Benefits and drawbacks of solar energy in the UK

From government grants to lowered costs and energy savings, there are many reasons for people in the UK to choose solar energy over all alternatives. But the benefits don’t always come through equally for all buyers...

If you’re planning to switch to solar energy but can’t decide if the investment and installation are worth it, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at all the benefits and drawbacks of solar energy so you can make a more informed decision when buying solar panels.

Benefits of Solar Energy

Reduced Energy Bills

Generating solar energy doesn’t cost you anything other than the upfront cost of installation and basic annual maintenance. Furthermore, when you substitute solar energy for your daily electricity needs, you will start using less energy from the grid. This will ultimately help reduce your energy bills.

Depending on how well solar energy is utilized, households can save anywhere between £250 and £1,000.

Receive Payments on Excess Energy

Any excess energy your solar system generates can also earn you substantial revenue. Under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), all solar panels set up after January 2020 can receive payments for the energy they send to the grid.

These payments vary based on what provider you’re using.

Increased Property Value

As Heatable state, even if you aren’t planning on living in your current home forever, it can still benefit you to get solar panels installed, as they may help increase the value of your property by at least 4%.

But you will have to keep your panels in good condition and make sure they don’t bring down the aesthetic value of the property.

Minimal Maintenance

The biggest advantage of solar energy is that the solar panel systems used to generate the energy require minimal maintenance. It’s largely thanks to their simple construction that doesn't feature many moving parts for you to worry about. This makes maintenance a breeze.

Typically, the only maintenance needed is keeping the panels clean and free of dust or debris, which needs to be done once or twice a year only. Plus, you can hire cleaning experts for the task, who charge about £25 to £35 per cleaning.

The only serious maintenance your solar panel system will require is inverter replacement and cable maintenance. And even this will only be required after the first 5 to 10 years.

Long Lasting

Solar panel systems come with 20 to 30-year warranties, so they’re a reliable long-term investment.

Although you have to ensure you purchase a good quality solar panel system. A poor-quality system will only come with a 12 to 15-year warranty. And even then, they’re more likely to break down and decrease in output.

Variety of Applications and Reach

You can use solar energy for a variety of purposes, such as heating, electricity, or water distillation, making it a versatile option.

It is also a beneficial and more easily accessible option for those living in distant off-grid areas as they have access to sunlight.

Clean, Renewable, and Sustainable

Solar energy is generated from sunlight, which is both a clean and renewable source of energy. Using solar energy helps reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, which is common when you use power from the grid.

Sunlight is also available in most parts of the world and won’t run out for at least another 5 million years. This makes solar energy one of the few sustainable energy sources.

In addition, solar panels last for up to 30+ years once installed. And the less the requirement for replacement, the less waste. Solar panels also don’t feature too many working parts, so there’s no negative impact on the environment, even when your panels are generating energy.

Drawbacks of Solar Energy

High Initial Cost

Buying and installing solar panel systems of any size requires a huge upfront investment. And depending on various factors like the type, quality, number, and location, the total cost can be anywhere between £5,000 and £10,000.

While the government provides different incentives and grants, they may not be available to everyone. Although the costs will go down in the future, affordable solar panels are still years away.

Dependent on Sunlight

Generating solar energy requires ample sunlight, which is only available during the daytime. And even then, it’s a hit or miss when you consider the UK weather. And although solar panels do generate energy even on cloudy days, the output is relatively less.

An easy solution to this is adding more panels to your system. However, that comes with an added cost. Plus, you’ll also need the roof space to accommodate them.

Expensive to Store Energy

Typically, solar panel systems don’t come with storage. So, all the excess energy your panels generate goes back to the grid. And while you do get paid for this energy, the fee you receive is much lower than what you pay for pulling the same from the grid.

The best solution to making the most out of your solar energy is to store the energy for yourself for later usage. But these solar battery storage solutions are an added cost that is quite expensive.

Roof Space and Other Requirements

Solar panel installation is quite tricky. For starters, solar panels need to be installed on a south-facing angled roof.

Secondly, an average house in the UK needs at least three to four solar panels to generate enough energy for their everyday electricity needs. But these many panels also require lots of roof space, which not all homes have. And more panels also mean more expenses.

A third issue is obstructions blocking your roof’s access to sunlight, which may or may not be removable. Lastly, older roofs may not be suitable for carrying the added weight of solar panels. They may need strengthening from the inside first, which may further increase your expenses.

In homes where the garden receives ample direct sunlight, you could install the panels on the garden grounds. But most homes do not have enough space in their gardens.

Decreased Property Value

While solar panels can increase the value of your property, they can also do the opposite.

Houses with their front roof facing the south might want to reconsider installing solar panels. That’s because the installation of the panels can dampen the aesthetic value of your property, which may deter buyers who prioritize visuals.

Expensive to Move

While you can choose to take your solar panels with you while moving homes, it may not be feasible. The task is very complex and comes with lots of expenses, from removal and transportation to reinstallation.

In most cases, the total cost will be the same as your initial cost or even more than that.

Manufacturing Process Contributes to Pollution

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems generate a lot of pollution during their manufacturing and installation. They are also resource intensive.

However, all energy alternatives do require resources and create pollution. Some may even use non-renewable resources and add to the pollution throughout their lifetime. But solar panels contribute much less to pollution in comparison.

To Summarise

Solar energy is the best option among all clean renewable energy sources available today. And advancements in technology are certainly helping UK homeowners generate energy using solar panels more efficiently than ever before. If you’ve got the right infrastructure, weather, budget, and energy requirements, solar energy could be the best solution for you. It is certainly more cost-efficient and energy-efficient than other alternatives.

We hope this guide has helped you better understand solar energy and simplify the high investment decision for you.