When considering Solar Panels, I kind of turned my idea of savings on its head. Instead of putting monthly savings into an investment and watching them grow. What if I used that money and put it into investing solar energy into our home? The savings that we make would be money gained at the end of each month that hadn’t been spent on the energy that we use. The question is of course will they give us a worthwhile return on our investment?
For many years the issue has been that the amount put in is supposed to finance panels for a period of 20 years. The concern has been that although the panels may last that long, they might not be totally efficient for that long, so the returns at the end might not be as strong as those at the end.
New panels made in China have recently been hitting the market and making the initial investment much cheaper. I have been considering these panels for some time so now it is time to look much deeper and see if I could make savings this way.
Making yourself more self sufficient can only be a good thing in terms of releasing you from potential price rises that may become unaffordable. Going a step further and taking yourself off the grid can help you to avoid politics and price volatility. Prices have certainly risen dramatically in the last few years. We already have stories of many who cannot afford to heat their homes. I see no reason for prices to go down long term as the supply of oil continues to be an issue. So any potential savings at the moment may actually go up over the years.
Of course savings aside this could be seen to be an ethical choice in terms of relieving pressure from other unsustainable forms of energy production. However I currently only use a supply tariff that is 100% from renewable sources so this does not really apply to me but may to anyone who is not on such a tariff.
Things that I have found out:
- There can be a real fall off in energy efficiency after the first 6 years. So although you might make great headway into paying off your initial investment at first, thing may slow down considerably after this time. This might be a warning against installing cheaper systems if you wish to continue making money after you have paid off your system.
- Some manufacturers have got costs down by using less efficient but cheaper materials in production. One of these elements is Cadmium, known as having very nasty effects on people. This might be a consideration in which company you choose as a provider. For me the pollution and health issues associated with cadmium mining and handling would be something that I would wish to stay away from. First solar is a company that makes use of Cadmium and has the fastest energy payback time. Time to see where your ethics stand!
- The efficiency of the photovoltaic cells is not the only consideration in your equation when considering solar. You also need to look at the angle and location of your panels. Some companies offer solar tracking technology, but you would need to weigh up the figures to see whether this is a worthwhile investment in a family home for example. Sharp Solar have managed to layer the cells, creating multi-junction solar cells which generate a greater electricity production potential. Mirrors have also been used to concentrate the solar rays.
I took much of my information from Exploring Green Technology.com which offers far more comprehensive information on this subject.