Case Study: Solar PV – A Kloof homeowner shares his experience

Submitted by: Nadia Shah, Friday, April 10, 2015

<p>The solar PV installation has resulted in an energy saving of 6053 kWh over the past 21 months. </p>

The solar PV installation has resulted in an energy saving of 6053 kWh over the past 21 months. 

In 2013, an entrepreneur with a home-office took the decision to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof top of his three bedroom house in Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal. This case study documents the benefits he has derived from the installation as well as the challenges experienced.

The system consists of twelve Solar PV panels that convert the energy of the sun into electricity for use in the house.  For the Kloof system 240W mono-crystalline solar panels were used.  In total the panels can produce up to 18kWhs per day, depending on the weather.

In addition to the panels the system includes two exide silver-calcium twelve volt automotive batteries. These batteries are charged with excess solar energy that is not used during the day. The batteries have been installed so that they are able to power essential lights throughout the house, the security system, gates, all office equipment and the internet router.  Electricity can be drawn from the batteries at night when solar energy is not available and during power outages.

The entire system including the solar PV panels, an invertor, the two batteries and installation cost R110,000. 

The benefits

According to the Kloof homeowner, the main benefit of the solar PV installation has been ensuring business continuity. As a business owner with international clients explaining load shedding to these clients was a major concern. Since the installation, the longest power outage experienced has been six hours and the batteries were able to keep the home-office functional throughout.

In terms of energy savings, over the past 21 months the system has produced 6,053 kWh. At the current price of electricity that translates to a financial saving of R7,989 since the solar PV system was installed. In an investment account at an interest rate of 5.75% the R110,000 would have earned R8,855 interest after tax over the same period. The difference amounts to R866 which the homeowner feels is a small price to pay considering the huge value of ensuring business continuity, security and convenience while fulfilling his environmental responsibility to reduce the impact of his business by limiting its dependence on fossil-fuel derived energy.

The challenges

As a fairly new technology, the homeowner stated that there is a lot of policy uncertainty surrounding solar PV installations and noted engaging with eThekwini Municipality regarding net metering as a challenge.

A further challenge has been acquiring insurance. Insurance companies require a compliance certificate for the installation and currently in South Africa there are no specifications in place for such a certificate.  Furthermore insurance companies will only cover solar PV systems which are earthed, electricians however warn against earthing the system as this greatly increases the chances of the system being struck by lightning.

Thoughts on solar PV in South Africa

The homeowner shared that at the time that he took the decision to install solar PV on his roof he calculated the return on his investment to be twelve years, however continual hikes in the price of electricity have significantly reduced the payback period. He feels that there is a growing consensus that renewable energy is the way forward and predicts that in the future as the technology becomes more affordable, more and more people will turn to solar energy for practical and financial reasons.

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