Calculating the cost of installing solar panels

As Eskom struggles to meet the current energy needs of South Africa, it seems likely that the price for power will increase in the next few years.

The power grid is under such pressure at the moment that many fear rolling-blackouts and load-shedding. This has led to many people investing in alternative ways of powering their homes. Using solar panels as a source of electricity is becoming increasingly appealing to homeowners.

The price of installation and maintenance of solar panels has dropped significantly in the last decade. Tobias Bischof-Niemz, an energy engineer at CSIR estimates that five years ago a single kilowatt of power from a photovoltaic solar power system would cost as much as R5, whereas the same would only cost R0.50 from Eskom. Today the same alternative energy will cost less than R1 per kilowatt, with Eskom charging significantly more.

A solar power system large enough to power the appliances in a big house costs between R200 000 and R250 000 depending on the specific products used. Keep in mind that this price excludes powering any heaters or geysers. Let’s have a more detailed look at the separate parts of a solar powered system:

  • Sunworx blog - solar panels, UPS batteries and invertersSolar Panels
    This includes solar panels, the various connectors and cables, combiner box and installation kit.
  • Inverter
    Includes an installation kit, inverters and circuit breakers.
  • Battery Bank
    This includes all necessary power components including UPS batteries, battery rack and cables.
  • Additional Costs
    These costs vary from area to area, depending on the laws allowing for alternative energy. They include installation costs, Integration with the DB Board and obtaining your COC certificate.

Keep in mind that for more complex solar panel systems there may be additional charges but in line with the trend, the price of solar power equipment has been dropping rather than rising. It is also important to remember that these are the costs for completely powering your home via solar power, and there are other options which may work out cheaper. An example of another alternative is that, rather than powering stoves and geysers with solar power, one could cook and heat water using gas and wood stoves, while using low-wattage LED bulbs to light up your home.

That said, many energy engineers and experts recommend that you do not go completely ‘off the grid’, but should rather remain connected to the National Grid but use solar panels to heat your geyser and provide hot water to your home. At the end of the day it’s up to the individual and what he/she can afford. Going solar is a lifetime investment worth making.

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