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The largest contributor to global warming is China, followed closely by the USA, India and Japan.

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Creating electricity

images/original/InsetDiagram_CreatingElect.jpgThe technology that goes in to a solar PV panel is really quite simple. A solar panel consists of a series of photo voltaic (PV) cells which convert daylight into electricity. Each cell is made of one or two layers of silicon which creates an electric field across the layers and makes electricity flow when light shines on it. The stronger the light, the more electricity is generated. Even our typical British weather will provide enough light to generate a useful amount of electricity everyday.

Once the solar PV panels have absorbed the light, it is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) via an inverter which is fitted in the loft. A generation meter measures the amount of electricity you’ve generated so you will be paid for it, and any unused electricity can be sold back to the National Grid.

The power of a solar PV panel is measured in kilowatt peak (kWp). This is the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance. ‘Peak performance’ means ‘full direct sunlight during the summer’.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it!

Solar PV: The new central heating

Believe it or not the birth of solar panels began as far back as 1839 when French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovered that light could be harnessed using an electrolytic cell to generate electricity. It was called the ‘photovoltaic effect’. In 1891 Clarence Kemp, an American inventor, patented the first commercial solar water heater. Then, in 1921 Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for his theories (1904 research and technical paper) explaining the photoelectric effect.

Over the years the process has been refined and, in 1958, a solar panel was used to power the radio system of a US space satellite. Now our calculators and road signs are solar powered too.

In the UK solar panels may seem a rare sight, but not for long. Like central heating in the late 1960s, solar PV has come of age.

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