In this eco-conscious world that we live in, carbon footprints and energy consumption is at the forefront of our minds. In the average household, between 25% and 35% of the energy used is wasted. With so much emphasis constantly placed on recycling, using public transport rather than our own vehicles and energy efficiency, it is hard to know where to begin with our own personal save-the-planet mission.
If you are a homeowner, the focus will also undoubtedly be on energy bills. After the recession, at a time when the nation is just getting back on its feet, energy bills have been steadily rising, with the six major energy suppliers (EDF Energy, British Gas, Scottish Power, E.On, Scottish & Southern Energy and Npower) all planning to up their prices this year.
There is a solution to both the issue of eco-protection and price. Reports claim that the production of solar photovoltaic systems has doubled every two years since 2002, making it the fastest-growing method of solar power in the world. It is now considered the leading renewable consumer energy source.
Solar photovoltaic systems are panels which have a thin layer of semi-conducting material (similar to the small ones used on watches and calculators). When exposed to sunlight, the electrons inside the atoms which make up the material are knocked loose and flow through the material to create a direct current, more commonly known as a DC. This is then carried from the solar panels through to an inverter, which changes the current to an alternating current (AC). This can then be used as energy to power your electricity, heat your water, etc. Many worry that, living in England, where sunshine is hard to come by, their solar panels won't be effective but this isn't the case – the panels made in Europe are designed to generate power even on cloudy days (of which there are many in this country).
When a home doesn't require energy from the main energy suppliers, the owner will undoubtedly be saving money. When energy prices rise, which they have been steadily doing, it has absolutely no effect on those powering their own homes. Not only can the solar photovoltaic systems save you money, it can also turn a profit. In April 2010, the government also announced a 'Feed-In Tariff', to encourage homeowners to generate their own energy. Any energy you don't use from the solar panels is effectively sold back to the national grid, with you pocketing up to £850 a year in payback (tax-free). The 'Generation Tariff' earns you a fixed income for every kilowatt hour of energy you create and the 'Export Tariff' earns you an income for the energy you sell back to the grid. This tariff is guaranteed by the government for 25 years.