Initial expenditure for home solar may be steep but it promises a positive return in finances.
South Africa has an excellent and almost constant supply of solar energy, making it amongst the top countries in the world suitable for investment in solar energy. Solar energy is produced through photovoltaics (PV) or solar cells, which are electronic devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity. Southern African Universities Radiometric Network (Sauran) map details that South Africa is a prime spot for investment in solar energy.
South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), General Manager of Energy Efficiency, Barry Bredenkamp explains that there is an increase in investment in solar energy.
“The number of finance specialists offering to help fund home solar installations is on the rise and I am of the opinion that the financing houses (private sector as well as banks) are definitely more open to offering finance for home solar systems.”
SANEDI is a government established organisation which directs, monitors and conductions applied energy R&D, demonstration and deployment along with undertaking specific measures to promote the uptake of green energy and energy efficiency in South Africa.
Bredenkamp adds that the use of solar energy and the implementation of mechanisms regarding solar energy are becoming a regular occurrence.
“Solar technology is mature and proven, however, even more, important than this is that it is becoming better known and accepted in the consumer market as well as by the financing houses. The modern solar cell, in panels installed on house roofs for hot water supply, is a common sight.”
Besides eliminating or minimising one’s Eskom bill, the main aim of home solar is to match prices with the market leader.
“When viewing the deals offered by finance specialists for home solar, compared to a bank loan or a monthly Eskom bill, the current aim is to reach cost parity as closely as possible in terms of meeting the market needs of cost vs energy security and independence implied by these systems,” said Bredenkamp
Costs versus needs
Bredenkamp shares that the costs surrounding the installation of solar power in one’s home are dependent on what kind of system one requires. Homeowners would need to tailor their solar system to what they can afford and require as each benefit comes with a price tag.
He adds that there are various ways one can install solar energy, either partly or fully – reducing the use of power from a non-renewable source.
“Decide how much electrical needs one wants to supply with solar electricity. One does not have to meet all of one’s demands with PV technology for example. One could just install enough to drive essential appliances and a few lights. Consider also the cost and benefit of switching to a solar water heating technology, which generally consumes approximately 45-50% of the electricity required in a home.”
Consumers must be able to differentiate between providers. Bredenkamp advises that potential home solar owners asses two main areas when making the choice to shift to solar – these factors include the capital costs and the ‘payback period’ (the amount of time required to save on traditional energy costs and cover the capital costs of the system). There is a shift to move towards home solar as individuals are the desire for energy independence, energy security and long-term cost benefits.
“The service provider with the best scenario/projection for these things, while still providing quality and after-sales service, would be a good one to consider. I often find that a spreadsheet of costs and benefits comparing providers is helpful when making these decisions.”
According to Bredenkamp, most payback periods range between two to seven years and are dependent on the system specifications chosen to address one’s needs.
“Off-grid” not the solution
Bredenkamp explains why he believes that homeowners should not completely go ‘off the grid’.
“However, I would not advocate going completely ‘off the grid’, with respect to one’s electricity requirements, but rather consider one’s energy security and availability for immediate maintenance and repair should something go wrong and require adjustment. Also, remember that one pays anyway to remain connected to the national grid in terms of property rates (in most cases), so why lose that back up?” he said.
Utilizing solar energy does not only reduce dependence on a national provider but also lowers a homeowners carbon footprint as sunlight is efficient, free and clean. Bredenkamp says that it is “well worth the initial expenditure”.