Five-minute feature: solar panels
WITH the cost of electricity rising every year, it isn't just the green campaigners turning to solar panels, but those who want to save some serious cash.
With plenty of government incentives and improvements in technology, more and more houses in Cheltenham and beyond are having them fitted.
Locally, more and more businesses and organisations are digging into their pockets to make that first investment, in the hope of saving more money over the 25 years that each solar panel is expected to last.
2gether NHS Foundation Trust is set to put 202 panels on the Charlton Lane Acute Mental Illness Unit in Charlton Lane, and panels are also expected on Branchlea Cross, in Swindon Road, which is a centre specialising in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
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Solar panels will be installed on St James' House in St James' Square, home to the Echo, while Cheltenham Borough Homes (CBH) installed solar electricity systems at 50 properties, as part of its Brighter Future, Greener Homes programme, saying it would reduce the cost of bills for its tenants.
Bhavik Kanani, from Bishop's Cleeve, is one of those installing solar panels on our roofs, through his company Rapid Electrics.
But he is also saving himself thousands of pounds a year in bills after he installed solar panels on his own five-bedroom home.
For a family of four he paid out just 73p in electricity in 2011, a little over £2 last year and this year his bill will rise to £125 – but will include all costs for his electricity- powered Nissan Leaf.
Solar panels use the daylight, and not the sunshine as many think.
The natural light is absorbed and turned into photovoltaic (PV) cells.
This energy knocks electrons loose and they move, creating an electric current.
This power can then be used to power everything from kettles to cars.
Mr Kanani said: "When I first started looking at the technology in 2007 it was very difficult to sell as people did not know about it or understand it.
"But I have stuck at it now and there is a stable flow of customers and I am doing work around Gloucestershire.
"People are more aware of it and know those who have it and seen the costs and benefits."
Along with the savings on his family's outgoings, Mr Kanani also gets cash back from the government's Feed in Tariff (FIT) scheme, where he is paid for electricity that is sold back to the grid.
Last year, he said his family gained £1,500 from this, which covered his gas bill – leaving the family with council tax as his only outgoing.
Mr Kanani had his three kilowatt panels installed on his home in 2007 and last March had his garage converted with the latest four kilowatt ones.
He said: "The price really can depend on what you want.
"It is like buying a car, you can get cheap ones, but the top of the range models could cost around £5,000 to £6,000."
Planning permission for solar panels sometimes has to be gained.
Most homes do not have to apply for it, but those in a conservation area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or wanting ground-mounted solar panels do have to apply for permission first.
Last week, Alan Pollard was told by Tewkesbury Borough Council that his bid to keep panels installed in his field in Walton Cardiff had failed.
Officers told him the 18 panel encroached into the open countryside, spoiled the landscape and should be removed.
Solar panels are said to be environmentally friendly as they use photovoltaic cells (solar cells) to convert sunlight into electricity.
Research of solar panels began in the mid 1800s by French physicist Antoine-Caesar Becquerel. The first person to develop a solar cell was Charles Fritts in the year 1883.