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Photovoltaics

Photovoltaic systems convert energy from the sun into electricity through semi conductor cells. Systems consist of semi-conductor cells connected together and mounted into modules. Modules are connected to an inverter to turn their direct current (DC) output into alternating current (AC) electricity for use in buildings.

Photovoltaics supply electricity to the building they are attached to or to any other load connected to the electricity grid. Excess electricity can be sold to the National Grid when the generated power exceeds the local need.

PV systems require only daylight, not sunlight to generate electricity (although more electricity is produced with more sunlight), so energy can still be produced in overcast or cloudy conditions. Photovoltaics are generally blue/grey in colour and can be used successfully in all parts of the UK, including London.

Where can photovoltaic systems be used?

Photovoltaic panels come in modular panels which can be fitted to the top of roofs (looking similar to a roof light) and in slates or shingles which are an integral part of the roof covering (looking similar to normal roof tiles).

Photovoltaic systems can be discreet through being designed as an integral part of the roof. An ‘invisible’ design using slates or shingles as opposed to an architectural statement is likely to be preferable if in a sensitive area.

Ideally photovoltaics should face between south-east and south-west, at an elevation of about 30-40°. However, in the UK even flat roofs receive 90% of the energy of an optimum system.

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