Solar Power Case Study
This entry was posted on March 1, 2013.
Schalk Cloete is an environmentally conscious South African living in Norway, where a climate low on sunshine and wind makes microgeneration unfeasible. However, he convinced his parents, who live in Paarl, to adopt an eco-friendly method of powering their home in sunny South Africa. He approached Sustainable.co.za with his request.
Schalk wanted the process to go as smoothly as possible, without causing unnecessary disruption in his parents’ busy lives; it was important to him that they should have a positive experience with their switch to renewable energy, which would encourage them to recommend it to their friends as well.
His parents were using about 700kWh per month (23kWh per day). He was also eager for them to install a solar water heater so they could make their household energy usage as cost effective as possible.
Our Initial Suggestion
We were able to address Schalk’s concerns about installation time by letting him know how quick and easy it is to place an order online with Sustainable.co.za – 3 to 5 working days for system design, a further 3 to 5 days for system and accessories prep, 1 week to schedule an installer and a maximum of 3 days to complete the installation process.
Our initial recommendation was that Schalk’s parents choose a grid-tied hybrid system with battery back-up. While the initial investment would be higher, this system would offer the highest levels of reliability and independence; the system would be able to function independently of the national grid during the hours that black out might occur. We estimated a budget of R150 000 to R160 000 for this project. Working on the assumption that solar water heating makes up 30% of the average household load, we estimated a maximum installation cost of R25 000 for the solar water heating system.
The switch to solar water heating would effectively reduce the household’s load from 700kWh to 490kWh per month – a mere 16kWh per day. We recommended a 3kWp solar system with 12-hour battery backup, at an approximate installation cost of R135 000 to provide 90% of the home's reduced consumption.
While Schalk liked the idea of a fully independent system, he felt that his parents might find the initial investment a bit steep, considering sustainable energy was unknown territory to them. He suggested starting small, with a lower initial cost and the opportunity to add more capacity at a later stage.
To prove to his parents that solar energy is effective and totally hassle-free, Schalk suggested starting with a 1 to 1.5kWp system of grid tied panels with no battery back up, as well as a solar water heater.
Following this feedback, we recommended to Schalk that his parents purchase our 1.2kWp grid tied system (R30 160 plus mounting and installation), and a solar water heating kit (which includes a solar geyser, a pump kit and tube collectors) that would suit their practical and aesthetic preferences (approximately R3 500 for installation). This solar power solution would provide 6.5kWh per day of free solar power – covering one third of the home’s overall electrical usage.
Mr and Mrs Cloete now have a reliable, cost effective renewable energy system for their home, which can be easily upgraded in the years to come. Below is a graph detailing their system’s performance from installation onwards – they plan to keep monitoring it throughout the year.
“We had some reservations about solar power” says Alta Cloete, Schalk’s mother; “mostly due to an unhappy experience we had with the installation of a solar water system years ago (probably in the late 80s or early 90s).” However, she found our installation team’s professionalism a “pleasant surprise”, particularly as they were willing to work in the week leading up to Christmas. Alta reports that various neighbours have already started asking for details about the project. We hope the Cloete family’s eco-friendly move will prompt more people in their community to embrace renewable energy.