Tips on how to get a solar system up and operating

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The sun shines 12 months a year in Karachi, but using its energy to power your home is easier said than done. Solar panels are popping up on the rooftops of the city but are a daunting investment that only the well-heeled may be able to afford.

The incentives are that not only do you save money on your K-Electric bill, but you can also sell units back on the grid.

Ayaz Danish from Exide Technologies provided some starting tips and advice for people interested in solar.

Related: Karachi pays higher electricity bills, but prices have not risen yet

What types of solar panel systems are there?

There are two types of solar systems: on-grid and hybrid.

On the grid
In the grid-connected system, you stay connected to the power grid and use it during the day when you produce electricity.

ADVANTAGE: If the electricity you produce is more than you use, the additional electricity is sent back into the grid. You install a network meter.

ADVANTAGE: At the end of the month you will receive the net invoice for the units used minus the units produced by your system. And if the units you produce are more than the total units used, you can get paid.
If you live in an area where there is no load shedding, you can choose the grid system. It does not provide a backup as it does not contain batteries to store solar energy.

ADVANTAGE: This is a financially cheaper option because you don’t have to spend 2-3 years replacing batteries.

Hybrid system
In the hybrid system you need batteries so that you have a backup in the event of a load shedding.

What does a solar panel system cost?

Any good solar system will last nearly 25 years and the cost per kilowatt (kW) will be between Rs 85,000 and Rs 90,000. So if you are considering installing a 10 kW system, the cost of a grid system will be around Rs 900,000 Driving a hybrid and adding batteries increases the cost by Rs 200,000 to Rs 300,000.

How much roof area do you need for a solar panel system?

On average, you will need about 30 square meters to put up panels that can generate 1 kW. This means that you can easily set up a 10 kW system on the roof of a 240 square meter house.

You need to make sure that the roof is exposed to direct sunlight. Your roof shouldn’t be surrounded by buildings that are taller than your house. There should be no shadow on your roof or it will reduce the area where solar panels can be installed.

How complicated is the maintenance of solar panels?

It is not difficult to maintain a solar panel system. All you have to do is keep the panels free of dust. When dust coats the panels, their ability to absorb sunlight is reduced. You can easily wash the panels with water or use a mop. You have to do it twice a week.

How long does it take to install a solar panel system?

The installation of the entire system including all cables and connections takes about 10 days. However, it takes approximately 5 months to maintain the network meter.

After the system is installed, an application will be sent to your local power distribution company. In Karachi, that’s K-Electric. Within 30 days, a KE representative will visit your home to verify that the system you have installed is compatible. You will then receive a cost estimate for a net meter. It will be around Rs67,000. Your application will then be forwarded to Nepra for approval as a power generator. Nepra must respond to the request within three months.

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