There's a lot of talk at the moment about Solar Power and Sun Energy! But what does it look like, and how efficient is it really? Can we trust the hype?
Well, it was something we wanted to explore for many years but the cost was exorbitant and so we shelved any Sun Projects. Yet we are Sun-Loving Beings. I am not a winter person, suffering the 7 or so cold months of New Zealand with the glimmer of hope that that sun will come shining through, eventually, in the Land of the Long White Cloud/Aotearoa! And indeed it does, NZ has plenty sunshine hours that make Sun Energy Harvesting such a sensible idea. And with Climate Change, governments the world over should be encouraging people to give energy sustainability a go!
We have had our Solar Photo-voltaic panels (19 of them) for just over 2 years, and although the system cost us double what it costs now, we are stoked!
Our latest project though, is investment in a Solar Tube. A bubble-like spaceship-looking dome on our roof, to afford us natural light in our once-was-dark kitchen. At NZ $1500.00, we hummed and haa-ed for some time, before biting the bullet and giving the installer the thumbs up. And I love it! I don't need to switch on electrical lighting when I am working in the kitchen in the day. Hooray! Revolutionising the way I work!
|Solar tube from the outside.|
When the installer came to install, he discovered that he needed to provide a bend, through our bedroom, down into the kitchen below. The result: silver tubing zooming through our bedroom upstairs! I kind of like the industrial look, as if a spaceship crashed through the roof of our bedroom! The installer suggested boxing it in with panels to hide it - but as I said, I like the industrial look!
|Water-tight flashing on the roof.|
|The stainless steel tubing in our bedroom corner.|
|The result; it appears as if we have a permanent spotlight on in the kitchen!|
The upside too, is that we will use less energy, as I never have to have my lights burning through the day in the kitchen. While I was up on the roof spying on the solar tube, I took the chance to also photograph our Photo-voltaic panels which work hard every day to harvest sun energy for us. They too are groovy-looking! Like having your own electrical company! Now, a similar system costs between $7 - NZ$9000.00. Costs are coming down with increased demand, almost halving every year! Our system cost us $32 000.00 for a 3kW system. We have no electricity bills to pay in the warmer months, and in winter, we pay a maximum of $180 for the coldest month, as opposed to the $350 we paid before solar! And energy costs rise every year!
We have learned a bit about Solar in the last year. Because we do not store our energy in batteries (which are expensive, not fully recyclable currently, and only have a 10-15yr life-span), we feed our energy back into the national grid. Our company, Meridian Energy, pay us a lesser amount per unit of energy we feed into the system, and charge us a higher amount per unit we use. To offset this, it is advised to use energy while the panels are harvesting energy. That means, run all electrical appliances while the sun is shining, if possible! So it is better to use the washing machine or tumble drier in the day when we are generating energy, rather than at night. We should dehydrate fruit in daylight hours, not overnight as I used to, else the dried snacks cost more!! Sun-Savvy!
|Roof edge to roof edge panels.|
Before we installed our PV panels, we already had solar panels to heat our water, a very big part of your energy bill! If the day is dull and too cloudy, we may need to boost our hot water supply, but again, better done during daylight hours so that power coming in = power going out. The solar water heating panels are entirely different to those generating energy.
In order to understand the PV system, a normal household uses an average of about 26kW per day, during summer months we can generate up to 30kW. During winter we may generate an average of only 14kW. We use less than we generate in summer, and more than we generate in winter. It's kind of like a banking account, you draw out and go into debit when you have none of your own, and deposit more when you are able to save.
|The far 2 hot water solar panels, a completely different use for water heating only.|
So at the end of the day, a sunsmart system costs you money to set up, but in the long run, should save you money! Don't have the money to invest in a full-price system for your home? I have recently found a company called Solar City who have a system called Solar Zero. They install and maintain a PV system which costs you zero. Then you pay a monthly fee of $79 for you power. Your power bill is SET for 20 years ahead, no nasty surprise rise of power bills. Sounds incredible!! Check it out.