Capetonians are turning to solar power technology to meet energy needs. Picture supplied
Capetonians are turning to solar power technology to meet energy needs. Picture supplied

Residents, businesses required to register solar power technology

By Nathan Adams Time of article published Feb 23, 2020

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Cape Town - As more residents and businesses use solar energy to power their premises, authorities maintain that such systems need to be registered.

Using aerial footage of neighbourhoods, the City of Cape Town is able to determine if you have a solar system powering your home or not.

Although there are no exact figures, the City confirmed that there has been an increase in residents installing solar panels and photovoltaic (PV) systems in their homes.

The City’s mayoral committee member for energy and climate change councillor, Phindile Maxiti, said: “Over the past three years, and particularly more recently, we have seen a marked increase in the number of solar PV systems in the metro. Aerial surveys allow us to locate all rooftop solar systems and identify which systems are registered.”

Both the municipality and the Western Cape government have tried to demystify and simplify the application process for residents who want to harness the sun’s energy to partly power their homes.

Maxiti said: “The City’s main role is to stimulate, mainly through communication and awareness, the uptake of solar panels, while also enforcing the law where applicable by ensuring that small-scale embedded systems that need to be registered are registered.”

This is one of the first things you would need to do when thinking about installing a PV system - there are strict by-laws and regulations.

An inverter is the best way to go if all you want to do is keep a few lights on at home and charge your phone when load shedding kicks in, and for that you’ll pay anywhere between R5000 and R50000.

The Western Cape government advises that the cost of installing a solar PV system is driven by the following elements: the solar panels, the inverter, and the balance of system costs (installation, commissioning and project development). They also advise that “the equipment components of the solar PV system make up the majority of the overall cost, with the solar panels and the inverter accounting for almost 80% of total costs. The installation, commissioning and project development account for the remaining 20%”.

Another consideration is the financial viability of solar PV which is dependent on a number of factors, advises the provincial government:

* Installation size: larger projects produce cheaper electricity as fixed costs, such as design and specification, are spread over more panels.

* Technology choice and exchange rate: prices still vary and some components need to be imported.

* Financing model: depends on the client’s risk profile or financial standing.

* Current electricity tariff: solar PVs viable increases as electricity tariffs increase.

* Consumption patterns: Eskom charges a peak amount during periods of highest use (typically, in a business context, during the day). Generating one’s own electricity (also most effective during sunny periods) results in greater savings.

* Location, roof type and direction: influence the amount of sun reaching the solar panels.

The City stipulates that: “Off-grid systems must also be registered with the City to ensure they are not mistaken for grid-tied systems,” and further explained that the grid-tied feed-in system is when “the electricity generated by the PV system is used on the property. Excess electricity generated from the system is fed back into the electricity grid - you may receive credit from the City”.

For businesses, the rules and legislation must be strictly adhered to and, depending on the profit margins, it might be an investment worth making. If the saving on electricity consumption pays for the installation and equipment costs over time, it would be wise to install.

One notable case is the Park Inn by Radisson hotel on the Foreshore. In partnership with Solarus, they have installed the city centre’s first large-scale commercial hybrid photovoltaic and thermal project. Neatly tucked away on the hotel’s rooftop, it produces an average of 1050 kilowatt-hour of energy per week.

The hotel’s maintenance manager, Carl Williams said: “The installation consists of 30 innovative PowerCollectors, a unique technology which combines generation of thermal energy with the photovoltaic generation of electricity and produces one of the highest energy yields ever measured. When compared to traditional solar panels, the PowerCollector produces electricity and hot water output up to 70°C and delivers three times more energy on the same surface area.”

Weekend Argus

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