Africa Energy Indaba

Photovoltaic Systems (Solar Electricity)

Electricity directly produced from the sun for on-demand use

Electricity can now be directly produced from the sun and converted for on-demand use in all building types. The systems available can be independent (stand-alone) of the main electricity supply grid or work in conjunction with your existing electricity supply. The system is made up of solar panels (photovoltaic panels), an inverter which converts DC power from the solar panels to AC power for conventional use and in some cases, batteries, which store electricity that is not immediately used.

While this technology is still relatively new to South Africa, advances in technology abroad have seen complete roofing systems with an integrated photovoltaic system plus a solar thermal water heating system. Glazing (windows) and roof tiles can now also be purchased with integrated energy producing photovoltaic cells.

In South Africa, Eskoms Demand Managing Funding program does offer rebates for photovoltaic system installation in specific building categories. The rebates are based on performance. If international trends prevail in Africa, we will see local councils buying electricity back surplus electricity generated from businesses at premium prices in the future. This system allows the business owner to capitalise on such an event, generating extra income for their business.

Useful Information

Solar Power Benefits

A photovoltaic system is also known as a ‘PV’ system. The electricity produced is free of carbon emissions and requires very little maintenance. The system is silent – there are no moving parts

System Life Span & Performance

The life span of PV panels can be up to 30 years. The performance of the system is based on location and the amount of daily sunlight.

Panel Positioning

Panels have a solar orientation facing north. The panels can be positioned on the roof or ground or both. The panels can be integrated into the overall design of the building.

Amount Of Panels Required

Panels come in different sizes and wattage. The number of solar panels relates directly to the amount of electricity produced. An assessment must be carried out on the amount of electricity consumed on a monthly basis to determine the size of the system required.

Price Comparison

The system has a high ‘upfront’ cost but this is set to change as advancements are made in technology and production methods.

Pre-approved Installation Companies (Required)

The system must be installed by an accredited professional in order that performance is optimise and warrantee’s are honoured.

Regulations & Safety

Make sure that the panels are safely isolated in order to prevent the generation of potentially lethal Direct Current (DC) voltages throughout the panels and the associated wiring. If the panels are not properly isolated, the panels pose a risk to health and fire safety.

Receive the week’s most popular stories in your inbox every Saturday morning