As more and more solar panels make their way onto South African rooftops, they spark more and more interest. People are talking, namely solar energy, and how it can help them survive in a tough economy. When electric bills are spiking like there is no tomorrow, and worries about the grid power supply constantly functioning at the very edge of breaking down, renewable energy might just be the most sane way to reach the other side.
So, the conversations about solar power is circulating. And you, like so many others, have some burning questions regarding the benefits. Or maybe you want to know why solar is more mainstream than wind or hydro power? Is solar energy really the most practical and affordable choice? If you are aching to have these questions answered, let’s not waste any more time.
How does Solar Energy Work?
Just to spare any possible confusion, solar energy is based on the same principles as photosynthesis. In other words, just like plants harvest rays from the sun and convert it into energy, solar panels do pretty much the same thing. Thanks to a silicone cell inside the panel, rays from the sun can be captured and converted into energy for the home.
The Deal with Solar Energy vs. Wind vs. Hydro
One of the first things people think about is why stick to solar energy? Because anyone who knows anything about renewable energy, it’s that wind and hydro systems put out more power. Plus, they are not limited to the hours of the day, meaning smaller battery banks will do the job. So, why aren’t more people putting up turbines in the backyard?
You see, there are several challenges that are involved with wind and hydro power. The first is that both systems are fairly expensive to implement, and they require specific conditions. If you don’t live next to a strong-flowing water source, hydro power is not an option. And if your house doesn’t get much wind, a turbine will end up being a very big elephant in your backyard.
So, while solar energy is restricted to a shining sun, it is safe to assume the sun will rise tomorrow. In fact, it will be there for about 5 billion years according to scientists. It is also safer to bet on the sun shining than the wind blowing. Essentially, solar energy make the renewable lifestyle more accessible to the masses, whereas wind and hydro power are limited in this regard.
And even when you take into consideration the installation process for solar panels compared to a turbine, there is a big difference. Plus, the maintenance for turbines and hydro systems are more frequent and necessary as supposed to panels bathing in the sun.
How much Power does Solar Energy Provide?
It’s a common misconception that solar power is in some way inferior, or that it can’t fully power a house. Because the fact is with enough panels pointing in the right direction, and a battery bank that can store a couple of days of excess energy, there is no reason you can’t go off the grid. In other words, you can have as much power as you need, but you need enough panels to do it.
Given that the price of panels have dropped dramatically over the last decade, some people might still find the solar energy investment a little steep. But the good news is that you can start small and work your way up to a system that is less dependent on the grid. Most people start by switching to a solar geyser, and from there they add additional panels to cover lights and appliances.
How Long do Solar Panels Last?
Another popular question people ask is how long can you typically use a solar panel for, and does it lose efficiency over time? The average lifespan of a quality solar panel is about 20 years. Of course, efficiency levels are going to drop as time goes by, but they will still prove significant. So, yes, you can consider this a long-term investment with amazing returns.
It’s not the Perfect System
Renewable energy in itself is a wonderful thing, and the fact that we are able to tap into these sources on such substantial levels should be celebrated. Obviously, solar energy isn’t the perfect solution, and there are going to be challenges.
For example, if the sun decides to go into hiding behind a week of stormy weather, you shouldn’t expect too much solar energy. And when you add the necessary equipment that makes a solar panel system work in your home, it can get a little pricey.
But considering there are homes that have no problem functioning off the grid with solar energy, it shows you that anything is ultimately possible.
The Durability of Solar Panels
When something is created to be mounted on the roof of your house, protection against the elements should be mandatory. For example, quality panels have about 2mm of glass thickness protecting the silicone cell, along with an aluminum frame. This means that typical weather conditions shouldn’t do any harm to the panels.
However, if it tree lands on the panel, or something else that wouldn’t normally be flying above the roof of your house, you’ll probably have to replace the panel.
There is little to no Maintenance
If you want to keep your solar panel system healthy, make sure to wash the panels with a soft cloth every now and again, making sure the glass is clean and transparent. Also keep an eye on the inverter efficiency levels and whether it is operating at its best.
Are You really Saving Money with Solar Energy?
With live in South Africa, a place where the sun has no problem shining. And if you start crunching long-term numbers, you’ll be astounded as to how much you can start saving. Also, keep in mind that tariffs will inevitably rise in terms of grid power. But the sun isn’t going to charge you anything. Which deal sounds better to you, and which source would you rather be trusting?