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Preparing for a Solar Panel Installation

Updated December 2016: With good preparation, a capable installer and with all the facts in hand, installing a solar panel system can be an enjoyable and very rewarding experience. As with any construction project the success and efficiency of a solar PV panel installation comes down to good planning. Some advice for potential system owners preparing for a new solar panel installation is below:

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Roof Mounted Solar PV Panel Installation

Connecting to the National Grid: Single phase solar PV systems under 3.68kWp in size (approx 12-20 panels) and three phase systems under 11kWp (40-60 solar panels) do not usually require advanced permission from the Distribution Network Operator (the power company which maintains the local mains power network) before connecting the solar PV system to the National Grid.

Systems bigger in size and multiple installations as may be the case with new builds will require permission from the DNO before systems can be connected. If prior approval is required, grid connection applications can take upwards of 65 days so the sooner the grid connection application is made in the planning & design process the better.

Solar PV Mains Connection Mains Electricity Suppliers: Installing a solar PV system and becoming an electricity generator will change the amount of mains electricity that you need to buy and the times you need to buy it. To avoid delays and complications, if it's found to be of benefit to change suppliers it is a good idea to change before the solar PV system is installed. Taking into account your new energy usage profile and the terms and conditions of the new agreement.
Ground Mounted Commercial Solar PV Panel Mounting System Planning Permission: Planning permission is sometimes required when installing larger systems or installing solar panels in sensitive areas such as within conservation areas. Gaining planning permission can be a lengthy process so it is advisable to find out any special requirements beforehand and make a pre-planning enquiry with the local authority early in the design & planning stage. More information about Planning Permission requirements for Solar Panels can be found here: Planning Permission for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems.
Commercial Flat Roof Solar PV Panel Installation Building Regulations & Structures: For safety and to maintain the structural integrity of the building; solar panel installations needs to be installed in compliance with the building regulations, see building regulations for solar panels. It is also worth bearing in mind that solar panel systems can operate for a very long time (40 years plus). It is sensible to make sure that underlying structures such as roofing supports, roofing materials and any other support structures will also last for the lifetime of the solar PV system. This will avoid what could later prove to be costly and complicated repairs further down the line.

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Professional Solar PV System Design & Planning

The success of any renewable energy project is always in the quality and robustness of the system design, our experienced in-house design team has been designing innovative and ground breaking solar PV and other renewable energy systems since 2007.

Solar PV System Design
We take a collaborative and open approach and often find the very best systems are those where the system owner/developer has taken an active involvement with the design.

We can help prepare cost effective designs, roof layouts and documentation for all types and size of solar PV project; including drawings, bills of materials and detailed custom installation/owners manuals. We work with installers and developers as well as private clients and businesses, so if you need any technical information prepared then contact us, we have specialist knowledge and experience at your disposal, you will find us easy to work with and happy to help.

Solar PV System Design & Planning

Solar PV Equipment and Installation Kits

If we are supplying systems and equipment to Solar PV installers or for DIY solar installations, we are always happy to include system designs, testing and bespoke documentation as part of the package.

Solar PV Equipment Suppliers
This can include:
  • System Performance Statements
  • Line Drawings and Schematics
  • Roof Layouts
  • Grid Connection Documents
  • Solar Panel Testing and Records

Solar PV Systems & Equipment

 

Articles

Further reading and calculators related to designing, installing, repairing and maintaining solar photovoltaic and electrical systems:

Types of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System

Introduction to the different types of Photovoltaic (PV) System available including Grid Tied, Off-Grid, Hybrid and Batteryless solar PV systems.

Solar PV System Components

Overview of the basic components needed to install a complete solar PV system. Introduction to solar PV panels. power inverters, AC & DC isolators and mounting systems.

Engineering Recommendation G98

Grid Connections for Micro-Generators including Solar PV Systems and Elecricity Storage Systems in the UK. Under 16Amps Per Phase, grid synchronised.

Free Solar PV Calculators

A list of free solar PV calculators, solar design tools and software, Use to calculate solar yields and the Return on Investment (ROI) for solar PV systems.

Solar PV: Smart Export Guarantee

Interesting times ... The Smart Export Guarantee came into affect in January 2020. The Smart Export Guarantee is an obligation set by the government for licensed electricity suppliers to offer a tariff and to pay small-scale low carbon Generators and Micro-generators for any electricity that they export to the National Grid.

Evaluating Solar PV Panels - Which panels to buy?

What to look for when evaluating and selecting solar PV panels for UK installations. Electrical characteristics of solar PV arrays and the safety factors used for selecting BoS equipment, also mounting options.

Solar Panels - PV Array Calculator

Solar Panels: Solar PV System sizing and power yield calculator. Use to work out roof layouts, PV array sizes, No. of panels and power yields. Based on SAP 2009.

Flat Roof Solar PV Array Spacing / Shade Calculator

The minimum required space between parallel rows to avoid shading is decided by the height of the array immediately in front, the slope of the roof and the lattitude of the installation site. This table illustrates the different row spacings required for optimum positioning in different locations.

Solar Electricity - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to size a system?, What is kWp?, What is the difference between a kilowatt (kW) and a kilowatt hour ( kWh)?, How does a solar PV system work? Can I add more solar panels to my system? How do I know if my solar panels are working?

Planning Permission for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

A solar PV installation can be classed as 'permitted development' subject to conditions and when not located within a conservation area, AONB or world heritage site.

Solar PV, Safety & The Building Regulations

Residential PV systems notifiable under Part P. Special consideration needed for Part A. A combination of serious risks for solar PV installers.

Safely Retrofitting Solar PV Roof Mounts

The things to consider before installing a retrofited solar PV system on a roof and an introduction to the type of equipment used to secure an on-roof solar PV system.

Smart Switching / Solar PV Power Switching

Available as an addition to existing solar PV systems or installed as a package alongside a new system, Smart switching puts full control of a solar PV system's power output firmly in the hands of the system owner.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) & Electrical Glossary of Terms

An alphabetical list of many of the industry and technical terms you are likely to come across when installing a solar PV system. The glossary also defines terms that are used in roofing and electrical work as well as in solar PV installation and solar manufacturing.

Mains Power Supplies & Earthing Systems

Mains Supply and Earthing Systems: Location & accessability, supply systems, earthing, bonding, labelling, installing RCDs.

Electrical Warning Signs & Labelling

A quick overview of some common electrical warning signs and labels that you might find attached to electrical equipment.

ABB / Power One Aurora Inverter Faults and Repairs

Power One, at one point were the second ranked inverter manufacturer in the world and there are many Power One Aurora Inverters installed in the UK. The most popular models being the Uno PVI-3.0-TL-OUTD and the Uno PVI-3.6-TL-OUTD.

Fronius IG / IG Plus Inverter Faults and Repairs

Fronius IG and IG Plus series inverters have LCD displays on the front of the chassis that providing it's working, will highlight any errors with the inverter or the solar PV system that it runs.

Mastervolt Inverter Faults and Repairs

Mastervolt Sunmaster and the smaller Soladin ranges of inverters were widely installed in the UK between 2011 and 2014. Popular Sunmaster models being the Sunmaster XS2000, Sunmaster XS3200 and the Sunmaster XS4300.

SMA Sunnyboy Inverter Faults and Repairs

SMA Sunnyboy Inverters have been widely installed in the UK, some of the most popular being the SB1200, SB2000 and SB3000. High frequency models include the SB2000HF, SB2500HF, and SB3000HF. Transformerless models include the SB3000TL and the SB3600TL.

SolarEdge Inverter and Optimser Faults and Repairs

The SolarEdge system is unique and in our opinion unrivalled in terms of it's ability to monitor system performance down to panel level. This is achieved through the installation of a small unit called an optimiser.

Sonnen Macht Inverter Faults and Repairs

The problem we often find with these inverters are damaged relays, the tell tale sign of a relay failure is an Error 19: Relay or Error 19: Relay Fault warning displayed on the inverter's display.

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