Residential

Switching to solar is about more than just affordability

Solar panels

With Eskom’s and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) continued legal battles, a spectre of a rumoured 10% tariff hike for April 2021 will force many cash-strapped households and businesses to ask what this entails for them.

Added to the sporadic implementation of load shedding, it becomes clear why many may be considering solar PV installations and who may have started comparing the costs relating to the installation of a PV system versus a monthly electricity bill and ongoing tariff increases.

Niveshen Govender, COO of the South African Solar Photovoltaic Industry (SAPVIA) says that affordability is not the main and only aspect to be considered. “To ensure safe and legal installations, home or small business owners should follow specific guidelines before committing to and installing a PV system.”

The most common way to differentiate a solar rooftop installation is via the connection to the electrical load or grid:

  • Grid-Tied / Connected with reverse power blocking: the property is connected to the national grid but blocks any excess electricity generated from feeding back onto the grid.
  • Grid-Tied / Connected: electricity generated can be used at the property and any surplus can be directed back into the grid. In some cases, this feedback is compensated for.
  • Off-Grid / Standalone: off-grid PV systems usually have batteries and a charge controller. The PV system generates electricity for use onsite and it operates independently of the national grid.

If you install a grid-tied system you will need to register and to request approval from your distribution authority. Most municipalities that allow this have the necessary documentation on their website.

You need to verify if your service provider has adequate experience in PV installations and is a registered member of the SAPVIA, Electrical Contractors Association (ECASA) or the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) where required. The SAPVIA PV GreenCard is a safety certification.

Prior to being certified and registered on the PV GreenCard database, PV installers undergo specialized training and assessments, an assurance that they are familiar and compliant with all the relevant national standard and municipal regulations. On completion of installation, a certified PV GreenCard installer will issue the client a document which details the PV system’s specifications as well as a checklist that all required installation steps were completed to the required standard.  

During installation, the management of the health and safety of the contractor on site is important. You need to ensure that the component (solar PV modules, inverters, mounting systems, suitable DC circuit breakers etc.) specification and warranties documents are in place and explained. Remember, a grid-tied system can only be connected once the municipal authority grants permission in writing.

Post installation request an original Electrical Certificate of Compliance and Quality Assurance Certificate to safeguard against any damage or casualties and any guarantees. A Quality Assurance Certificate such as a PV GreenCard includes important information on the equipment used and technical details of the installation.

If you are unhappy with your installation, you can request an inspection from an Authorized Inspection Authority (AIA) registered with the Department of Labour, the ECASA ombudsman or an independent consultant.