- Renewable & Alternative Energy
Have You Got Solar Power Yet?
Recently, I installed a solar energy unit in my home, and I'm enjoying watching it work! :-) With luck, my power bill should drop dramatically, I certainly hope so!
Solar energy helps the environment too. which is a big part of why I had it installed.
This is my solar story from installation to making power, plus some general information on solar power.
Update: My power bill is definitely lower these days, and I'm still happy I had the solar system installed. If I could, I'd be installing more panels to increase the system, but the inverter couldn't handle it.
The Sun Is Full Of Energy
Panels On A House Roof
Looking For Answers
Solar Power or Not
A few months ago, I was actually looking for a solar hot water service. The company I chose to come and give me a quote never actually managed to ring me and arrange a time, so they lost my business. Shortly after this, I discovered there was such a thing as home solar power generation.
This sounded like a good idea, and after some research, and discussion with an electrician friend, I decided to go ahead with the project.
The information given here is Australian, and will most likely differ in your country.
The picture is a solar hot water installation in Ireland.
Facts and Figures
Not to mention costs........
Of course, the first thing to do when looking at a new project for your home is to find out if you can actually afford it!
At first, I was shocked by the costs involved with installing a solar power generator. Things would be different in the USA and the UK, but here in Australia, I discovered that a certain amount of households can get a rebate on the costs from the Federal Government, to encourage people to go solar.
This was very acceptable, and brought the costs within my limits, so further research was done.
There were a few suppliers with websites, so of course they were the people I got my information from. There was a difference of several thousand dollars in price between them, but most assisted with the application paper work, or actually did it for you.
The hardest thing about getting the rebate, for me at least, was the time involved; approximately two months. I'm the impatient type, and that was a long time to wait!
How Solar Energy Is Made
Different Sized Systems
There were several different sizes of solar energy systems available, varying from .5 KwH to 4 Kwh. There are more available not, but a few years ago, when I installed my system, that's all there was to be had.
A 1 Kw system may produce around 4.5 Kws per day, depending on the angle or the panels, the weather, and the temperature. A 1.5 Kw system produces approximately 6.75 kw of energy daily.
For a small house using about 17 kwH of energy per day, you will most likely save about 30% of your power bill.
The saving of greenhouse gas emissions is also a big factor - the average home will save about 2000 tonnes by using solar power generation.
Water can also be saved, as it takes 2.5 litres of water to produce every KwH of energy generated by an electricity company.
Solar Power Made Easy
Solar power is generated by converting sunlight into electricity. This can be done directly by using solar panels, (photovoltaics). These panels convert light into electricity by using the photoelectric effect.
Wikipedia says :
"In the photoelectric effect, electrons are emitted from matter (metals and non-metallic solids, liquids or gases) as a consequence of their absorption of energy from electromagnetic radiation of very short wavelength, such as visible or ultraviolet light. Electrons emitted in this manner may be referred to as "photoelectrons". See original page HERE
Put more simply, when light shines on a metal plate, the photoelectric effect causes the emission of electrons from it.
These electrons become direct current , DC power. Since DC is not really useful for most household purposes, this current is converted to alternating current, AC, by an inverter. It is then available for use.
This is a very simplified version of how photovoltaic cells, or solar panels, work.
Power Can Be Dangerous
Solar Energy Safety
Until today, I hadn't given much thought to the safety aspect of having a solar system installed in my home. Browsing around on a Government solar energy information site, I came across the topic, and decided to do a little research on it.
"Energy Safe Victoria - Safety of Solar Panel Installations - Report (July 2010) states that out of 81 installation audited, 9 were found to have isolating switches installed which did not comply with regulations. Incorrect isolating switches can be a fire risk.
Solar energy systems should be installed by properly licensed electricians to ensure your safety. Usually, in the state where I live, an inspection is carried out prior to the system being connected to the grid.
If you are in any doubt as to the safety of your installation, get your system checked by a qualified person.
Rural Fire Service Solar Panels
Prices Are Coming Down
But so are the rebates!
Now is a great time (In Australia) to get your solar energy plant installed. Prices are better than they were a few years ago.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government's rebate for solar energy installations will soon be reduced. Eventually, the rebates will be cut out entirely, so if you're thinking of getting solar energy, it's best to do it very soon. At the moment, the rebate is on a decreasing scale until 2015, when it will most likely be reviewed.
Solar Hot Water Panels
Solar Power Is Becoming More Popular
Driving around our local area, you can see a few more solar energy systems on the roofs. Solar water heaters are much more common, but there are plenty of houses still without them. The cost is probably a big factor in this.
On a recent visit to Greece, we saw hundreds of solar panels on the top of apartment blocks - they really seem to have adopted solar with a vengeance over there!
On some buildings, you could hardly see the roof for the amount of panels on there. It was good to see, as Greece is a poor country, but they do have plenty of sun, so solar energy is one way of saving money on energy.
My Solar Panels In The Rain
.....It's finally installed!
After lots of time online, researching, it was finally time to choose a company and a system to install. Since solar power was comparatively new when I got it, I didn't know anyone who had it, so there were no recommendations of companies available.
Although I didn't choose the most inexpensive installation, the company was Australia wide, and I couldn't find any record of complaints online.
The company were most helpful, and ready to answer all my questions, either on the phone or by email. Filling in the forms was the hardest part of the exercise. :-)
My system is a 1 Kw system, 6 solar panels connecting to an inverter to convert DC to AC. It's connected to the grid, which acts as a storage area for any extra energy I produce.
Of course, this system doesn't produce enough for all my needs, but on occasions, my old meter does run backwards! :-) The one thing left to do is get the power company to install a new "Smart Meter", which will show what I've used, and also what I've put into the grid.
The picture shows my house from the back garden, with most of the solar panels visible. And even though it's cloudy, the system is still working, although at less than 25% capacity! Solar panels work as long as there is enough light available.
Finally, A Sunny Day
The first really sunny day since the solar generator was installed last Friday.......it's now working at well over 50% capacity, although the 100% will probably not happen until the really hot days.
My electricity bill should be somewhat smaller this quarter, although it will be some time until the cost of the system is covered. Not to worry, I like having it, and am happy to do my bit for the environment. :-)
The image of the inverter, above, shows two red lights, which means that it is working at approximately 50 of capacity.
Electricity Is Being Made!
Well, although we haven't hit the really sunny days for a while, the solar power system is going quite well. On several occasions it has worked at over 75% capacity, and even had to run the inverter's cooling fan on one occasion.
Certainly looks promising for the summer months, and it's good to see the meter running backwards.
Still waiting for the new "Smartmeter" to be installed, which will show details of how much power I actually feed into the grid.
It's a good feeling, to know that you're doing your bit for the environment.
Solar Power Poll
Do You Have Solar Power?
Got A New Smart Meter
It took over six months after the installation of the solar energy system, but finally, the power people have installed my new smart meter!
This meter not only shows what power I use from the grid, but it measures what power I put back into the grid.
Not that I have that much at the moment, as it's winter, and I'm using everything I produce for myself, and then some. In Spring and Autumn, of course, that will change, but in Summer I'll use all my production for air conditioning.
Got to admit that I really like having a much smaller power bill, even if my system is only a 1KW size - it still makes a difference!
Have you installed solar energy yet? If so, let me know what you think.
Still Going Strong
It's been several years now, since I installed my 1KW solar energy system. It's still working well, and is definitely cutting the power bill. This is despite the fact that electricity prices have skyrocketed in the past twelve months.
When I can afford it, the next improvement to my home will be a solar hot water heater, perhaps with a gas booster for the cooler weather. There is also the option of a heat pump, but I have to do more research on that one.
Have you got solar hot water or a solar energy system? It's really worth looking into. It will save money and help the environment, and will pay for itself in time.
Benefits of Solar Energy
Of course, saving money is a consideration, but you have to take into account how much it will cost you to install your solar energy system. It may take a while to pay for itself.
The benefit to the environment is a major one - if nothing else, it makes you feel good about having solar energy!
Did you know that by saving electricity, you'll also be saving water? It takes a lot of water to make 1 kw of electrical power, so the more your solar system supplies, the more water you'll save.
A 1kw system will reduce your power bill by between 30 - 40%. That can really build up over time.
Since getting my system, I've also become far more energy conscious, so that's a fringe benefit too! Things now get switched of rather than being left on standby, and do we really need the microwave to be on all the time just for a clock?
If you think about it, there are plenty of benefits associated with using solar energy, and let's not forget the carbon emission problem. the less power we use, the cleaner the atmosphere will become.
Do some research, and I'm sure you'll come up with even more benefits for yourself.
Solar Energy Works In Cold Climates!
Having recently visited Europe, I was surprised to see that even in the UK, there were a few homes using solar power. I'd thought it would have been far too cloudy there. It's good to see that even in cooler climates, solar energy is still being used. There are even large buildings clad in solar panels, and feeding power back into the grid.
While visiting Greece, the amount of solar hot water systems on the roofs, even of apartment buildings, was surprising. Apparently the demand for solar energy has been growing in the past few years.
Panels in the Antarctic
They Use Solar Power In Antarcica !
Did you know that they even use solar panels to make energy in Antarctica?
There are often clear sunny days there, so it would be feasible, at least in the Summer season.
The only problem they have, apparently, is keeping the snow off the panels!
Solar Panels Like To Be Cool
So far, my little solar energy system has produced over 600 KWH of power, which is over 30% of my needs. Of course, this has been over summer, but we get quite a lot of sun in the other seasons here in Melbourne, and the system works even if it's a cloudy day.
For some strange reason, solar panels work better when the temperature is reasonably cool, and when we get our 40C days, they slow down. Guess they're like us, and don't like the high temperatures that much.