The History of Solar Panels
We have used the energy of the sun to make our lives better ever since we discovered how to magnify its rays to make fire. The Greeks used a system of mirrors to light torches as far back as the third century BC.
The humble green house has been around for centuries and is simply a way of collecting the sun’s energy to create heat to grow plants, whilst the first legitimate solar panel was actually created way back in 1767 by Swiss scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure who used it to heat water and make steam.
The history of the solar panel is a reflection of man’s burgeoning ingenuity to use his environment in a safe and sustainable way.
How Do Solar Panels Work
Energy travels the 93 million miles from the Sun in approximately 8 minutes, arriving in the form of light and heat of varying wavelengths. We can convert this sunlight into electricity by the use of photovoltaic cells that collect the energy. At the present time, these cells are normally made of silicon. When the sun strikes the molecules in photovoltaic cells it knocks electrons loose that generate electricity as they flow through it.
The great thing is that this process doesn’t require bright sunshine and hot conditions which means that a temperate climate like we have in the UK is just as good for producing electricity from solar panels as hotter climes like California or Africa.
Types of Photovoltaic Cells
One of our fastest developing technologies is found in the photovoltaic cell that powers solar panels and provides the electricity and heat used in our homes and businesses. Researchers and developers are working harder than ever to bring the price down and produce new technologies that decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. That means solar panels are becoming more and more viable as renewable energy.
Most commercially used solar panels currently use silicon photovoltaic cells in one form or another and they are judged primarily upon their efficiency at producing electricity and their subsequent cost. Pure silicon cells such monocrystalline have a high efficiency but also cost more, which may not make them suitable for use in domestic abodes. Hybrid cells, a mix of silicon and organic substances, have a lower efficiency but cost less.
Legal Issues and Planning Permissions for Solar Panels
Because it benefits to the eco-system, if you live in England, having solar panels installed on a domestic premises is often considered as ‘permitted development’ which means that you don’t have to seek planning permission.
There are, however, requirements that have to be met covering how high it is installed and how much protrusion is allowed. Scotland has some slightly different rules but again solar panels are largely considered ‘permitted development’. From a legal standpoint, you will also need to contact both your insurance provider and mortgage company to ensure they agree to the installation.