OFF THE GRID

Finweek English Edition - - COVER - R7 000 – Ba­sic in­verter and two bat­ter­ies. R10 000 – Add a small 250W so­lar panel to ba­sic op­tion above. R60 000 - R100 000+ –

BY SHAN­DUKANI MU­LAUDZI be­cause you are still us­ing Eskom power to charge your bat­ter­ies,” Smith says.

He adds that con­sumers can ex­pect to pay about R7 000 for two bat­ter­ies and an in­verter. It is im­por­tant to en­sure that the bat­tery back-up sys­tem you in­stall ini­tially is al­ready con­fig­ured to work with so­lar pan­els.

Smith says if a house­hold wants to start small, one 250watt panel is enough to power ba­sic ap­pli­ances in a house for about four hours af­ter re­ceiv­ing six hours of sun­light. This panel would cost an in­di­vid­ual about R2 500. This means for load-shed­ding pur­poses a house­hold can have a so­lar sys­tem that works for as lit­tle as R10 000.

Smith stresses how­ever that gey­sers, stoves and fridges should not be put on the PV sys­tem as they use up too much elec­tric­ity.

“You have to start off by chang­ing your ap­pli­ances and chang­ing what­ever you are us­ing your elec­tric­ity for. You have to switch to gas for your stoves, to so­lar heat­ing for your geyser and to LED light­ing rather than the flu­o­res­cent lights most peo­ple have,” Smith ex­plains.

Get­ting off the grid com­pletely, how­ever, does not come cheap. “It can cost any­thing be­tween R60 000 and R100 000 or more. It all de­pends on qual­ity and what you want. It’s like the dif­fer­ence be­tween get­ting a Rolls-Royce or a Volk­swa­gen.”

Although get­ting off the grid is costly at first, in the end the con­sumer gains. The pay­back pe­riod on ei­ther a hy­brid sys­tem (that uses the grid and switches to so­lar au­to­mat­i­cally) or an in­de­pen­dent sys­tem can be any­thing be­tween five to 10 years and some­times more. Smith says what’s great is that at some point, peo­ple with PV sys­tems will have free elec­tric­ity. An­other added bonus is, if you sell your house, the sys­tem is a value-add to the prop­erty.

Smith says so­lar pan­els can be ad­justed for any type of roof, in­clud­ing thatch. “There are all sorts of fit­ting meth­ods. For tile roofs, for thatch roofs, for metal roofs, all of that. We can put the pan­els on a chim­ney or on spe­cific fix­tures. And if you re­ally can’t put it on the roof then we can put the pan­els on a stand next to the house,” he ex­plains.

It is im­por­tant to note that so­lar pan­els have a life­span of at least 20 years and the main­te­nance costs are neg­li­gi­ble. The bat­ter­ies are the most ex­pen­sive com­po­nent, as they need to be re­placed ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery seven years.

The Na­tional En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor (Nersa) is cur­rently work­ing on hav­ing feed­ing en­ergy back into the grid le­galised. This would mean peo­ple with PV sys­tems would be able to add ex­cess en­ergy into the na­tional grid dur­ing the day and have it looped (re­turned) to them at night when the PV sys­tem is not work­ing.

Charged by Eskom power when there is no load-shed­ding (so no cost sav­ing on elec­tric­ity bills). Can pro­vide about 220 volts of power; enough to power ba­sics like a tele­vi­sion, phone charger and lights. Pick an op­tion that can be con­verted to so­lar pan­els as a feed­stock. Af­ter six hours of sun­light, it should pro­vide suf­fi­cient en­ergy to power house­hold essen­tials (this ex­clude stoves, gey­sers, fridges etc.) for about four hours.

Hy­brid sys­tems that al­low so­lar and grid elec­tric­ity us­age, to sys­tems that al­low for com­plete in­de­pen­dence from Eskom. Pay­back pe­ri­ods es­ti­mated from five to 10 years and longer, depend­ing on the sys­tem you choose.

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