Over the past several years, solar energy has grown in popularity across the globe - and it’s not hard to see why. Solar power is when energy produced from the sun is converted into energy that we can use. Not only is it free and renewable, it’s a widely available and clean source of energy that’s used for a variety of purposes for both home and business owners.
Solar energy has been around for over 150 years, and the technology used to harness this energy is developing faster than ever. Let’s take a further look into this clean, efficient power source and what benefits it can provide for your residential or commercial property.
The basics of solar energy: how does it work?
Have you ever wondered how sunlight can be turned into electricity? Here is a simple overview of how solar energy works and its main components:
Solar panels, made up of Photovoltaic (PV) cells, capture the sunlight photons or particles. Using materials such as silicon, the PV cells will then convert the sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
An inverter - connected by wires to the solar panels - then turns the DC into alternating current (AC) electricity. This is done on a much larger scale than the DC/AC plug on a small appliance.
The AC goes to the electrical box panel in your property to heat water, power lights and other appliances.
The utility meter in your property will measure how much energy you use as well as how much is generated by the solar panels. Your utility company will be able to tell you whether your solar power system is generating enough energy from the solar panels, or if you’re still using some power from the electricity grid.
If you still require some energy from the power grid, make sure you’re getting the best deal in your area and compare electricity providers and plans.
If your system starts producing more energy than you need, your utility company may provide credits for the excess power that you’re putting back into the grid. This is called “net metering” and was designed as an incentive to encourage the adoption of solar energy systems in both residential and commercial sectors.
Benefits of solar energy
It’s easy to see why solar energy is becoming more and more common throughout the world, as there are a number of benefits of solar energy:
- Renewable energy source - solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. Available every day, it can be harnessed in all areas around the world, and we can’t run out of it!
- Save money on your power bill - you’ll see great savings on your power bill, as you’ll be using power from your solar panels during the day as opposed to just from the electricity grid.
- Better impact on the environment - compared to any other energy source, solar energy has the least negative impact on our environment.
- Improve your property’s appeal - solar energy systems are now in great demand. Selling or renting a home or business that uses solar power will add market value.
- Low maintenance - solar panels are usually very low maintenance. Aside from the occasional clean and a regular check by a licenced electrician, the system should last around 25 years.
If you’re looking for cheaper power options that can improve your property in many ways, solar energy could be the ideal solution.
Disadvantages of solar energy
While solar energy can provide a variety of benefits to the user, there are a few disadvantages to this type of energy source...
- It’s not 100% consistent - as solar panels rely on the steady absorption of sunlight, efficiency of power will drop dramatically at nighttime or on cloudy/rainy days.
- Additional insurance - while there is little maintenance involved with solar panels, they are fragile and can be damaged easily. Therefore, additional insurance may be required to protect the investment.
- High initial costs - as solar panels are not yet mass produced, installation costs may be expensive.
- Not ideal if you’re about to move - while it’s a great investment long term, it’s an unworthy investment if you’re moving in the near future.
It’s important to weigh up the pros against the cons, so that you can make an informed decision about whether solar energy is best for your home or business.
How many people have solar energy in New Zealand?
Today, over 20,000 homes in New Zealand are powering their homes using solar energy. While this accounts for less than 1% of New Zealand’s total electricity generation - the rate of increase is rapidly increasing. Back in 2007, only 15 households were powered by solar energy!
A recent survey by Pulse Energy revealed that 43% of its participants wanted to use solar power in the future. The survey found that Kiwis looked at solar energy as an important complementary power source to the wind, hydro and geothermal renewable sources the country currently uses.
How to get solar energy installed
Each home and its owners are different - so it’s important to work with a certified solar installer to ensure you are getting the best solution for your property. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and be sure to read reviews online before contacting the company.
An initial site evaluation with your installer will help to create a fully custom and detailed system designed for your energy goals. Once the design is agreed and approved by the council, the installation of the panels, inverter and system monitor will begin.
Installation times and methods will vary, depending on your exact property requirements and needs. Your installer will be able to talk you through the process and provide any guidance throughout.
If you’ve been thinking of going solar for a while, now is the perfect time! Although installing a solar panel system requires an initial investment, it will set you up to save money, time and even the environment going forward in the future.
With over 20,000 properties in New Zealand reaping the benefits of solar power systems, now is the time to join them and to start reaping the many benefits of solar energy.
Want to know more information about this renewable, clean energy source? Click here for further reading on solar power in New Zealand.