Solar Panels - Risks and Benefits
Over the last two years, more than 500,000 households in the UK have had solar panels installed, which have many benefits, but also solar panel risks have increased.
This figure is projected to increase to up to 10 million homes powered by solar by 2020. As electricity prices are forecast to rise over the next decade, solar power is the recommended way forward.
With everything, there are pros and cons to new technologies.
Benefits to using solar panels
Renewable energy source
Solar energy is a completely renewable energy source, it can be placed in any area of the world. There is no wait to use the energy, and we cannot run out of it.
Solar energy can be used for both electricity (Photovoltaic Panels) and heat (Solar Thermal Panels). It can be used to generate electricity in areas of the world with limited access to an energy grid, sanitise water supplies, and power satellites.
Low maintenance costs
Maintenance costs and efforts are minimal with solar panels. As they are stationary and there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear, they only need cleaning twice a year, and panels are expected to last between 20 and 25 years. Only the inverter component needs to be changed every 5-10 years, so after the initial purchase, costs are minimal.
Reduces electricity bills
How much you save depends on the size of the system and your electricity usage, but despite this your energy bills will reduce. You may also receive payments for generating extra electricity that is taken back into the grid.
Developments in the solar power industry are continuously evolving. Improvements and innovations in this technology could increase effectiveness of solar energy in the near future.
Risks involved with having solar panels
Although costs have decreased significantly over the last few years, new solar panel systems cost between £5,000 and £10,000, however actual costs depend on the system and the installer. Larger systems are often more cost-effective.
Panels degrade over time and the percentage of productivity reduces.
Health and safety risks
Common risks involved from installing and maintaining solar panels include:
- Working at height
- Interruption with gas and/or the National Grid
- A major health hazard from solar panels is exposure to toxic chemicals which can happen during manufacture, transport, storage and disposal
- Manual handling
- Water risk if installing solar thermal panels
- Electrical safety
Operational risks and challenges
Building regulations need to be complied with when installing panels as the weight of the panels may pose a threat to the structure of the roof of a building.
Once installed, a number of challenges may be faced:
- The amount of sunlight and low efficiency
- General roof maintenance
Recycle where possible. Solar panels contain materials that can be reused to make new models or other products. Panels that cannot be recycled will end up in a landfill; solar panels contain toxic and carcinogenic materials and there is a high risk of leaching into surrounding soils and into the groundwater. If discovered, someone will be held liable.
Fires involving solar panels are infrequent but they present a number of additional challenges. Panels should have a DC (direct current) switch disconnector which switches off the panel when a fire starts. To decrease the damage created by a fire, it is good practice to install a smoke/fire detection system in the roof space.
Could solar panels benefit you?
If you are considering purchasing solar panels, there are some steps you can take to help protect your investment. It is recommended that homeowners and landlords notify their household insurers if panels are installed, as well as ensuring that contractors have the correct insurance. For more information please contact your nearest office.
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