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Types of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System

Solar Photovoltaics convert daylight into electricity and can be used in Grid-Tied Solar PV Systems where renewable electricity is fed directly into the properties power supply, excess electricity being exported (sold) to energy companies using the National Grid and in Off-Grid situations where electricity is generated and stored in batteries for use locally.

Below we look at what equipment is needed for each type of system and discuss how Grid Tied, Off-Grid and Hybrid Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems work.

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Solar PV

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Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

If your building is already connected to the mains power network or a connection to the national grid would be easy and not too expensive to arrange, a Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic system is often the most cost effective PV System to install.

A Grid-Tied PV system offers the potential to make a profit on the energy you generate, whilst significantly reducing your energy bills and making a contribution to lowering CO2 emmissions.

Any excess electricity is automatically exported to the grid, at night and in winter the grid connection is used in the normal way. Essentially a grid connected solar PV system provides a second source of power directly into the properties consumer/distribution unit.

Solar PV Panel

Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment

Below is an overview of what equipment is needed in a typical Grid-Tied Solar PV installation.

  • Solar PV Panels / PV Modules - The head end of a PV system that converts daylight into electrical current. As well as traditional Solar Panels, Solar PV panels can also be integrated into building materials where you may have traditionally used glass such as into canopies, skylights and balconies.
  • A Grid-Tie Inverter - Is used to convert DC power into AC power ready for use locally and for export to the grid.
Solar PV Generation Meter

Generation Meter

  • Cables & Accessories - Used to safely connect the various components, cables should be specified in relation to the maximum load current and the potential operating temperatures.
  • Isolators - Used to disconnect parts or all of the system for maintenance and/or in an emergency.
  • Mounting System - There is a wide choice of mounting systems. Solar PV panels and moduless can be mounted onto roofs (bolted on top or integrated within) Free Standing Frames and Building Integrated PV solutions are also available.
  • Monitor - Used for measuring how much energy is being generated.
  • Generation Meter - A generation meter monitors and displays how much electricity has been generated in kWhrs,

Off-Grid PV Diagram

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Off-Grid Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

An Off-Grid Solar PV System is self contained and uses batteries to store and release electricity when the Solar PV Panels aren't active such as at night. An Off-Grid PV solution is ideal for remote buildings, application specific functions such as for powering machinery, temporary solutions, pumps, boats, pretty much anywhere where mains electricity isn't available and or isn't needed.

Solar Batteries

Solar Batteries

Off-Grid Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment

  • Solar PV Panels / PV Modules - The head end of the system that converts daylight into electrical current.
  • Power Inverters - Used to convert DC power provided by Solar panels and stored in batteries into AC Electricity to be integrated into the buildings electrical system.
  • Charge Controller - Used to prevent damage to batteries through overcharging and reverse current.
  • Cables & Accessories - Used to safely connect the various components.
  • Isolators - Used to disconnect parts or all of the system for maintenance and/or in in an emergency.
  • Monitor - Used for measuring how much energy is being generated.
  • Batteries - Used to store and release power.
  • Mounting System - Used to install Solar panels on a roof or other suitable structure.
Sunny Backup

Sunny Backup

Hybrid Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

If you were thinking that there is nothing stopping you from having both types of system installed at the same time you would be absolutely right. A Hybrid system gives you all the benefits of both systems with the added benefits from protection from power cuts and outages (from either solar or mains), coupled with the ability to live independently of fossil fuels whilst supplying others with clean, green energy.

A Hybrid Solar PV System would utilise a connection to the grid enabling power to be exported and also use batteries to protect against power cuts and store power for use locally.

Please note that as with all grid connected PV systems, in hybrid systems we need to protect against islanding, this is where the PV system would continue to generate and export power to the grid even if the mains power was unavailable. For safety the PV system will disconnect itself from the grid if mains power becomes unavailable, hybrid systems will continue to supply power to the property in the event of a power cut.

Solar Water Pump

Solar & Wind Powered Water Pumps

Solar Pumps, Wind Pumps or a combination of the two can be used for moving water from boreholes, wells, lakes and streams to difficult to reach buildings and fields, for irrigation, livestock and drinking water.

Solar Powered Road Sign

Batteryless Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems

This is where energy generated is supplied directly to appliances. This kind of power system is common powering water pumps, road signs and electric fences.

From simple stand alone systems through to complicated monitored and engineered systems. Being able to generate electricity locally opens up many opportunities in the areas of security, animal management and providing power to remote areas.

Interesting solar PV panel mounting options & technologies

Solar PV Canopies

Solar PV Canopies

From entrance foyets, recreation areas and window shades through to covers for car parks, Solar PV Canopies have the combined benifits of generating electricity, using unitilised space and providing shading to sunny areas.

Solar PV Balcony System

Solar PV Balcony Systems

Generate electricity utilising the limited space available outside apartment complexes and flats. Systems are suitable for retrofit as well as new build. Available in a wide choice of sizes, styles and colours Solar PV Balconies can be designed to either make a bold statement or to blend in with the surroundings. The PV Modules we use have the same structural properties as safety glass and the supports are made using anti corrissive aluminium.

Free Standing Solar PV Systems

Free Standing Solar PV Systems

In many cases the simpliest solutions are the best. What's simpler then mounting a series of Solar PV Panels (a PV array) on a frame or pole, facing the Solar array towards the sun and starting to generate your own electrical power?

Following the design principle of keeping things simple some of the most cost effective, best performing and most efficient PV systems are based on Free standing Solar PV Arrays. Systems range from small portable PV arrays to power machinery and tools through to ultra efficient, high power Solar PV Trackers.

Thin Film Photovoltaics

Thin Film Photovoltacs (PV)

If you have access to flat roofspace a cost effective, quick to install and fast payback energy solution is a Thin Film Photovoltaic Roofing system that generates electricity.

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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 Installation & Commissioning

Need experienced hands and heads on-site? Our engineers and electricians are some of the best and most experienced in the business. We can add real value to any project through our flexibility, efficiency and the quality of our work.

Solar Panel Installers

Our solar PV installers, roofers and electricians have carried out installations of all shapes and sizes; building solar PV arrays onto most types of roof including commercial roofs and flat roofs. We have built ground mounted frames and installed solar panel mounting structures such as carports and canopies; we have safely installed solar panels on top of barns, in open fields, on factories, houses, workshops, stables, garages and sheds.

Solar PV Installation & Commissioning

 

Articles

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Preparing for a Solar Panel Installation

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.

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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