Solar Panel FAQ

The idea of solar panels is simple: they absorb energy from the sun and use it to create electricity. At Lightsource we try and ensure that installing solar panels is just as easy.

Want to know more about solar farms and hear from independent experts?

Below are 2 links to videos we often reference. They address a lot of common questions regarding solar farms, agricultural land use and food production. They are produced independently and include comments from Dr Jonathan Scurlock of the National Farmers Union and Simon Stonehouse from Natural England:

Do you have a question for Lightsource? Just get in touch via our Contact page or Twitter and we will be sure to respond as soon as we can.

  • Q: What are the benefits of solar energy? A:

    It reduces the need for burning fossil fuels, so it decreases the effects of Global Warming and improves the quality of the air we breathe. 


    Solar farms create a local, reliable source of alternative energy which reduces our dependence on foreign oil and gas sources.

    It minimises the depletion of natural resources for future generations.

    Solar panels are mounted low to the ground, so they are much less visible at long distance than wind farms or nuclear power stations.

    In the longer term, an increase in renewable energy generation in the UK will result in lower electricity prices

    A solar farm installation does not change the grade of the land it is built on. When the plant is decomissioned, the land can be easily restored back to its original state.

  • Q: How do solar panels work? A:

    Solar panels convert daylight into electricity. Light shining on the panel creates an electric field across layers of silicon in each cell, causing Direct Current (DC) electricity to flow.

    This is then converted by an 'inverter' into the usable Alternating Current (AC) electricity that powers our homes. Solar panels do not need direct sunshine to work, just daylight, so they can still generate electricity on gloomy days.

  • Q: How efficient are Lightsource solar farms? A:

    The efficiency of converting light into electricity depends on the particular solar cells and panels that are installed. As we operate our sites throughout their full life-cycle (about 30 years) it is in our interest to use high quality modules to give us an efficient return on our investment. Lightsource works with several world-leading manufacturers and our systems are designed and maintained to run at a minimum of 81% of their maximum capability.  All of our existing large scale solar farms go beyond this limit when they are on-line, usually exceeding 85% and therefore eclipsing our predictions for the number of homes powered.

  • Q: Is there enough sun in the UK for solar panels to work effectively? A:

    Yes, solar panels have a high efficiency and perform very well in the UK, which has similar daylight levels to Germany.

  • Q: Will solar panels move to track the sun? A:

    No, the solar panels will be fixed in place and will not move.

  • Q: Are solar panels noisy? A:

    No, solar panels make no audible noise.

  • Q: Is my land / property suitable for a solar panel installation? A:

    As long as the area is not shaded, it will be suitable for some type of solar installation.

  • Q: How long will it take to install the solar panels? A:

    For rooftop installations you can be up and running in a few days! For ground mount installations, an experienced developer like Lightsource can complete the project within 6-8 months. 

  • Q: What will the solar panels look like? A:

    The typical dimensions of panels we use are 1640 x 992 x 40mm and they can be installed to integrate within the landscape or on rooftops.

  • Q: Will installing solar panels affect the wildlife on my land? A:

    Yes it should have a positive impact on wildlife and pollinators. Solar farm schemes can be designed to achieve great biodiversity results

  • Q: Why graze sheep on a solar farm? A:

    By continuing to graze the land, we can generate energy and supply the food chain simultaneously. Apart from being a logical partnership and an efficient use of land, grazing on a solar farm also has benefits for us and for the local farming community - for our maintenance team, it means less grass cutting! For the landowners and farmers we work with, the solar farm gives the fields a dual use so that they can continue to farm the land, whilst also receiving a steady rental income which can be a vital support for the rest of the business.

    Find out more:

    Two farmers talk about how their solar farms have supported and integrated into their agricultural practices:

  • Q: Do I need planning permission for solar panels? A:

    You will generally require planning permission for any ground mount solar farms larger than 50kWp. On some smaller schemes, planning permission may also apply if you live in a listed building. 

    For rooftop installations, planning permission may apply on schemes larger than 1MWp. However, some may be allowed under permitted development rights. For rooftop enquiries, we would suggest speaking directly with the Lightsource in-house planning team to obtain a definite answer. 

  • Q: Will my neighbours mind if I install a solar farm? A:

    We always encourage open and honest communication with local communities and advise that you should endeavour to speak with as many people as possible about your plans and explain the positive reasons for the solar farm installation. There are many ways we can integrate local priorities within the schemes, so you could even get neighbours, friends and family involved in shaping the proposals.

  • Q: Does a field based construction increase the risk of flooding in the area? A:

    No. The framework uses screw-in foundations. Installations have a negligible effect on run off volumes and do not create a flood risk.

  • Q: Do solar panels create a hazard for aeroplanes? A:

    The FAA has published various papers and recommendations with regards to Solar PV at airports/airfields and the general conclusion is that they are safe and do not pose a risk to aircraft. Solar installations close to and within airport grounds are common in Europe and the USA, and 2012 has seen the installation of a solar power plant at Gatwick Airport. Lightsource has also achieved approval from London City Airport to build a megawatt scale installation under the takeoff and landing paths next to the Thames.

  • Q: Does Lightsource operate solar plants for a profit? A:

    Yes, Lightsource has chosen solar energy generation as its mode of business. Returns come from the sale of the electricity generated and subsidies under the Feed in Tariff and Renewable Obligation Certificate scheme. This income provides for the operation and maintenance costs of the site, repayment of the initial investment, and a profit for the running of Lightsource as a business.

  • Q: How long will the solar plant be operational? A:

    All components of the solar plant are built to operate for at least 25 years. Lightsource will apply for planning permission for 25 years, after which time all infrastructure will be removed and the site will then return to being “greenfield”. As the use is classed as temporary, it will not change the definition of the site to “brownfield” post decommissioning.

  • Q: What is involved in maintenance and operation of the solar plant? A:

    Solar farms require minimum maintenance once constructed, with no permanent on site staff. The site will be visited about 4 times per year to cut the grass and wash the panels with water, with perhaps a further 10 visits for general maintenance checks. All maintenance workers will access the site in standard 4x4s, vans or cars.

  • Q: How is the project financed? A:

    Lightsource has a close relationship with Octopus Investments, a leading investment specialist with funds focused specifically on solar energy generation. Funding for all projects is provided by Octopus, meaning the landowner pays nothing. The typical investors for this project and other similar ones are over 50 years old, with a minimum investment of just £3,000.

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