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Guide to solar PV & battery storage

Converting natural light into electricity, photovoltaic panels reduce reliance on fossil fuels, with battery storage further extending their benefits. Nigel Griffiths looks at whether they’re worth the payback times
Solar PV panels should ideally be sited on a south-facing roof at a 30°-40° angle

From an environmental point of view, photovoltaic (PV) systems seem instinctively attractive. By taking light (photons) and transforming it into electricity (volts) – hence the name – we can generate electricity from the sun’s rays. This method of electricity production is clean (in use) and displaces fossil fuels, reducing but not eliminating reliance on the grid. PV can in theory provide power anywhere, which is known as distributed or local generation.

Photovoltaic cells produce very small amounts of electricity so they are grouped together into modules. A panel consists of several modules linked together. Panels that are grouped are known as an array.

The power generated by PV cells is direct current (DC) at low voltage. Unless the power is being used solely to run low-voltage DC appliances, it needs to be converted to 240V AC (alternating current, ie normal domestic electricity) by means of an inverter. A cable hooks the panels up to the inverter and the system is then connected into the mains. Unused electricity can be exported to the grid.

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About Build It

The July edition of Build It magazine brings you a wealth of information to help make a success of your self build, renovation, extension or conversion project – including: • A modern eco home built for just £77,000 (page 44) • Top flooring options (page 65) • Solar PV & battery storage (page 68) • Sliding doors vs bifolds (page 73) • 10 top tips for self builders (page 101) • Design ideas for awkward plots (page 110) … and more!