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Top Solar myths explained

With any technology in the world, there are always naysayers, unbelievers and doubters that spread common misconceptions and myths about the unexplained. In this article, we tackle these 'solar myths' head-on:

"Renewable energy is too expensive"

Solar panels were very expensive about 15 years ago, but this is not the case anymore. The cost of solar per watt can be down as low as £0.60/Watt like in our 295W Perlight solar panel, or £0.50/Watt like in our Longi 54c HiMo5 405W All Black Mono

"Solar panels need the Sun - and it is always cloudy in the UK!"

It is true that solar panels work best in bright, direct sunlight, but solar panels have moved on a long way in the last 5 years and can now generate a substantial amount of energy, even when the clouds are out. An example is when it is an overcast day, but you can still feel your eyes squinting. This light is enough to excite a solar panel into life and create some energy for you - so it's not all doom and gloom!

"Solar technology is too new - it's better to wait for more efficient cells"

This may be the case for the latest smart phone or computer, as there are often teething-problems with first generation models. However, in the case of solar, this technology has been around for more than 100 years. The recent leap in efficiency and reducing the cost of the panel means that there has never been a better time in the last century to invest in solar! Take a look at our panels with Sunpower solar cells to see how efficient panels are now.

"It takes more energy to produce a solar panel than the solar panel produces in its lifetime."

Once again, this is not true! Typical energy payback periods are about 3 or 4 years, and are quickly reducing as more energy efficient production methods are used. For the manufacture of the very earliest solar panels there was some truth in this myth as they used thick slices of pure silicon crystal, which are very energy intensive to grow. Modern panels use exceptionally thin slices of silicon crystal, which use correspondingly less energy in their production. 'Thin-film' solar panels - such as the Unisolar brand - are even less energy-intensive to produce.

"Amorphous solar panels degrade quickly - they only last about five years."

Not true - or at least, not true for all thin-film panels. Most modern thin-film panels have usable lifetimes which are almost as long as conventional crystalline panels. Unisolar guarantee the power output of their panels to be at least 80% of rated capacity after 20 years - they wouldn't be that daft to guarantee it if the panels had a usable lifetime of only 5 years!

Be aware though that some cheaper, thin-film panels out there are based on different chemistries, and these may have a significantly shorter lifespan than conventional silicon panels.

"Blocking diodes are essential to prevent leakage of electricity back through the solar panel at night."

In most cases you lose more energy in the blocking diode during the day than you would lose through the solar panel at night. So normally it's better not to bother with a blocking diode. An even easier solution is to get one of our solar charge controllers. These little contraptions protect your system and keep your battery healthy by checking the voltage every millisecond.

"You would have to cover the entire country in solar panels to generate enough for the UK's electricity demand!"

UK annual energy consumption is around 350,000,000,000 kWh. One of our 240W Panasonic solar panels produces just over 550 kWh per year in the UK climate - so you would need around 636,000,000 such solar panels to meet UK demand. They would cover an area of 801,800,000 square metres, or 801.8 square kilometers. That's a square 28 kilometers by 28 kilometers, or just over 17 miles by 17 miles.

If that still boggles your mind, how much do you think you personally need? Each person in the UK averages a little under 6000 kWh per year, which could be provided by 11 of our 245W solar panels. That amount is probably able to fit on your roof - take a look at a 245W Panasonic solar panel here.

I hope you enjoyed reading our myth-busters section - if you have a 'myth to bust', please contact us here.

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