Officially known as solar photovoltaic (or solar PV), solar panels catch the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that we can use in our homes.
With energy prices at an all-time high, more people than ever before are looking for ways to generate their own electricity. Solar panels give you this option, even in our cloudy Scottish climate. By generating your own electricity, you can reduce your electricity bills. You can also sell the electricity from your panels back to the grid, allowing you to both save and earn money at the same time.
At Changeworks, we would always recommend that you insulate your property as much as possible before thinking about Solar PV.
In most cases, insulating your home is the number one thing you can do to bring down your energy costs. This is because heating and hot water make up about 70% of our energy bills. Without insulation, most of the warmth our heating system produces doesn’t stay in the home. It leaks out of the walls, windows, floors and roof. This means we leave our heating system on for longer, which is bad for both our wallets and the environment.
Unless your heating runs on electricity, solar panels won’t help you bring down your heating costs. If your heating does run on electricity, it still makes sense to insulate first. You want to make sure that most of the heat produced stays in your home.
To learn more about where to start with insulation, take a look at our insulation guides.
Solar panels in Scotland?
The first home solar panels in the UK were installed in 1994. Solar power has been growing ever since. As of 2022, solar panels in Scotland produce enough energy to power around 90,000 homes.
Solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to generate electricity. They require daylight, rather than sunlight. This means they still work on cloudy days and throughout the winter. Sunny days do produce more electricity, but even our infamous Scottish weather won’t stop a solar panel from working.
Solar panel FAQs
In this section, we’ll look at some common questions about solar panels in Scotland.
Is my home suitable for solar panels?
Whilst we get enough sunlight to make solar panels in Scotland worthwhile, solar PV won’t be suitable for all Scottish homes. It will depend on:
To get the most out of solar panels, they should be installed on a south-facing, unshaded roof. East or west-facing roofs can also be considered. We wouldn’t recommend putting solar panels on a north-facing roof. That’s because the amount of electricity they generate won’t cover very much of your energy needs.
Solar panels are fitted in groups known as ‘arrays’. The size of an average array is 20m x 20m. The larger your roof, the larger the array you can have fitted. The bigger the array, the more electricity you can generate.
If your roof is in the shade for most of the day, the solar panels won’t get enough daylight to generate much electricity. Chimneys, trees and other buildings are all things to look out for when considering solar panels on your roof.
You will likely need planning permission if:
- You live in a listed building
- You live in a conservation area
- You live in a national park
To find out whether you need planning permission for solar panels, speak to your local authority.
What about solar panels on the ground?
You might have noticed that solar farms (fields full of solar panels, usually out in the countryside) tend to be on the ground.
Apart from one being on the ground and one being on the roof, there are no fundamental differences between ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar panels. If you have the space and there are no issues with shading, ground-mounted solar panels could be the way to go.
Ground-mounted solar panels are usually more expensive to install than roof-mounted systems. However, since they can be installed at exactly the right angle, their output can be maximised.
How many solar panels do I need?
The average system size in the UK is 3.5kWp (kilowatt peak). This typically works out as ten solar panels, taking up 20m2 of space.
It might be tempting to get as many solar panels installed as you can fit on your roof, but this usually only makes sense if:
- You have a battery to store excess electricity
- You are signed up to a tariff that pays you for exporting electricity to the grid
Without either of these options, a lot of the electricity collected from the solar panels is likely to be wasted.
The exact number of solar panels you need for your home really depends on how much electricity you’re trying to generate. Home Energy Scotland can help you get a better idea of your electricity needs based on your usage. Call them for free on 0808 808 2282 to speak to an energy advisor.
Registering your solar PV system
In most cases, your solar PV system will be connected to the national electricity grid. This means you’ve got the opportunity to sell any electricity you don’t use to the grid. It also means that you can use electricity from the grid at times when your solar panels are not producing any power, such as during night.
To connect your solar PV system to the grid you need to speak to the District Network Operator (DNO). This is the company that’s responsible for the grid in your local area.
- If you live in the north of Scotland, your DNO is Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.
- If you live in central or southern Scotland, your DNO is SP Energy Networks.
The company that installs your solar panels usually registers the system with the DNO.
Solar panel battery storage
Our energy needs don’t stop when the sun goes down. This is why many people install a battery alongside their solar PV system. The energy the panels produce during the day is stored in battery. This can then be used during the evening and night-time.
A battery could be worthwhile if your panels produce significantly more energy than you use during the day. However, it might make more financial sense to sell this energy back to the national grid.
Batteries come in different sizes. The size you choose will depend on your energy usage and the amount of power your array is able to produce. If you want the power in the battery to get you through the night, you’ll need to have a look at your electricity usage during those hours.
For more advice on batteries, see our battery storage guide.
Sell your solar energy to the grid
If your solar panels produce more electricity than you use, this extra energy is sent to the grid. If you join a Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme you will be paid for energy that you put into the grid.
To get SEG payments, you’ll need to sign up to a specific SEG tariff with your energy company. All energy companies with over 150,000 customers must offer at least one SEG tariff.
The payments for SEG will vary depending on the tariff. Energy companies can set the payment per kilowatt hour at any price they choose, as long as it is above zero. To find out what SEG tariffs your energy supplier offers, you can check their website or contact them directly.
Grants for solar panels
Grants for solar panels in Scotland are available through Home Energy Scotland. Home Energy Scotland offers a grant of £1,250 for homeowners, plus a £4,750 optional loan. Funding is only available if solar panels are taken as part of a package of measures.
For the most up-to-date information about solar panel grants, visit the Home Energy Scotland grant and loan page. Alternatively, you can call Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282.
Changeworks delivers Home Energy Scotland in the south east and Highlands and Islands on behalf of the Scottish Government and Energy Saving Trust.
As well as providing free, impartial expert advice to thousands of people every month to help them to keep warm in their homes for less, they identify funding opportunities for households seeking to install energy efficiency measures.
For more information, give Home Energy Scotland a call on 0808 808 2282 or email and the team will be happy to help you.