Have you ever thought about installing a solar energy system but heard a rumour it will cost $50,000 and you won’t be able to sell the power back to BELCO, or the roof panels could get blown off?
None of these rumours are true, but still many people believe them and as a result, decide against installing solar energy.
In this article, the team from Bermuda Engineering Company identify the most common myths surrounding solar energy and explain why your concerns are unfounded.
• You cannot sell electricity back to BELCO.
Reality: BELCO has paid homeowners for electricity fed back into the grid for several years. Many homes across Bermuda are already receiving credits for the electricity they produce, and more are being added every week.
• Solar energy systems cost $50,000.
Reality: The average home can install a solar system large enough to generate all of its electricity for $10,000-$16,000.
Systems can also be financed through a loan, or added to a mortgage, so you could save more money each month on your electricity bill than your payment costs for the solar energy system.
• Solar panels are not hurricane-proof.
Reality: Properly engineered solar energy systems are designed to withstand 150mph winds, and are tied in to the rafters more securely than roof tile.
There have been examples of homes in the US where the only roof remaining after a hurricane is where the solar panels were located.
• Solar energy is more expensive than electricity from BELCO.
Reality: Solar electricity generation systems installed in Bermuda routinely generate electricity for 11-15 cents per kilowatt hour. Electricity from BELCO costs 30-47 cents per kilowatt hour, so solar is less than half the cost of BELCO, and sometimes more than 75 per cent cheaper.
• Solar energy systems take 20 years to pay for themselves.
Reality: Solar energy systems in Bermuda usually pay for themselves within five to seven years.
• Solar technology cannot provide enough power for your home.
Reality: With careful attention to energy efficiency, most homes can produce more solar energy than they need, completely eliminating their electricity bill.
• The Government does not support solar energy.
Reality: The Government directly encourages solar energy by providing rebates of up to $5,000 for solar electricity generation systems and up to $1,500 for solar water heating systems, since 2009.
• The Department of Planning will not allow solar panels.
Reality: Since the summer of 2012, the majority of residential solar energy systems have been classified as permitted development, so only a building permit is required to begin construction, which takes about a week to obtain.
To date, hundreds of solar energy systems have been installed in homes across Bermuda with few, if any, being refused planning permission.
• A solar energy system needs batteries.
Reality: Most homes with solar energy systems remain connected to the electricity grid, drawing electricity from BELCO at night and selling electricity back to BELCO during the day, so batteries are not required.
• Solar energy is a bad investment.
Reality: Solar energy systems can outperform many conventional investments by offering a low-risk, high-return alternative, that you physically own.
Whatever happens in the markets, there will always be demand for electricity. Typical internal rates of return range from 14 to 20 per cent, far exceeding current market rates for other popular investments.
• Solar is a new and unproven technology.
Reality: Solar water heating and electricity generation technologies have been around for more than 60 years, operating in some of the harshest environments known to mankind.
Solar panels are a mature technology, produced by a multi-billion dollar manufacturing sector that has decades of experience and stringent quality control standards in place.
• Solar panels are inefficient — you should wait for their performance to improve.
Reality: Cars are only about 15-20 per cent efficient at converting the chemical energy in gasoline to kinetic energy that actually moves the vehicle, but that doesn’t stop most people buying one, because they still get you from A to B.
Modern residential solar panels are also about 15-20 per cent efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, and can generate enough electricity to power most homes, so efficiency should not stop you from buying a solar energy system.
While efficiency has improved gradually over the past few decades, further improvements are limited by theoretical limits that cannot be exceeded.
• You should wait for the cost of solar to fall.
Reality: The cost of solar electricity generation systems fell dramatically between 2008 and early 2012, but prices have since stabilised.
Because electricity produced from fossil fuels is so much more expensive than solar electricity, it could cost you a lot more to wait than if you installed a solar energy system tomorrow.
In addition, the Government rebates are likely to reduce in the future, so the installed cost of your system could actually increase.
For more information call 279-5907 or see www.bermudaengineering.com