ACDC Express

Your Top 3 Solar Power Questions Answered

With loadshedding on the up and our stages getting out of control, ‘solar power’ has become a popular conversation topic amongst South Africans. 

If you’re seriously considering it, common questions you might be asking yourself are “What are your options?”, “What will it cost?”, and most importantly “Is it worth the investment?”

But where do you start with Solar Power? 

The good news is that choosing a solar power solution doesn’t have to be complicated. There are two primary options to choose from: Grid-Interactive (off-grid) and Grid-Tied.

Here’s how to pick the best solution for your needs. 

Grid-Interactive Photovoltaic System

Solar Energy is a great way to combat loadshedding

These solar systems generate clean power from sunlight and can also use power from other renewable sources. 

During the day, the system charges deep cycle solar batteries and can feed excess power into the electricity grid. At night, the system can draw power from the electricity grid.

During load shedding or a power failure, the solar system draws energy from the batteries and solar panels to meet your electricity needs. 

Advantages: 

• Eco-friendly, renewable, and sustainable power source.
• Cost-effective in the long-term, especially in comparison to generators.

Benefits: 

• Saves you money on your electrical bills.
• Access to power when the electricity grid is offline.
• More cost-effective energy source in the long-term.
• Ideal energy solution for remote locations and underdeveloped communities.

Grid-Tied Solar System 

A grid-tied solar system is a cheaper alternative for generating Solar Energy

Grid-tied solar systems are also referred to as on-grid, grid inter tied, utility-interactive or grid back feeding. Because they are tied to the grid, these solar systems don’t work in situations where your main grid is offline.

However, it is a much cheaper system to install and maintain, as less equipment is required for a grid-tied solar system.

For premises where power usage is predominantly in the daytime, a grid-tied solar system offers efficient solar power at a lower cost. 

Grid-tied solar systems can also feed power back into the main electrical grid. Here in South Africa, the municipality can offer credits or pay for the power that is fed into the grid this way, which will offset the cost of installation even further. Sadly the amount that municipalities currently pay for feed-in electricity is between one-third and 5% of the tariff they charge for power.

Advantages: 

• No need for expensive batteries.
• Low-cost installation. 

Benefits: 

• Lower daytime electricity bills.
• Less overhead and maintenance costs.

What will it cost?

Let’s look at the components required for a solar power solution. To capture the power of the sun and convert it into usable alternating current, you need the following:

  • Photovoltaic module (solar panel)
  • Inverter
  • Power management unit
  • Energy storage (for grid-interactive systems)


Solar panels are a lot cheaper now and offer better energy efficiency than just a few years ago. A 420W panel costs around R2,545.

Many inverters are built with solar charge controllers (also known as MPPT), UPS and power management so that you only use this one system between your solar panels and your building’s power grid. These inverters can tend to cost between R7,600 and R55,000, depending on your power requirements and usage.

The storage of solar power for later use is where the biggest cost lies, depending on your storage space available. With a large space, a rack of cheaper batteries can be used, especially if you have low power requirements. For higher performance and when space is at a premium, lithium batteries are the better alternative. A 5KWh, 48VDC that stores 100Ah can cost R28,000, while a 104Wh, 8ah battery costs R900.

Is it worth the investment?

Solar power systems are a costly investment, but they do pay for themselves over time. Hopefully one day the feed-in rate will be higher or a rebate will incentivise installing more solar panels. The added benefit is using that using renewable energy reduces the demand for power that requires fossil fuels.

In this article, the cost of the solar installation is recouped in seven years. This calculation excluded the increased value of the property for resale, which can increase by 3 to 4% and is advertised as an extra by realtors.

For advice on which solar power solution is best for YOU, visit your nearest ACDC Express store and talk to one of our friendly staff members.

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