In our subtropical part of the world, we have an abundance of sunlight streaming down from the warm sun in the sky.
Over a year ago, we put a 3 kilowatt solar panel system on our roof to take advantage of nature's solar energy. This was in addition to our already existing solar hot water system. We took a long time to decide on the size of the system suitable for us and we are so glad that we didn't jump in and put the largest system we could afford on the roof. That would've been a 5 kilowatt system and many more panels than what we eventually decided upon. Without even seeing our bills or visiting our site, a couple of energy companies were recommending larger systems but one small installer took the time to go through our bills with us, looked at our roof and talked with us about the times of day when we use electricity the most. That installer recommended a 3 kilowatt system with capability, through our inverter, to add further panels later when battery storage becomes more affordable. I was a bit confused by this advice at first. Wouldn't it be better to just put a big system up there? In short. For Us. No.
As I was driving to the market the other morning, listening to a talkback radio caller telling the radio host how he wished he hadn't put a 5 kilowatt system on his roof at a cost of around $8,000, I felt very grateful that we had listened to our installer. That poor talkback caller felt he would've been better off not having solar at all and putting his $8,000 in the bank instead! Because he and his wife both work during the day, they use the bulk of their electricity at night when there's no sunlight hitting their panels and so their system isn't producing anything. The tariff, at around 6 - 8 cents per kilowatt, down from around 40c per kilowatt initially, is what they get paid for the excess they generate from their system. They have to pay around 24c per killowatt for the electricity they use at night. Their very expensive system saves them very little compared to their investment with the talkback caller estimating savings of between $60-$70 each quarter.
Our system, with high quality panels and inverter, cost us $4,800 and saved us $577 last year. That saving comes from less usage of electricity from the grid and from the 6c we get for each kilowatt we return to the grid. We think our investment will take between 7-8 years to pay for itself and the life of our panels extends well beyond that to approximately 20 years.
Our solar panels.
What we saved by not choosing a 5kilowatt system is sitting there waiting for when battery storage becomes a cost-effective reality for ordinary folk like us. And that time is getting closer.
Do you have solar on your roof? Are you happy with your choice of system? Why/why not?