Solar PV – Pros & Cons of Solar Photovoltaic Systems

By Rob Hull on June 15th, 2010

The term solar PV (photovoltaic) refers to an array of cells containing a solar photovoltaic material that converts solar radiation into direct current electricity.

Photovoltaic research and development has been upped in recent years as the technology is considered a leading renewable consumer energy source.

In fact, reports claim photovoltaic production has doubled every two years since 2002 making it the world’s fastest-growing solar power and energy technology as a whole.

How do Solar PV systems work?

Solar PV systems work by converting light into electrical power. This is achieved using a thin layer of semi-conducting material, most commonly silicon, enclosed in a glass or plastic casing. These can range in size with small versions used on watches and calculators to a system of hundreds of square metres of solar PV panels linked up to make an array to power large buildings.

When exposed to sunlight the semi-conducting material causes electrons in the materials’ atoms to be knocked loose. The electrons that are knocked loose then flow through the material to produce an electric current known as a direct current (DC). The direct current is carried through wiring to an inverter which converts the current to alternating current (AC) so it can be connected to your property’s main electricity distribution board which either used within the home or fed back into the national grid.

Pros and Cons of Solar PV systems


  • You can benefit from the Governments feed-in tariff which pays a set rate per kWh of electricity generated and an additional rate for any exported back to the national grid.
  • The feed-in tariff is guaranteed by the Government for 20 years.
  • Panels designed for European countries generate power even on cloudy days, they simply need light to produce electricity.
  • Clean energy means you reduce your carbon emissions by up to 1 tonne per annum.
  • Producing your own power protects against rising energy prices.


  • A large area of unshaded south, south-west or south-east facing roof is required to maiximise payback. Smaller systems can be installed but payback will be longer.
  • Panels degrade over time by approximately 20% over 25 years, this however is taken into account in most reputable suppliers calculations.
  • It may be beneficial to replace the inverter after 10 years to optimise power generation, although this is not essential.

You can calculate potential earnings via our Solar PV Calculator or should you have any comments or questions about PV the please post them below.

Get a Quote

Earn over £1,000 per year via the Feed-in Tariff

Save up to £200 per year with a Solar PV (photovoltaic) installationDid you know that a Solar PV system can reduce your energy bills but also make you money by selling any unused energy back to the grid?

This not only helps you financially but also the environment by lowering your CO2 emissions by up to 1000kg p/a.



Ask a question

Got a question about solar pv or thermal?

Consult a wealth of knowledge from the impartial installers and engineers using our categorised discussion forums.


About the Solar Feed-In Tariff

The Feed-In Tariff applies to Solar PV (electricity) systems

Calculate SavingsSolar PV Calculator

About the Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive applies to Solar Thermal (hot water) systems


Did you know?

Earn Money via the Feed-In TarrifThe Government's Feed-In Tariff was launched on April 1st 2010 to encourage homeowners to generate their own electricity - it is split into two methods of revenue.

The Generation Tariff earns you a fixed income for every kilowatt hour of electricity you generate. And, The Export Tariff earns you income for every kilowatt hour you generate and sell back to the grid.

An average 3/4 bedroom house fitted with 2.5kw Solar PV panels and normal electricity usage would earn over £850 p/a tax free!

Add this to an approximate £145 reduction in your electricity usage and you could benefit by over £1,000 per year.

Try our Solar PV Feed-In Tariff Calculator to assess your potential payback.

The UK's leading resource of solar & renewable installation & maintenance professionals

Need a Solar Installer?

  • Tell us your requirements
  • We find up to 3 registered traders to quote you
  • Compare prices and customer feedback
  • Select the best option for you
Free quotes from MCS approved and rated solar installers