Time to go solar

It is time to go solar as the price has come down significantly.

There has never been a better moment to consider going solar than right now. The cost of installation has dropped dramatically, and according to Ted Blom we can expect at the very least a 15% increase in the price of electricity in 2016, and probably a lot more, for the foreseeable future. Eskom is bankrupt.

They are in 2019 calling for a doubling of the price in the next two years.

Perhaps the most compelling reason is that when your neighbours turn on their generator, because the grid has failed yet again for one reason or another, you will be smiling. Keeping your sensitive electronic equipment on your own power means far less damage from mains surges and lightening. And of course you will be saving the planet from greenhouse gases.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 2 November, 2019.

West facing solar panels on our green home.

By Bernard Preston



The price of large solar panels has dropped to under R3000; it is best to use the larger panels because the price of installing a small one is the same as a massive one; so, as I have often said, go as big as you can from the very start.

Having said that, the most efficient PV panel apparently is the 270 watts. Just one will fire up 50 LED light bulbs. Ten would keep a kettle boiling all day, or the oven roasting a chicken.

Until the fairly recent past, the modus operandi was watch one installation, do one yourself, and then teach someone else how to do it. Fly by night electricians made for a lot of unhappy customers. I could have even done one myself. But there is a sophistication about building a solar farm that is not to be learned by installing a few projects.

I have just learned myself, for example, six years later that there was a better way to configure my batteries and it has made a difference.

Look for a company where you can get the service and backup you need; people you can talk to and keep you happy.

A local very experienced company doing large installations is now advertising 5 kW of panels, a relatively sound GoodWe 8 kW Chinese inverter and a 7kWh battery pack for around R200,000, though I would recommend rather more batteries. Lithium right now is probably the best, because you can drain them without damage, though new graphine state of the art batteries are apparently on the way.

The older generation lead crystal batteries do require extra care, but ours are still fine after six years.

There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell more cheaply, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey.

- John Ruskin

Another experienced Pietermaritzburg company will install an excellent 10kW South African inverter and 7.4kW Lithium battery, with 2500W of panels, all for around R230,000, this is at the end of 2019.

There are four brands of inverters manufactured in South Africa; should equipment fail it can easily and quickly be repaired. I use one of them, called Microcare; I am very satisfied.

When in doubt about a prospective installer, phone the manufacturer and ask if they can recommend the company.

You can do the numbers but remembering that we use only about R50 per month of electricity, plus the connection fee to cope with rainy days, with a minimum of 15% annual increase, and the convenience of your own clean power, is it not time to go solar? After six years my own solar farm is paid off and every year now financially speaking is in the pink.

This article in the Natal Witness was originally written in 2016, but updated in late 2019.

Time to go solar

Time to go solar whether just for the preservation of the planet, keeping carbon-dioxide levels down, or simply available power when the grid fails.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. Time to go solar

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