To live off the electricity grid, says Duncan Palmer from the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, you need a number of solar panels, a wind turbine (depending on where you live), an inverter and some batteries. ‘Solar energy from the sun is harvested with photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert the solar energy directly into electrical energy. An electrician wires the inverter into your existing electrical reticulation circuit.’
‘To sustain normal electricity habits and supply a regular house, you will need about 6kW of PV panels, which will cost around R210 000,’ says Riaan Meyer, from the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at the University of Stellenbosch.‘Adding the inverter, batteries and other components will up it to R500 000 – pricey, but you’re investing in 20 years’ worth of electricity.’
But while an entire solar power system may be out of reach of most people’s budgets, there are some simple steps you can take to lighten the load. According to Eskom, a household’s largest electricity expense is water heating, which typically accounts for 40–50% of the monthly bill. Installing a solar geyser system to cater for the needs of a family of four will cost between R14 000 and R24 000, says Cobus Roux of Home Comfort (www.homecomfort.co.za), an accredited supplier on the Eskom Solar Programme. If used properly, says Roux, it can save up to 33 – 40% of the electricity bill of an average house and will pay for itself in two to three years.
Eskom’s Solar Water Heating Programme offers a rebate to consumers who have purchased and installed a solar water heater through an approved supplier, like Solsquare. The value of the rebate is determined by how much electricity the solar system will displace (see www.eskomdsm.co.za