How much could your business save?Find out now!
Or, you can call us on:0800 411 8830

UK renewable energy sources: what is solar energy?

As coal-fired power stations close and the UK’s nuclear come to the end of their life, the UK is moving towards more renewable energy. Of the five main forms of renewable energy – solar, wind, hydro, biofuel and geothermal – solar is arguably the most obvious form of renewable energy. The sun has been used for thousands of years to heat and cool homes. Now it’s used to generate electricity for homes and businesses.

Solar energy

Taking an average of 8 minutes and 20 seconds for light to travel the 93,000,000 miles from the sun to the Earth, enough sunlight reaches the earth in an hour to meet the energy demands of the world for a year!

Of the sunlight that reaches the Earth about 50% of the energy is absorbed by the Earth and 30% is reflected back into space. But the advantage of solar energy over other forms of fuel such as coal and gas is that it’s essentially an unlimited resource.

Solar panels

There are several different types of solar power used for homes and businesses: solar thermal energy (STE) and photovoltaic. Solar thermal systems use simple technology – the heat from the sun heats water for your home or business. Panels, usually on a roof absorb, the energy from the sun and heat the water which is then pumped through a coil into your hot water cylinder. Photovoltaic systems use sunlight to generate electricity with solar cells which convert energy into electrons.

Solar farms

Solar photovoltaic systems are getting ever larger. These solar farms or solar parks are being erected in rural areas and are used to generate electricity which is then sold to the national grid – rather than being used for local homes or businesses. One of the largest solar farms in the UK is on an old airfield at Wymeswold in Leicestershire. The solar farm has already generated 15% more energy than originally forecast.

One of the largest solar generating systems in the world is in the Mojave Desert in California. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System generates electricity by using around 300,000 mirrors which track the sun. These mirrors concentrate light onto a tower which heats water and creates steam which turns a turbine to generate electricity. Ivanpah generates clean renewable electricity for around 140,000 homes.

Take a look at our energy timeline infographic which shows how the way we source and use energy has changed over time or our wind energy article.

Business electricity bills

Solar power has yet to meet its full potential. While a few larger scale solar parks have been developed in the UK it’s still a relatively untapped resource. But by installing solar and thermal solar panels on your home or business, you could reduce your business electricity bills.

A simpler way to reduce your business energy costs is by using a comparison site such as to compare energy prices. It’s a simple process – just complete the form to the top right of this page or call 0800 411 8830 for a quick quote.

Related Articles


How long would electricity last in a zombie apocalypse? [Infographic]

This Halloween we're looking at the scarier side of energy. More specifically, how long electricity would last...

Read More

Halloween horror film lessons for UK SMEs

Classic Halloween frighteners are more than an easy way to while away a few hours. What lessons do horror film...

Read More
the week's top energy news

The Week’s Top Energy News

Top News In Energy This Week This week we’ve seen a flurry of green energy stories – including gr...

Read More
Excellent, 9.4 / 10

Competent and courteous service.

"Marie was knowledgeable and helpful. I feel able to recommend the service given without reservation. David Slesenger"

This review was posted by David Slesenger on the 16th of August 2016

Good service

"Nadia was very helpful"

This review was posted by Robin on the 16th of August 2016

Excellent Customer Service *****

"Jonathan Burgess is an asset to Switch My Business. He made me feel at ease and was more than helpful at all times. He made regular contact and guided me through the whole process which made switching a breeze. I just wish there were more customer service advisers like Jonathon whose friendly and happy demeanour make your day a much nicer one. Well done Switch my business and more importantly thank you Jonathon for all your hard work! Maria Owen Lodgecrest"

This review was posted by Maria Owen on the 17th of August 2016


"I totally agree with a customer maria owen,Jonathan Burgess was such a pleasure dealing with and is truly a asset to the company, he made it very easy to switch my electricity companies, Jonathan Burgess was very helpful, easy to talk to it was like talking to a friend not just a customer adviser. I would definitely recommend switchmybusiness and try get hold off Jonathan Burgess if possible and have the same excellent service as I did. Rajan Shanan"

This review was posted by Rajan Shanan on the 19th of August 2016

Excellent and very helpful

"Arron who dealt with my switch of energy and gas has been a huge help and extremely efficienct and easy to deal with. Despite British Gas throwing obstacles in the way at every turn he has doggedly stuck to his task and saved the day. Thanks Arron."

This review was posted by Rod Pryce-Jones on the 19th of August 2016