Understanding Solar Energy Systems for Your Home


    Renewable energy opportunities are blossoming in Nigeria and deciding to convert your home to a solar energy system has many advantages. However, there are several issues to consider before making the jump from the grid.

    Solar energy systems are constructed with special photovoltaic (PV) panels. These systems collect sunlight throughout the day and convert it into electrical power. The system is made up of individual PV panels. Different grades of PV panels have more capacity than others, but they also cost more. While cost may be a consideration, the area where the system will be constructed will determine the type of panels that will be needed. Thus the average daily electric usage within the home has to be measured and that then equated to the specific grade of PV panels that will be used in the system. There are other parts of the system and allows the converted power to enter the home.

    The panels are always arranged in a manner to collect as much sunlight as possible. Some systems have adjusting reflectors that can be set to capture the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day. However, nearby obstructions, such as overhanging trees or shadows from tall buildings, can reduce the amount of sunlight that reached the panels and accordingly reduces the amount of electricity that is produced.

    If the needed number of PV panels do not fit on the roof, they will have to be placed in an adjacent area. This is usually not desirable for residential use.

    The home system, as noted, will either be connected to the existing utility system or “the grid,” a term used because utility companies usually have a connection with another utility to supply emergency or backup power. So as one system connects to another system, a grid network is formed. The other option is a system of batters to provide power at night.

    The primary benefit of a solar energy system is that the homeowner is producing his own electricity. The cost should stay constant over the years, unlike the local utility company, which must adjust its rates based on the cost of coal, natural gas or other fuel source used to create steam to run the generators, which produce electricity.

    There is no pollution from a solar energy system. In addition, any excess electricity can be sold to the local utility.

    However, since no fuel is purchased by the homeowner to generate electricity, the amount paid per kilowatt hour by the local utility will be relatively small. Furthermore, the presence of a solar power system will usually increase the value of a home.

    Finally, these are systems to be installed by a qualified professional. If the panels are going to be installed on the roof, steps have to be taken to make certain the roof can handle the extra weight.

    Any roof that is more than 10 years old should be checked to determine if additional reinforcing or replacement is needed. While a solar power system can be very cost efficient, it is not a project to be done in haste.

    There is a considerable upfront expense to install the system that will be recovered over several years by the various tax credits and by not having to purchase electricity.

    There are other issues to check. These include zoning ordinances, homeowner association restrictions and the amount of sunlight that may be blocked by trees or other buildings. I recommend reading more about renewable energy potential in Nigeria as well as checking out Modernize for solar information and inspiration. Also ask local solar companies in the country those important questions before having them install one for you.
    By Tim Smith