What you need to know when switching to solar energy for your home or small business
While Eskom and NERSA continue their legal battles, and with the spectre of a rumoured 10% tariff hike waiting for us in April 2021, most cash-strapped households and businesses might very well be asking what this means for them. Add to this the sporadic implementation of load shedding (such as announced this week) and it becomes clear why many might be considering solar PV installations – using solar energy seems to be a no-brainer. Many have already started comparing the costs related to the installation of a PV system versus a monthly electricity bill, ongoing tariff increases and load shedding. Solar energy is the obvious path to follow, but there are considerations. As desirable as solar energy sounds, it’s important to do the research!
“Affordability is not the main and only aspect to be considered. To ensure safe and legal installations, home or small business owners should follow specific guidelines before committing to and installing a PV system,” says Niveshen Govender, COO of the South African Solar Photovoltaic Industry (SAPVIA). These include:
Decide on the type of rooftop PV system to install:
The most common way to differentiate a solar rooftop installation is via the connection to the electrical load/grid.
· Grid-Tied / Connected with reverse power blocking: The property is connected to the national grid but blocks any excess electricity generated from feeding back onto the grid.
· Grid Tied / Connected: Electricity generated can be used at the property and any surplus can be directed back into the grid. In some cases, this feedback is compensated for.
· Off-Grid / Standalone: Off-grid PV systems usually have batteries and a charge controller and the PV system generates electricity for use onsite and operates completely independent of the national grid.
Before installing your system:
If you wish to install a grid-tied system you will need to register and request approval from your distribution authority. Most municipalities that allow this have the necessary documentation on their website.
Select an accredited service provider to ensure safe and legal installations:
Verify if your service provider has adequate experience in PV installations and is a member of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), Electrical Contractors Association (ECASA) or the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) where required. The SAPVIA PV GreenCard is a safety certification. Prior to being certified and registered on the PV GreenCard database, PV installers undergo specialised training and assessments, an assurance that they are familiar and compliant with all the relevant national standards and municipal regulations. On completion of installation, a certified PV GreenCard installer will issue the client a document detailing all the specification of the PV system as well as a checklist that all the required installation steps were completed to the required standard.
· Manage the health and safety of the contractor on site.
· Ensure that component (solar PV modules, inverters, mounting systems, suitable DC circuit breakers etc.) specification and warranties documents are in place and explained.
· Remember: A grid-tied system can only be connected once the municipal authority grants permission in writing.
· Request an original Electrical Certificate of Compliance and Quality Assurance: this is to safeguard against any damage or casualties and any guarantees. A Quality Assurance certificate such as a PV GreenCard includes important information on the equipment used and technical details of the installation.
· Check for roof leaks: Monitor your roof to make sure no leaks have occurred as a result of the installation.
· Warranties and manuals: Ensure that you obtain all warranties, guarantees and operations and maintenance manuals.
Not happy with your installation?
If you are not satisfied with the installation you can request an inspection from an authorised inspection authority (AIA) registered with the Department of Labour, the ECASA Ombudsman or an independent consultant.