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Key facts about solar electricity

Are you interested in solar electricity and would like to have a quick overview of facts? You can find all key information here.

What is solar electricity? And what are photovoltaics?

What is solar electricity? And what are photovoltaics?

Photovoltaics is the direct conversion of solar energy into electrical energy. The term 'photovoltaics' is made up of the word 'photo' – the Greek word for light – and 'volta' – after Alessandro Volta, a pioneer in electro-technology ('photovoltaic effect').

How does sun become electricity?

How does sun become electricity?

The sun supplies us with energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation on a daily basis. This radiation can be exploited with the help of the photovoltaic effect. To do so, the semi-conductor material silicon is used, for instance. When a thin silicon disc is exposed to irradiation, electrons are set free and can be used to create electricity. The silver grey silicon discs are known as wafers once the production process is reached. To increase a wafer's yield, a special coating is applied which gives solar cells their distinctive blue or black colouring.  A thin lattice consisting of metallic conductive strips is also affixed to ensure that the current can be conducted and used. Once this production stage is completed, wafers then become solar cells. The solar cells are arranged in rows and interconnected in so-called strings. Several strings are placed next to one another to form a photovoltaic module, which is then laminated in the last production stage to make it airtight and waterproof. The module is now ready to convert sunlight into electrical energy.

As photovoltaic modules generate direct current which AC networks cannot transmit, a further component is required for a complete solar power system: a so-called inverter transforms solar direct current into alternating current, which can then either be used directly on-site in the building or fed into the electrical grid.  See animated clip "How sun becomes electricity"

In what way do I protect the environment with solar electricity?

In what way do I protect the environment with solar electricity?

A solar power system not only allows you to become less exposed to ever-increasing energy costs, but also enables you to protect the environment, as electricity generated by a solar power system eliminates many tons of CO2 emissions. In Germany, for instance, 700 grams of CO2 are emitted on average to produce a kilowatt hour of household electricity in coal, gas and nuclear power plants. In contrast, a solar power system cuts emissions by 569 grams per kilowatt hour and year. Thus, 3.6 million tons of CO2 were eliminated in 2009 as a result of all the installed solar power systems.

How cost-effective is it for me to be my own electricity producer?

How cost-effective is it for me to be my own electricity producer?

Solar power generates better financial returns than any other financial investment. The feed-in tariff that you get from your utility company is guaranteed over 25 years. On top of the feed-in tariff, you save money whenever you use your produced electricity in your own household. For every kWh that you manage to use for yourself you don't have to pay the regular cost of electricity which is becoming more expensive every year.

How long do solar power systems last?

How long do solar power systems last?

The UK feed-in tariff guarantees financial returns for 25 years. The expected lifetime of up-to-date solar power systems is even longer. First-class quality modules will easily produce electricity for 35 years and more. There are already existing systems in the field which have been operating free of defects for decades. According to long-term studies, good modules still achieve an energy yield of far more than 80 per cent of their initial output after twenty years.

As a major solar company, SolarWorld provides a twenty-five year linear performance warranty and an extended product warranty of twenty years.

Solar power systems mainly feature a very low rate of failures and require very little maintenance. As a general rule, only the inverter will need replacing after about ten years.

How can I receive an offer for SolarWorld products?

How can I receive an offer for SolarWorld products?

When purchasing a solar power system, it is not only the technology used which is a decisive factor. Good service and warranties also play a role. You can receive personal advisory services from a SolarWorld retail and trade specialist, who are experts in the field. They will provide you with everything from a single source, from planning through to installation and maintenance of your solar power system. SolarWorld is happy to provide you with the contact details of an experienced partner in your area. Please get in touch with: service-uk@solarworld.com

Is my roof suitable?

Is my roof suitable?

Generally speaking, insolation is sufficient in almost every region of the country to ensure solar power systems are cost-efficient. As a general rule, solar power systems can be installed in any location where there is sufficient light. A south-facing surface achieves optimum yield at an angle of about 30°. A variation in orientation towards the south-west or south-east or in pitch between 25° and 60° will only reduce the energy yield slightly. Shade produced by trees, adjacent buildings, gables, aerials and similar should be avoided, as they considerably reduce the electricity yield.

Mounting systems are used in the case of flat or pitched roofs and guarantee an optimum orientation for photovoltaic modules.

On-roof
For all existing pitched roof surfaces: an on-roof system is installed without affecting the impermeability of the membrane on an existing roof.

Flat roof
For flat roofs, there are frame and tub systems which securely support modules at an optimum angle to the sun.


SolarWorld offers mounting systems which can be individually adjusted to structural conditions and needs, thus ensuring optimum and safe utilization of installation surfaces.

Who will take care of maintenance once my system is installed?

Who will take care of maintenance once my system is installed?

A solar power system requires little maintenance. However, you will need to pay meter rental. Any dust or dirt on the photovoltaic modules is usually removed to an adequate extent by snow and rain. Particularly tough dirt or stains, such as leaves and bird droppings, which cause part of the system to be covered in shade, should be removed as quickly as possible. Possible cleaning and small repairs should also be taken into account when calculating operating costs.

You should arrange for your SolarWorld specialist to maintain your system on a regular basis to ensure it runs to full capacity at all times. The most important task is to read the electricity meter on a regular basis to ensure you detect any faults in good time, even though faults rarely occur. The best way to safeguard your system is to enter into a maintenance agreement. Your system's performance will thus be checked every year, before the months with high levels of sunshine.

Doesn't manufacturing a photovoltaic system use up more energy than such a system actually produces during its lifetime?

Doesn't manufacturing a photovoltaic system use up more energy than such a system actually produces during its lifetime?

The time required to offset the energy consumed to produce solar power systems depends on the energy yield and the useful life of the module technology concerned. In sunny locations such as North Africa, a solar power system will already produce more clean electricity after one year of operation than the energy used to produce it.

SolarWorld crystalline solar modules which are installed in UK will take about one year to offset the energy used in production.