Solar Energy Systems

Posted by on 13 October 2017

Solar PanelsSolar systems have increased dramatically over the past five years. Now is the perfect time to install a solar system while prices are remaining constant. We don’t expect solar systems to get any cheaper. Instead, new technologies will be incorporated in the packages such as battery packs.

Some of the benefits of solar electricity are: 

  1. Cost Savings – Installing solar electricity means that you are no longer relying solely on power companies to supply you with electricity. It’s an investment, a solar system worth around $10,000 has a payback period of around 5-7 years.
  2. Environmental – The use of solar panels reduces our reliance on fossil fuelled electricity production. New Zealand has a mixture of sources including Hydro, Wind and Fossil Fuel. Reduction in Fossil fuelled plants helps to reduce Carbon Dioxide levels released into the atmosphere. Therefore, reducing our impact on global warming.
  3. Independence – Electricity from the grid is variable. When hydro dams are low we see an increase in power prices and fossil fuels aren’t sustainable. Solar electricity gives you freedom as you have the capacity to generate your own electricity.
  4. Property Value – Home buyers are looking for homes that will be maintenance free and efficient to live in. Having a solar system installed helps consumers recognise the home will have lower power bills and promote efficient living.

Different Solar Systems:

There are two ways that solar systems can be installed, Grid and Off Grid Systems. Solar systems can be categorised into two different methods that both use solar panels. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) is the most commonly used system, especially in New Zealand. It works by converting sunlight into direct current electricity via semiconductors. The other is Solar Thermal technology which converts the heat energy from the sun into electricity. Not something that would be used in the South of New Zealand.

Grid Solar System:

A Grid System means that power generated during the day via solar panels can only be used as its generated. Once the sun has gone down power from the grid is automatically used for night time use. PV panels are fitted to the roof of a structure, facing northerly, easterly or westerly direction depending on location. The panels are tilted at a certain angle to maximise sunlight hours for each panel. If the panels cannot be fastened to a structures roof, there are options to put them on the ground.

Power lines deliver electricity to homes around New Zealand. The electricity that is supplied through the grid uses a 240Volt Alternating Current (AC) system that enters our homes without the need for conversion. Solar panels on the other hand generate electricity that is a Variable Direct Current (DC). This current must be converted from DC to AC, hence the need for inverters. There are different inverter solutions to suit your needs.

Grid-connected solar systems are able to feedback electricity to the grid. Power companies can pay you for the extra power generated from solar panels that you put back into the grid. The average buy back rate is sitting around 7-8c/kWh + GST. Without batteries installed, the grid connected system cannot store electricity. Therefore, any extra power is fed back into the grid and the grid electricity will supply power if the solar system is unable.

 Solar Energy Systems

 (Source: Harrisons Energy Solutions)

Off Grid Solar System:

This system is becoming more popular as technology advances. It allows home owners to be completely reliant on solar panels for energy production. During the day, the solar panels work the same as they would if connected to the grid. Rather than the excess electricity produced feeding back into the grid, it is used to charge batteries. These batteries can be used when the sun is not out or more electricity is need during the day. The reason why off grid systems aren’t so popular is because batteries are expensive. To install an off grid solar system, it could cost around $30,000.

Should you install a Solar System?

When deciding whether you should install the system the first thing you need to do is identify why you want to. Most home owners install solar systems in a conscious effort to help protect the environment and resources. And it does do this. If you were wanting to install the system for financial gain then it is important to calculate the Net Present Value (NPV). This is used to compare the initial price with how much the system will save or cost you over its lifetime. Installing a grid-connected system would benefit those who use electricity the most during the day when the solar panels are active. If you are looking to save on your electricity bill, using energy efficient appliances can give almost the same result as solar electricity systems. This costs a lot less and coupled with insulation, it would maximise efficiency.  

When it comes to installing the right solar electricity systems, there is a lot to consider. It certainly has its benefits, especially towards the environment. As technology advances, it is expected the batteries will become more affordable and become part of the package for solar systems. 

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