Across South Africa, businesses of all sizes are enjoying the benefits of going solar. We’ve published a free guide to help you do the same.
Electricity prices have increased significantly over the last few years, pushing up operational expenses for businesses. Meanwhile, the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems has declined, making solar an increasingly affordable way for businesses to offset their electricity consumption and hedge against future price rises.
Our guide for business and industry covers the key steps and information you’ll need to install solar PV at your business.
Is Solar PV The Right Choice For My Business?
Electricity prices have increased over the last few years, resulting in increased operational expenses for businesses. On the other hand, the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems has declined, making solar an increasingly affordable option for businesses.
By installing a PV system, you will be able to offset your electricity consumption and hedge against future price rises. Although systems may require a large up-front capital cost, payback periods are typically around 5 to 10 years. This guide details the key steps you will need to undertake to install solar PV at your business.
The use of solar photovoltaic (PV) panel systems has grown significantly in South Africa, and is now an increasingly affordable option for South African businesses looking to hedge against the rising cost of electricity.
Solar PV systems generate power by converting the energy in sunlight to electricity. This conversion takes place within modules of specially fabricated materials that make up the solar panels. In most cases solar PV panels are connected to the mains power supply through a device called an inverter. With a wide range of products and suppliers on the market, being an informed consumer has never been more important.
This guide, intended for businesses and industry wanting to install a solar PV system, provides an introduction to the technology and navigates the process for commercial-scale solar system installation.
Top Four Tips For Purchasing Solar PV
1. UNDERSTAND THE ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION OF YOUR BUSINESS AND CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE SYSTEM FOR YOUR NEEDS
- Your consumption profile will determine the viability of solar PV for your business and help you decide what size system is appropriate.
2. UNDERSTAND YOUR ELECTRICITY TARIFFS AND HOW THEY MIGHT CHANGE
- The business case for investing in a solar PV system will depend on what electricity tariffs you pay and how these may change once your system is installed. Make sure you get all the information you need from your electricity retailer.
3. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE ON TECHNOLOGY, PRODUCTS, WARRANTIES AND GUARANTEES
- There is a diverse range of products on the market that vary in price and quality. Make sure you do your homework on the products that you purchase.
4. ENGAGE WITH YOUR ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTOR EARLY TO UNDERSTAND GRID CONNECTION REQUIREMENTS
- Connection to the grid should be discussed with your electricity distributor very early in the process so that they are aware of the project and you, or your installer, are aware of any technical requirements that have to be met from an early stage.
Grid-Tie vs. Off-Grid Systems
OFF-GRID SOLAR PV SYSTEMS
Depending on where your business is located, you may wish to install a off-grid solar PV system. Off-grid systems are not connected to the electricity grid and are typically installed in remote areas where there is limited connection to the grid, or areas of low electricity demand. Unlike grid-tie systems, off-grid systems must have batteries or back-up generation to provide supply at night. In many cases, off-grid systems will also be backed up by a diesel or petrol generator to supplement energy supply.
GRID-TIE SOLAR PV SYSTEMS
Solar PV systems that are connected to the grid operate by transforming the electricity generated by the solar system (which is direct current (DC)) into alternating current (AC) electricity using an inverter, so that the power generated is compatible with the grid and ordinary business needs. Businesses with solar PV systems use solar power first before sourcing electricity from the grid. When the panels are not producing enough power to meet load requirements, the balance is drawn from the grid. This would be the case at night or on an overcast day. According to South African Safety Standards, if the grid is down, for example during a blackout or load shedding, the inverter will shut down and the solar system will not produce any energy. For systems with a battery backup, the inverter regulates the charge of batteries. The electricity stored in the batteries can be used at night or during blackouts.