Steps to install renewable energy systems for your facility

renewable energyUnlike non-renewable forms of energy such as fossil fuels, renewable energy systems utilize unlimited resources that are replenished time after time. Most countries are endowed with renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro, etc. Depending on what renewable energy resources are available in your location, it is important to determine their technical and economic potential before tapping the resource to produce energy such as heat, or electrical energy. This blog attempts to capture the steps to renewable energy for your home or business facility.

Steps to renewable energy systems

  1. Determine your renewable energy potential
  2. Assess the different renewable energy resources available to you based on location and site-specific parameters. For instance, biogas production is best suited for farms that regularly collect liquid, slurry, or semi-solid manure with little or no bedding.

    Any site with water drops and flows; natural waterfalls, small weirs/dams, and industrial flows can be potential sites for small hydropower that can be obtained from the flowing water on your site. To get the renewable energy potential for small hydro, you can start by determining the head (the vertical distance the waterfalls) and the flow rate i.e. the quantity of water falling. To do this you can consult a small hydro specialist in your local area. We have captured below details on how to obtain a list of these renewable energy installers whether biogas or any other renewable energy installer.

    When it comes to solar power, determining the potential to install solar panels is much easier than for bioenergy or small hydro because of the easy access to online solar calculators that make it much faster to calculate your site-specific solar potential. EnergySage has a platform where online users can just plug in the address of their home or business in the USA to obtain their solar potential instantly. To learn more about how you can obtain your solar potential despite your location, check this article. Also, you can get in touch with a local solar professional to schedule a solar assessment.

    2. Energy efficiency first before installing renewable energy options Most countries have a good solar energy potential and hence solar power can be harnessed in almost every location on earth unlike wind, small-hydro or geothermal which are largely site-specific. However, before considering adopting a renewable energy system, it is advisable to perform an energy assessment of your home or business facility to understand your energy consumption profile. An energy audit will help to identify energy efficiency measures that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate any energy wastage. For instance, lighting system upgrades & controls (including LEDs) and buying or upgrading your home appliances to Energy Star appliances can result in huge significant savings for your home or business. Learn more here about energy efficiency.

    3. Identify renewable energy installers, renewable energy rebates, and incentives for your local area USA residents interested in going solar can consider the EnergySage to obtain multiple solar quotes from pre-screened solar installers. SunPower has some of the best solar panels in the world and has expanded operations to Europe, Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East. Also, solar Business Hub provides a directory with a list of solar installers around the world.

    Renewable Energy Hub provides a platform for online users in the UK and USA for most renewable energy installers. For instance, Renewable Energy Hub USA enables people, communities, businesses, and institutions across America to connect with trusted, reliable advisers, and installers. Using this platform, you can learn all about current renewable energy technologies, energy-saving products, services, grants, federal and state incentives.

    Find out from relevant government authorities about renewable energy incentives or grants that you can benefit from to help reduce the cost of your renewable energy system even more. The initial capital investment required for your renewable energy install can often be perceived as somewhat daunting, there are various ways to reduce it using tax incentives and rebates. However, every renewable energy project is different, find more about how to reduce for instance the cost of your solar panels. Learn more here.

What is the cost of solar panels?

what is the cost of solar panelsThe solar photovoltaics (PV) technology continues to advance every year and its applications are increasing ranging from on-grid solar, off-grid solar, hybrid solar (PV), and portable solar solutions.

All these applications use solar PV technology as the primary component to generate solar electricity for homes or commercial places. As a result, the cost of solar panels is the main driver of the price of such systems despite whether they are on-grid, off-grid, hybrid, or even portable applications.

Since the year 2010, the price for solar panels has declined by over 70% and continues to decrease by at least 10% every year. Today(2020), the average price per watt for solar panels ranges from $2.57 to $3.35 according to EnergySage.

Comparing this price to the price of solar panels of about $76.67/watt in 1977, the cost of solar panels has declined by over 99% resulting to the use of solar panels to big equipment like 2000MW utility-scale solar PV power plants to even on very small gadgets like solar cell phone chargers.

The goal of research and development (R&D) is to reach higher efficiency and lowered solar panel costs. In addition to first-generation solar panels (wafer-based solar panels), R&D efforts have introduced second-generation solar panels which are the thin-film solar panels and third-generation solar panels that incorporate organic materials such as organometallic compounds and inorganic materials.

A faster and an easy way to know what is the cost of solar panels

The EnergySage provides a platform where you can compare the technical parameters of many solar panels before requesting a quote for them. You can compare and contrast at the EnergySage solar marketplace as there are thousands of solar panels available today that differ in the solar panel type, cost, wattage, and warranty offered.

For more information, you can visit the EnergySage solar panel marketplace to obtain more information about the solar panels you may be interested in and obtain a quote.electric vehicles
For residential systems, the size of residential solar systems ranges from 3kW – 10 kW, and their cost will vary anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000 depending on system size and availability of incentives.

This cost is also dependent on solar PV parts, the labor, overhead, and permitting fees. In general, you will realize that the bigger the system is, the cost per watt is also low. The average price per watt for solar panels ranges from $2.57 to $3.35, and solar panel costs for an average-sized installation in the U.S. usually range from $11,411 to $14,874 after solar tax credits.

Amazon.com is another platform you can use to purchase different types of solar panels, especially for off-grid applications such as portable solar panels for RV, portable solar panels for backpacking, portable solar panels for hiking, portable solar panels for travel trailers, portable solar panels for campers.

At Amazon.com, you can compare pricing for these types of solar panels and reading customer reviews for such types of solar panels. You can also check other different solar PV gadgets such as solar generators, solar phone chargers, solar lighting, and solar water pumping solar panels.
solar panels

Why off-grid photovoltaics (PV)systems?

How has solar PV technology advanced?

off grid solar

With the decreasing cost of photovoltaics (PV), going solar is becoming more cost-effective and adoption rates continue to increase for both on-grid and off-grid applications. The solar PV technology continues to advance to provide power solutions for both businesses and individuals. From a very massive utility-scale power plant providing over 2GW (2000 MW) of generating capacity to a 4 or 5-watt panel for charging your cellphone or mp3 player, it is proof that solar PV technology has advanced and has very many applications. Research and development (R&D) efforts for photovoltaics continue with the aim of determining the right combination of materials to enhance or increase solar panel efficiency to generate more electricity per unit area of the solar panel.

When it comes to off-grid solar, more solar applications are developed with the aim of powering rural areas. Rural electrification, especially in developing countries, has been made more cost-effective since grid extension is still very expensive in rural areas. Scattered households and lack of a critical mass of households to make grid extension more cost-effective are one of the major reasons why the private sector does not find incentive in developing many rural grid electrification projects without subsidies from the government.

Many rural electrification projects using grid extension has remained a project for governments and non-governmental organizations. However, because of the reducing solar panel cost, the private sector is increasingly getting involved in many rural electrification projects that use innovative business models such as pay-as-you-go (PAYGO)  and other off-grid solar projects to provide electricity to rural communities in developing countries.off-grid solar

Solar PV and rural electrification

With the right mix of technologies, off-grid solar PV systems can help to overcome the barrier to rural electrification without grid-extension. This can also take the form of off-grid solar PV combined with other sources of energy including, but not limited to wind power, bioenergy, geothermal, and small hydro resources. However, apart from solar energy, many of these other forms of renewable energy resources are site-specific and would work well where such resources are available and from a sustainable source.

Off-grid solar has numerous applications and solar is in abundance in most rural areas where it is needed because of its wider applications. A lot of food is grown in rural areas and off-grid solar would play a vital role in providing water from the wells through solar water pumping irrigation as well as other productive uses, especially in agriculture. Also, since many people have cellphones today, charging cellphones using solar power would be ideal, especially in areas not connected to the grid.

Off-grid solar also means portable solar solutions providing emergency power or standby power where there are many power outages. Some of these portable solar solutions include solar generators, solar battery chargers, and other portable solar gadgets. Solar lighting options for homes or street lighting are also applicable in rural areas.

Of all the above off-grid solar applications, solar water pumping for irrigation would provide many sustainability benefits in both short-term and long-term, creating jobs in the agricultural sector, especially in dry areas that can be transformed for growing food crops. On the other hand, off-grid solar would also provide a huge sustainability impact for homes through improving livelihoods with solar electrification.

Off-grid solar water pumping for irrigation:

For dry off-grid areas, solar photovoltaics can provide water for irrigation using solar water pumps and is more cost-effective compared to diesel-powered water pumps considering the long-term costs. The life-cycle cost of a solar water pump used for irrigation will be lower because once the solar water pump has been bought, there will be no lifetime fuel costs associated with the solar water pump.

solar irrigation

However, a diesel-powered solar water pump will continue to rely on diesel over its lifespan. The solar water pump to be used will depend on many factors including the size of the farm, power rating (voltage rating), flow rates, and so on. There are two major types of solar water pumps: surface and submersible solar water pumps. Learn more about solar water pumps in this article.

Off-grid solar for rural electrification:

Rural electrification comes in many ways including, but not limited to grid extension, microgrids powered with renewable energy, or powered with fossil fuels. Powering rural areas using solar is increasingly being applied in many developing countries because of the reducing cost of solar panels. As such, solar PV is used as a clean technology to mitigate climate change with the right combination of technologies and with the right financial instruments.

Looking into the future, the centralized grid power system in rural areas will not be common as many investments will be used to develop decentralized power systems because of economics and the need to mitigate climate change using decentralized renewable energy systems. Also, solar packaged systems, as well as innovative business models such as pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) models, will continue to penetrate in rural areas of developing countries helping to provide affordable power to rural communities while mitigating climate change.

Renewable energy micro-grids such as off-grid solar PV systems with battery storage will overcome the high costs of grid extension. Standalone off-grid solar systems will be more ideal for rural electrification in areas where grid extension is expensive, and households not concentrated in one area, but scattered over a large area where grid extension could be expensive. Learn more about solar packaged solutions and rural electrification.

How much do solar panels cost?

how much do solar panels cost?One of the questions asked by many shoppers of solar panels is how much do solar panels cost? But the downside of it is that it does not have a straightforward answer that you can use or give. But according to categories and usage, we decided to do a compilation of their prices and come up with the price ranges.

Residential solar panels 

The price of solar panels has reduced by over 70% in the last decade. Also, the cost of solar panels has declined by 99% since 1977, when the price of a solar PV cell was $76.67/ watt. In the last decade, the solar cost rated at $8.50 per watt compared to today’s price of about $3 and $4 per watt.

For residential systems, the size of residential solar systems ranges from 3kW – 10 kW, and their cost will vary anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000 depending on system size and availability of incentives.

This cost is also dependent on solar PV parts, the labor, overhead, and permitting fees. In general, you will realize that the bigger the system is, the cost per watt is also low.

Different solar panels

It is not an easy thing to come up with the best kind of solar panel to use in your home because of the differences in performance, efficiency, price, and quality. Thousands of solar manufacturers now manufacture solar panels; thus, decision making is becoming even harder when choosing solar panels for your home or business.

LG energy solar panels

LG energy has been known to be a leader of top-selling solar panels in the world. Solar panels that come from LG have a range of quality, high performance, and are reliable. LG offer excellent warranties for their solar panels, up to a 25-year warranty. It comes with Neon 2 and Neon R modules that use quality grade N-type cells. Many customers have rated them highly not because of the impressive look that they had, but because of their quality construction of the highest standard.

Many manufacturers have found it useful to produce both the mono and also the poly-crystalline panels. But to LG, they manufacture mainly monocrystalline cells. These solar panel cells are efficient and have a lower degradation level. Other than that, LG also uses Lily technology, which is not used by different types of panels.solar panels

The panels have been designed with durable double-wall aluminum frames on all its modules and fitted with a 6000 pa rating and an impressive 5400 rating on the side of wind loading.

Panasonic solar panels

When you talk about Panasonic, you are already talking about a great brand known in the industry. Panasonic had invested about 40 years of research and innovation that has gone beyond to reflect the best quality of solar. You will find four types of solar panels and are all made of monocrystalline silicon, which will maximize efficiency and quality. You will also get a 25-year warranty to take care of you when you need it most.

When you look at the temperature coefficient of -0.258% / °C, what this means is that for every 1°C above 25°C, Panasonic solar panels decrease in efficiency by 0.258%.

Canadian Solar Panels

With this solar panel, you are going to find a wide range of solar panels, in fact, including six lines; that is Dymond, Ku modules, All-Black, standard, superpower, and also Maxpower. You will have the best types of panels that have stable control and even a stable financial position. Their warranty is a bit different when you compare it with others. At year one, you will get a 97.5% and their degradation rate of 0.5% for the subsequent years until year 25.

The panels are efficient when it comes to energy production. They are also readily available and affordable too. At least, when you compare it with others, you get a $2,80 per watt.

Sunpower solar panels

Sunpower is also one of the top solar manufacturers that exist in the market. They are known to have a higher price but their outstanding efficiency of between 19.5 – 21.5% with up to 25 years of warranty is what makes them one of the best in the solar industry. They produce up to 70% more energy compared to others in the same space.

Maxeon technology allows it to absorb more light. You don’t have to accommodate a lot of them in the roof. With just a few, you will have managed to provide more energy from them than others. That’s is why it is rated 60% greater when it comes to durability. The company has significantly invested in the panels to make them better and better each day that comes and goes. Although they have a price tag that is a bit higher, it is worth it because its service will last longer.

Solarworld solar panels

Solarworld is a Germany based company that is responsible for selling solar panels both locally and also internationally. They are unique because of their monocrystalline technology. This technology has both the mono and also the bifacial features. The product warranty that you will get is 20 years. That is even double what many solar manufacturers offer for their solar panels.

The efficiency of the panels always varies according to the type of modal that is manufactured. But generally, efficiency can range from 14.9% – 17.6%. That is why we always say that they are cost-effective when you compare them with the many others out there. Their performance is also one of the best as they are rated to have a low-temperature coefficient.

The EnergySage Solar Buyers guide

The market has thousands and thousands of solar panels. A question arises on how to know which one will suit you and your needs. In a nutshell, you need to consider the cost, efficiency, wattage, the warranty given, among others. These are essential aspects that you will have to look at before making that big decision.solar panel calculator

  • Efficiency

When a solar panel has higher efficiency, it is going to produce more energy using less space compared to those that have low solar panel efficiency. Check on the efficiency of your solar and make the comparison before you make a choice there.

  • Cost

The cost is not always constant because it will vary according to location, the type of property, and also the panels used. Solar panels that have a higher efficiency are rated to have a higher price than others but are better because they will give you long term savings.

  • Warranty

Warranty exists in two ways, and we have the equipment and also a performance warranty. The equipment part is used to cover the visible part of the solar panels. For instance, if you encounter manufacturing defects, if you encounter wear and tear problems and even those damages that are caused by the environment. The companies cover all this. The performance part of the warranties includes the real and actual electricity that comes from the panels. The performance of the solar panels degrades over time, and the warranty is vital as it protects you from excessive degradation rates.

If you carefully ensure that you look at these features, then you are sure that you are going to choose the best and right kind of solar panel for your use.

 Solar panel calculator

A solar panel calculator like the one from the EnergySage is essential in helping to figure out how much a solar panel cost or the amount of solar energy needed to go solar. The idea of a solar panel calculator is to help you make your solar decision.

What are solar financing options for buying solar panels?

best solar panels

One of the main barriers to buying your best solar panels has always been the high initial cost of solar panels. With the high solar panel cost for your PV system depending on system size, location, system performance and the cost of finance; a few flexible solar financing solutions have been developed with the customer in mind. 

The first option is a solar power purchase agreement (solar PPA) that allows a homeowner or a business owner to enter into an agreement with a solar provider with a no money down option and with a slightly reduced rate from their current energy bill. This allows the solar provider to install and own the system, but the host (solar buyer) agrees to buy solar electricity at a specific rate and for a specified period of time. 

Solar PPAs can be short as 5 years or longer as over 20 years depending on the payback period of the solar PV system. A great place to determine whether this option can work for you is by use of a solar power calculator that is specific to your energy needs. Using such as solar calculator is a great starting point to determine how much you can save using such a solar financing option. 

The second flexible solar financing option is solar leasing which allows you to lease solar panels for a specified rate and time. The host might decide to lease for some time and when is able to afford to purchase the solar panels depending on what is the agreement.  This option is also flexible for solar customers that are not able to pay upfront for the solar panels.

The third and the fourth solar financing options are cash and loan respectively which work depending on the price or the cost of finance etc.  Once you research and obtain a good price for your solar panels, you could either decide to pay them for cash or obtain a low-cost loan from a financial institution. 

Although, there is a lot of information on the Internet and you might be overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to digest and draw conclusions.  As a result, online solar marketplaces come in handy to help you shop for solar easier and faster. EnergySage are some of the well-known online solar marketplaces that can help you speed up the process of shopping for your solar PV system. 

What are flexible solar financing solutions? 

There are various financing options that you could obtain from banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, however, such options may lack the flexibility needed based on the solar PV system that could be designed for you based on your energy requirements. You need flexible solar financing solutions that are unique to your situation and the type of solar panels you end up installing which might require you to work with a solar expert that can negotiate a better offer from a solar manufacturer or solar installer. 

EnergySage for example offers flexible or simple financing programs that make it easier for individuals to purchase the solar system they need. These solutions offer, for instance, homeowners the chance to manage the initial costs of a solar install, and are specifically designed for those with and without equity in their home, helping to further ensure that the system needed is within reach. You can learn more at EnergySage. 

You can also read more about solar financing options here for more details and how to go about the process of shopping for your best solar panels. 

How to know whether your property is solar-friendly?

what is the cost of installing solar panels inIt is one thing to want to switch to solar, but it is another thing to make sure you are making the right decision before embarking to going solar.

As such, you want to make sure your home property has excellent solar potential and tapped cost-effectively. Going solar is a great idea, but it works best only under certain conditions.

In what conditions is going solar a good option?

  1. If you intend to stay in your current home for at least 15 years

Well, going solar is a great idea when you are a homeowner that wants to live in his or her house for at least 15 years. However, this might change in the future with the decreasing solar panel cost that will enable solar investments to pay themselves quickly, hence reducing the payback period to somewhat around 3 to 5 years.

Currently, based on the current solar panels cost, the average solar payback is around 5 to 10 years, which is dependent on unique characteristics such as your solar power potential, your energy costs, etc. The best way to get an accurate or personalized payback period is to use a solar panel cost calculator or get in touch with a solar installer in your local area.

At 15 years, estimates show that you will get the full benefit of going solar by obtaining free solar power once the system has paid itself after its payback period. Some of the states with the lowest payback periods include California (6 years), Idaho (5 years), South Carolina (5 years).

States with the highest payback periods include Georgia (12 years), Virginia (12 years), Delaware (11 years), etc. The best way to get an accurate or personalized payback period is to use a solar panel cost calculator or get in touch with a solar installer in your local area.

Also, solar panels have a significant benefit in increasing the value of your home in the event you intend to sell your house in the long-term. According to Wholesale Solar, the research finds that, on average, solar panels increase home value by $14,329 – or 3.74% more than their non-PV counterparts. The average system costs $10,000-$18,000 in materials; homeowners can reasonably expect to recoup the cost of the hardware when they choose to sell their home.

2. You have enough room for solar panels and in a good location and free of obstructions.

In addition to staying in your home for some time to get the full benefit of solar power, you should have enough roof space to install solar panels. Your home should also be a geographical location with great solar power potential.

In the US, a tremendous solar power potential characterized by roof facing the south that is free of roof obstructions such as trees or nearby buildings that would prevent your solar panels from receiving a significant amount of sunlight to produce solar electricity. The quickest way to determine whether your rooftop has good solar potential is by using a LIDAR powered solar panel calculator that can tell you how much solar potential is on your roof. Such a solar panel calculator personalized because it asks you for the address and can provide you with your solar potential.

LIDAR means Light Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and is a technology that scans to capture detailed data accurately measuring distances and angles of rooftops, while also mapping trees that need to be removed or trimmed to maximize sun exposure, all in a matter of minutes.

After a scan is complete, 3D models are produced, allowing a solar PV system designed on a virtual replica of a home. The LIDAR technology can also enable the user to generate accurate shade reports, even after removing trees.

So, what is the cost of installing solar panels in your local area?

The cost of installing solar panels varies from state to state, and every installation is unique based on several factors, including where you source your solar panels, your PV system design parameters and potential solar factors. To estimate your solar panel cost, you can get started using this solar panel cost calculator.

Solar tax credits, solar cash rebates and other solar incentives to help reduce the cost of going solar.

solar incentivesIn addition to the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that offers up to 30% to reduce your overall solar PV cost; many states have solar rebate or incentive programs that are targeted to encourage uptake of commercial and residential solar PV.

Also, many states use regulatory mechanisms such as net metering, solar renewable energy credits (SREC), renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) to increase solar installations.

Solar financial incentives such as state rebates and local utility incentive programs are also part of the policy and regulatory support to encourage wider adoption of solar PV.

Many states in the USA provide solar incentives to reduce the cost of going solar and encourage wider use of solar energy for individuals and businesses interested in going solar.

Solar Rebates

What are the common solar incentives offered by states that help to significantly lower your solar panel cost?

1. Solar Tax Credits

Arizona is one of the states that enjoy a very high solar potential and ranks in the top ten solar states in the U.S. In addition, it has one of the best solar incentives for promoting wider solar applications. The state of Arizona has developed, solar incentives, rebates and tax credits to help reduce the cost of going solar.

For instance, in addition to the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), many states like Arizona have developed additional tax credits that deduct a portion of the cost of the solar PV system.

This allows solar PV buyers to deduct a certain percentage of their PV cost from their taxes like the federal ITC.  For instance, Arizona in addition to the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC), it offers 25% residential solar energy credit, solar system sales tax exemption, and property tax exemption on added home value from solar system. Applying the above federal and state tax credits, Arizona has some of the lowest cost of solar panels in the country.

According to EnergySage, a 3kW PV system would cost $6,694.00 Nationally with Federal Tax Credit applied, but would only cost $4,907 in Arizona after applying federal and state tax credit etc. EnergySage is  a well-known online solar marketplace that provide multiple free solar quotes to over a million customers annually.

2. Solar Cash Rebates

Additional incentives such as cash rebates are offered to further reduce the PV cost anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. These cash rebates are offered from the state, local utilities or energy cooperatives. Cash rebates are set for a limited time and end once a certain amount of solar has been installed.

For instance, in the state of Georgia, the Jackson EMC residential members can get up to $4500 off their solar installation.  Jackson EMC offers these cash rebates at $450 per kW installed, with a 10kW maximum.

Jackson Electric Membership Corporation (Jackson EMC) is one of 39 not for profit membership-owned electric cooperatives located in the U.S. stateof Georgia with service in the North-East metropolitan Atlanta area.

Jackson EMC coverage includes a ten-county area stretching from metro Atlanta, north to Gainesville and east to Athens and has district offices in Gainesville, Jefferson, Lawrenceville and Neese. Hence, Jackson EMC members in these areas can combine the Jackson EMC solar rebate with the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) to lower the cost of going solar. However, cash rebates are designed in a way to only assist solar buyers that meet a certain criteria. For instance, for a solar buyer to qualify for the Jackson EMC cash rebate, they must meet a few of the following requirements.

  • A solar buyer must be a Jackson EMC member
  • Rebates are not payable to entities that own solar panels or that leases them to members
  • EMC members must own the solar systems
  • It must be a residential application for a property owned by the EMC member etc

The above are just some of the solar incentives applied by states or entities found in the states such as energy cooperatives, local utility companies etc.  Every state is different and some states like Arizona offer very good incentives to significantly reduce the cost of going solar.

Hence, depending on the state that you live in, it is worthwhile to determine to what extent you can reduce the cost of going solar with tax credits, cash rebates, net metering, solar renewable energy credits (SREC), renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS)and so on.

We have partnered with organizations such as EnergySage that have smart online tools like a solar panel calculator or a solar panel cost calculator that is able to determine how much solar incentives are in your local state or area by just typing in your address. These tools will consolidate all the state tax credits and rebates that are available to help reduce your cost of going solar.

solar estimates

Five (5) findings of the commercial solar in Africa.

solar panel cost

A study commissioned by responsAbility and assessed by BloombergNEF shows that solar PV for both commercial and industrial sectors have a great potential for growth in sub-Saharan Africa not because of regulatory support, but because of the improving economics of solar PV.

The report suggests that a combination of high-energy costs and the reducing solar module prices is contributing to increased sales of solar directly to commercial and industrial customers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Here are five (5) interesting findings of this report that was published on January 24th, 2019:

  1. The financial sector has not tapped this market yet and a majority of projects have been developed and sold for cash, without any type of financing. As such, any PPA or leasing applied for the PV projects have been done so with equity from the solar developer. The main barrier to faster solar PV development in Sub-Saharan Africa has been a lack of access to debt financing.
  2. With the reducing solar panel cost, on-site solar is now cheaper than the electricity tariffs paid by commercial or industrial (C&I) clients in seven out of the 15 markets in Sub-Saharan Africa that were studied by BNEF. According to BNEF analysis, C&I solar PV projects developed in these markets can produce solar electricity that costs between $0.10 to 0.14/kWh in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. According to the report, it is possible for the industrial sector in such countries like Ghana to buy-onsite solar power for 29% less than the power from the grid, when they are operating seven days per week.
  3. In Sub-Saharan African countries like Nigeria that experience unpredictable power outages that can last between 4 to 15 hours, solar is a good candidate for businesses that want to improve their competitive edge in business. For instance, in Nigeria alone, there are at least 20MW of on-site solar projects. Because of these frequent power outages, a mix of solar PV and battery storage and diesel generators provide a great solution to ensure a stable power supply.
  4. Net metering is a concept that allows the stabilization of solar power with the grid instead of battery storage. However, net metering even though proposed in many of the Sub-Saharan countries, has been non-existent. Net metering would help to low the PV cost further because the host facility would feed surplus power into the grid and draw power from the grid at night. Currently, solar PV systems are designed so that all the electricity generated can be consumed directly by the host facility, especially for solar installations serving sites operating seven days per week.
  5. According to the report, another barrier to PV adoption has been the limited understanding of the benefits of on-site solar by potential customers, however, it appears to be improving fast. For example, developers in Kenya told BNEF that the sales cycle is shortening.

To this end, solar PV has great technical and economic potential for businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. A combination of good regulation and financing instruments would help to increase investor confidence in the market and spur more growth for Solar PV installations. Here are some thoughts for consideration to grow this market segment:

  • Engage the local financial sector and create standardized approaches for evaluating solar PV projects by the financial sector.
  •  Introduce leasing and third party financing that are standardized and regulated.
  • Introduce net-metering good for reducing the energy demand of the country and improving solar PV profitability for the host facility.

Four (4) reasons for using a solar panel cost calculator.

solar panel cost calculator

Today the process of going solar has been simplified with the onset of various online solar panel cost calculators that make it easy to compare and contrast between different solar PV systems in the market while comparing solar quotes from different solar installers.

With this development, it makes shopping for solar as easy and efficient as booking an air flight ticket at the comfort of your home where you compare different flights, hotel or even taxi rates. Similarly, you don’t need a tedious process to go solar where you have to conduct all calculations by yourself, but you can depend on reliable and good online solar marketplaces that make the process simple and efficient at the same time.

With an online solar panel cost calculator it is possible to determine the aspects of going solar that many customers will tend to ask themselves, including but not limited to:

  1. How many solar panels do I need?
  2. How much does it cost to go solar?
  3. What are the benefits of going solar?
  4. How many incentives do I qualify for from the government when I decide to go solar?

Here are four (4) reasons for using an online solar panel cost calculator at the comfort of your home:

  1. A solar panel cost calculator is built with the customer in mind and will enable you to determine your specific location and has the necessary measurements of your roof that makes it possible to obtain the right number of solar panels that would be needed in your specific case. All that is required is to input your address or location and your average monthly energy bill. Hence, this type of a solar panel cost calculator is specific as it gets your own rooftop through geographical location data collected using the LIDAR technology.
  2. How much does it cost to go solar?  Since different solar customers need different sizes of solar PV systems, the cost of going solar is a big variable that has to be captured. Every home or business is different because of different energy requirements and roofing sizes, hence you need a solar panel cost calculator that can capture this data and provide a PV cost that captures your unique design parameters. The size of your PV system is unique to your site parameters, including but not limited to your roof size, energy requirements and other added parameters such as the type of PV system needed by the customer.
  3. What are the benefits of going solar? Going solar has unique benefits depending on your location and site-specific parameters. For instance, depending on which state you are come from, your solar benefits could be significant or minimal, especially when it comes to how much you can save with solar. Although generally, going solar is beneficial depending on your unique motivation for going solar. Some people are motivated to going solar for environmental reasons to reduce their carbon footprint while others such as businesses are motivated to reduce their energy costs etc.  Hence, a solar panel cost calculator is a great tool to help you determine these benefits without a hassle. Depending on what state you are in, going solar may prove to be a cost-saving idea if you are in a state that has expensive power or it may not if you are in a state that has cheap power. Expensive power means a high Internal Rate of Return (IRR), low payback period (PBP) and a high return on investment (ROI). You should connect with a solar expert today to get more information.
  4. How many incentives do I qualify for from the government when I decide to go solar? Your overall PV system cost can be significantly reduced if you have access to great incentives from both the Federal government and your state. The Federal government offers 26% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for investing in solar PV— it allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. Also, many states have different state rebates for encouraging people to go solar. In addition, you can claim Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) if you live in areas with SREC markets. Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are a solar incentive that allows homeowners to sell certificates to their utility. A homeowner will earn one SREC for every 1000 kilowatt-hours (kWhs) produced by their solar panel system. An SREC can be worth as much as $300 in certain markets.

Energy Efficiency as a Service – Low hanging fruit

energy efficiencyThe Energy Efficiency Concept

Energy efficiency is an interesting concept for helping businesses and individuals reduce energy waste to support energy conservation and sustainability.

For businesses, energy efficiency is good for improving their bottom line.  On the other hand, individuals switching from incandescent to LED bulbs, for instance, have the opportunity of reducing their energy bills and hence good for their pockets.

What does Energy Efficiency involve?

When it comes to energy efficiency and energy management; it can involve targeting the following to reduce your energy consumption:

  1. Replacement of old or obsolete equipment with new or more energy-efficient equipment that does not consume a lot of energy.
  2. Process optimization to reduce energy wastage. Processes with low energy intensity are good for the environment and production cost, especially in the industrial sector.
  3. The use of renewable energy such as solar energy is also a form of energy management or energy efficiency because it ensures the energy is conserved as it comes from a sustainable source.

Renewable energy is considered sustainable when it fulfills three (3) demands of energy i.e. (i) the energy can be naturally replenished, (ii) technology should improve energy efficiency, (iii) the long term availability.

Renewable energy technologies, in this case, may include bio-energy (biogas, biofuels & biomass), wind energy, solar energy, geothermal, hydro and other new forms of renewable energy such as wave & tidal energy.

 How to overcome financial barriers to Energy Efficiency

All of the above energy efficiency solutions have tremendous benefits, but can be costly when it comes to implementation and hence calls for finding innovative financing solutions that help to reduce the financial burden to the end-user.

As such, just like how solar panels are supported these days using third-party financing solutions such as leasing and power purchase agreements (PPAs); financing energy efficiency is also moving in the same direction.

Solar PPAs and solar leasing let you buy clean, affordable solar power that is generated on your roof by solar panels that are completely owned by a solar provider. This approach of going solar is known as “Solar as a Service”. 

Solar panels, the installation and the maintenance of all solar panels are provided by a solar provider and the only thing paid by the end-user is the solar power produced from the panels, just like buying power from a local utility company.

Today this concept is also being implemented in the energy efficiency business where energy conservation solutions are implemented by a third party. In this regard, the customer does not own the equipment and hence there is no upfront investment.

Such a financing solution provides benefits such as instant return on investment without any upfront capital cost and includes maintenance and asset repair costs at the same time.

Better Buildings – a program of the Department of Energy defines this concept as a pay for performance, off-balance-sheet financing solution that allows customers to implement energy efficiency projects with no upfront capital expenditure.

The provider pays for project development, construction, and maintenance costs and once the project is completed, the end-user or customer makes service payments that are based on actual energy savings and other equipment performance metrics, resulting in immediate reduced operating expenses.

Energy efficiency is a low hanging fruit that can be explored before going solar or thinking about renewables.  It is cost-effective to think about energy efficiency first because of the amount that you can end up saving without investing in other capital-intensive equipment such as solar panels. A penny saved is a penny earned, as they say.  For more details, about energy efficiency as a service and renewables, please contact us at support@reneenergy.com

Switchingtosolarpv.com is a website resource for promoting sustainability, systems thinking to solve problems, going green concepts and going solar online tools.

Interested in going solar? Get started with this solar panel cost calculator to determine how much it can cost you to go solar and your expected estimated savings. You will also discover other details such as your carbon footprint reduction, how many solar panels you need etc by just providing very simple data such as your average monthly energy bill.