Top three misconceptions about solar PV

Top three misconceptions about solar PV

By Jack Ward, CEO of Soltra Energy

The past year witnessed a significant increase in interest in rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) power for a wide range of domestic, commercial and industrial applications in South Africa.

Solar power – nature’s free alternative – is now seen as a cost-effective, ‘green’ solution, particularly when compared to noisy diesel- or petrol-powered generators.

However, there are a number of solar PV misconceptions that have gained currency. Let’s debunk them….

  1. Solar PV provides a quick return on investment.

Incorrect. A solar PV installation is a long-term investment. Yes, it can be seen as an electricity price hedge and there is a possibility – depending on electricity price rises – that returns can be realised as soon as five years, but it is far more advantageous to view solar PV as a 20- to 30-year investment instrument – much like a mortgage bond on your house.

  1. Solar PV presents an opportunity to cut ties with the grid.

No. A much better course of action is to maintain ties with the electricity grid. Not only will you be able to use the grid as a ‘big storage battery’ in the case of emergencies, it also offers a ‘fall-back’ option in the case of continuing cloudy weather.

  1. I can feed back my excess energy into the grid and get paid for it.

This is not possible throughout South Africa right now. Let’s remember that implementing a feed-in tariff is a political process, which involves many interest groups including the electricity generating industry, financing institutions, the renewable energy industry and non-governmental organisations. This is not to say that small-scale rooftop PV installations have been excluded from the feed-in tariff concept, as there are municipalities that support partial schemes. NERSA, the National Energy Regulator of SA will hopefully provide more clarity in due course.