As the world continues to move towards using more renewable energy sources, solar panels are becoming increasingly popular with homes and businesses across Ireland.

Solar panels generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect, which occurs when solar cells are exposed to sunlight.

But how exactly do they work? This page explains how solar panels produce electricity from the sun’s limitless energy so that you fully understand the process before you decide to invest.

Solar panels work by converting the sun's energy into electricity

What are solar panels?

Solar panels work by converting the sun’s energy into electricity.

There are two main solar energy technologies — photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP).

Solar Photovoltaic Cell – The Basics

PV solar panels are made up of smaller units called photovoltaic cells, which is why they are sometimes called PV panels.

They are electronic devices that use the energy of sunlight to create electricity by what is called the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaic cells are able to convert sunlight into electrical energy because they contain semiconductor materials such as silicon.

The silicon cells contain a junction between the two types of semiconductor materials.

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How do solar panels generate electricity?

Think of it like this: the sun shoots out rays of light called photons which interact with semiconductor materials inside a solar cells.

When this electromagnetic radiation interacts with the semiconductors with enough energy, it knocks an electron from its bond.

Solar energy works when photons from the sun excite an electron. These photons knock electrons free creating electron-hole pairs – electrons on one side of the p-n junction and holes on the other.

Now positive electrons and holes are free to move around, and direct current (DC) electricity is created. The electrons then travel through an external circuit, creating alternating current (AC) electricity.

Electrons are only allowed to move in a single direction inside the silicon cells, creating an electric field.

The direct current is then transformed by a solar inverter, which converts it into AC electricity.

PV solar panels

What happens to the electricity?

The DC electricity which is generated by this process is stored in batteries until being converted into AC electricity, which reaches your home through the inverters.

This AC electricity can also be sold back to the grid, which is a relatively simple process through your electricity provider.

A smart meter should be installed to accurately calculate how much power is being sold back to the grid.

Do solar panels work in Ireland?

Yes, photovoltaic solar panels work in Ireland. But their efficacy will depend on a number of factors, such as the direction a home faces, the angle of the roof, and the number of sunshine hours your location gets.

Believe it or not, Ireland actually gets between 1,100 and 1,600 hours of sunshine each year.

The sunniest months are May and June, and during these months, the country averages between 5 and 6.5 hours per day.

Ireland typically receives between 1,100 and 1,600 hours of sunshine each year

How much energy is produced by solar panels?

The amount of electrical energy produced by a solar panel depends on different factors, such as sunlight hours, the size of the PV panels, and how efficient they are.

Generally, between 15 and 30 solar panels can generate enough AC electricity to power an entire house, but everything depends on the household’s consumption, of course.

Solar panels are generally arranged in what is called a photovoltaic system. These PV systems consist of at least one solar panel comprised of solar cells, an a solar inverter together, and sometimes components such as meters or trackers.

How much energy is produced by solar panels

Factors Affecting How Solar Panels Work

Location

The extreme southeast of Ireland gets the most sunshine, averaging over 7 hours a day in early summer. December is the dullest month, with an average daily sunshine ranging from about 1 hour in the north to almost 2 hours in the southeast.

South-facing Roof

Ireland’s latitude is around 50 degrees north of the equator, meaning the sun is always south of us.

For this reason, south-facing homes with solar panels will generate the more solar energy — but east or west facing houses will also generate solar power.

The solar cell panels should also be free from shade, i.e. roofs should not have anything such as trees blocking the sunlight.

Roof Angle

The angle of your roof will also play a role in determining the amount of solar power generated by solar panels.

The roof should ideally be at a pitched angle of around 30° from the horizontal to give the best performance. Luckily, most homes in Ireland are built with roofs close to that angle.

7 Years

A typical solar installation is fully paid back within 7 years. All solar panels we recommend are under warranty for 25 years, so you will enjoy at least 17 years of free energy generation.

0% VAT

As of 10 May 2023, the government has removed all VAT on solar installation and solar panel supply. This means solar has never been more affordable!

Government Grants

There is a range of government grants available for all new solar installations. Our team will guide you through the application process.

How much electricity is generated each day by solar panels?

Again, the amount of solar power generated in a day depends on different factors such as the quality of the panels themselves.

For example, solar cells with grid lines absorb sunlight better, meaning they can produce more electricity.

However, on average, a solar system in Ireland can generate approximately 4 kWh of electricity per day which is plenty to cover the basic energy needs of most households.

How much energy do I use?

You can calculate the amount of energy that your household uses by looking at your monthly energy bills sent by your energy provider or online.

Energy is calculated in kilowatts per hour (kWh) and there are often peak times when energy consumption is more expensive.

But consumption all depends on the size of your house and how much your household needs.

For example, the mean electricity consumption in 2021 for a detached house in Ireland was 70% higher than that of a mid-terraced house.

How to Maximise Solar Power Output

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, and it is these cells that convert solar energy in the form of sunlight into usable electricity.

Because solar panels can’t transform all the solar energy it receives into electricity, choosing higher quality panels which utilises as much solar energy as possible will naturally generate more AC electricity, and might even produce excess energy.

Do solar panels work at night?

Sunlight is necessary for solar energy generation, as the photons from the sun’s rays interact with the solar cells which power solar panels.

However, the solar industry is constantly evolving.

Some specially designed solar panels have even been created to work at night, and research has found that existing panels could be modified to include new solar energy technologies in the future.

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How long do solar panels last?

Solar cell panels are durable. Most solar panels last 25 – 30 years before the begging to loose effeminacy, making solar power a long-term and sustainable investment that will increase the value of your home as well as decreasing your monthly bills.

Solar panels are also typically under guarantee for around 25 years, which means that you will be at ease for many years to come should something break down the line.

Do solar panels heat water?

Yes, other than PV solar panels, thermal solar can also be used to heat water. They work similarly to solar PV, but instead capture thermal energy from the sun.

In solar hot water systems, there is no movement of electrons like in a photovoltaic solar panel — instead, the panels transform sunlight into heat.

But since PV solar panels create electricity, they are more desirable in the vast majority of cases.

So for the majority of people, thermal solar won’t be desirable.

But let’s say you have a very small surface space on your roof, where the electricity generated from the sunlight just isn’t sufficient to make a difference.

In these rare cases, thermal solar could be the right way to go. The chances are, though, for the vast majority, a PV solar panel will be what you want.

Heat water for free with solar energy

Solar Panel Grants

Yes, because solar is a renewable energy source, there are a number of grants that are available to both households and businesses who wish to install panels.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) provides grant funding for individual homeowners, businesses, or larger community schemes to install solar panels and reduce their carbon footprint.

Grants of up to €2,400 are available for homeowners to install solar panels or solar thermal systems on their house.

The size of your grant funding is dependent on the amount of kWp generated by your solar panels. Almost all homes which were built and occupied before 2021 are eligible for these grants.

Grants available for solar panels

How much do solar panels cost in Ireland?

The cost of installing solar panels depends on the price of the the individual solar panels themselves and how many you want installed.

The average cost of installing solar panels on a home in Ireland is between €4,000 and €12,000 after taking into account the many grant options which can reduce the price.

And unlike with most non-renewable energy sources, such as fossil fuels, which must be constantly replenished, there are no ongoing costs once solar panels have been fitted.

Online Solar Assessment

Speak with a member of our team and determine the type of solar that best suits your situation

  • Fill in the solar assessment

  • A solar expert will call you with 24 hours and ask any questions they have

  • We will email across accurate quotes, detailing the timeframe, costs, available grants and next steps

How many solar panels should I get?

Between 6 and 25 solar panel modules is likely to be plenty to cover most households in Ireland, however every home is different.

The mean annual electricity usage for households in Ireland is between 5,000 and 10,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, but some use more power.

Solar panels are also not all alike. Most solar panels which are used for residential properties typically come in wattages ranging from around 150 watts to 410 watts per panel.

It’s difficult to generalise about how many you will need for your home. The main thing to remember is that the more efficient they are, the more wattage they can produce, and the fewer you will need on your roof.

Get a Solar Panel Quote Today

If you’re thinking about installing solar panels, we would recommend exploring a number of options before jumping right in.

Take a FREE assessment on what is the best solar power option for you personally today.

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