks to the introduction of the 0% VAT on solar panels, PV systems are more affordable than ever. What’s more, the Micro-generation Support Scheme means you can unlock a small income from any surplus electricity you’re generating.
Ready to embrace the benefits of solar power? At Wizer Energy, we’ve been providing PV systems to residential and commercial customers for years nationwide. Do you have more questions about do solar panels work? Perhaps you want to discuss installing a Zappi charger in Ireland. Get in touch via the online contact form today or give us a call at +353 83 080 0855.