Solar panels

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.


Man shows his family the solar panels on the plot near the house during a warm day. Young woman with a child and a man in the sun rays look at the solar panels.

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.

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.

Is my home suitable for solar panels? 

Whilst we get enough daylight 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 4.5m x 4.5m. 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.

Solar panels on the ground in a field

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.

close up of solar panels against blue sky and clouds

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.

A man and woman looking at a form to register their solar panel system.

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.

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

There are currently no solar panel grants in Scotland that we are aware of. However, we’ll keep an eye out and update this page if funding becomes available.


Solar panels and EcoCosi

Solar panels are a vital part of a whole home retrofit to enable households to generate their own electricity. EcoCosi from Changeworks offers an end-to-end service which takes a whole-house, fabric-first approach to your retrofit, which includes the installation of solar panels to your home.

Find out more about EcoCosi

How to use solar panels

Over the year the panels should reduce your bills. Adapting your electricity usage to make the most out of them will bring your bills down even more. The following simple tips can help you.

Use electrical items during daylight hours

  • Save jobs that use most electricity (such as ironing, vacuuming, cooking or washing clothes) for the middle of the day.
  • Charge electrical items (phones, electric toothbrushes etc.) during daylight hours.
  • If you have an electric cooker, cook and eat a hot meal in the daytime, or reheat it in the evening.
  • If you have an electric shower, use it during the day rather than after dark.
  • Remember that your panels will produce most electricity when it is sunny, so this is the best time to use electrical appliances.

Use one major appliance at a time during daylight hours

Even when it’s sunny, your panels may not provide enough free electricity to power more than one major appliance (e.g. cooker, vacuumm, kettle, iron, washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher) at a time.

So, for example, in the daytime:

  • Vacuum after the washing machine has finished, not at the same time.
  • Have a shower before you turn the washing machine on.

The number of appliances you can power for free depends on the size of the panels, their location and the weather. Also, different types of appliances use different amounts of electricity so it’s not always possible to say exactly what you can use for free.

Remember – the best way to cut your electricity bill is to use less electricity.

There are lots of easy ways to use less electricity. Our saving energy at home page has lots of handy tips. Which ones have you tried?


Solar Panel FAQs

Solar PV systems typically have long-life spans. You should expect the panels to last for around 25 years. You may need to replace the inverter which comes with the system after 10 years.

Solar panels generate DC (direct current) electricity. Before we can use this in our homes, it needs converting to AC (alternating current) electricity. This is the inverter’s job. If you have battery storage, it’s the inverter that sends DC electricity to the battery.

Solar panels are low maintenance and generally self-cleaning. We recommend that you keep them clean, and service your system approximately every two years.

Register your interest in our retrofit service

Register your interest in EcoCosi from Changeworks to find out more about how to retrofit your home and to be sent information about the service.

Home Energy Scotland logo

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.