How To Get A Solar Electric System: A Comprehensive Guide
Planning to get a solar panel system to generate electricity?
At Insolergy, we believe that an informed consumer is capable of making better solar investment decisions. That’s why we are starting the Green Homes series, articles on Residential Solar projects, of which this is the first post.
We made this guide on how to get a solar panel system for home, with steps that cover the entire process.
You may use this guide to familiarize yourself with the process before hiring a solar power company. You may even refer to it for tips or as a checklist to ask the right questions while selecting a solar provider. No matter how common solar installations have become, they still require technical expertise and experience. The solar power provider you get on-board must know how to deal with these aspects.
A Guide On How To Get Solar Electric System
1. Understand existing electricity consumption profile
How much electricity is used at your house is an important factor in deciding whether to go solar or not. Well, solar installation is a long-term investment, where you can enjoy the returns for over 25 years. Solar is based on a “Fit it, and forget it” policy. But if the initial calculations do not show a break even period which is good enough to justify this investment, then it is not worth going solar.
Understanding your existing consumption profile also helps to determine the power requirement of your home from solar energy. Check out this solar power calculator. It takes number of unites consumed and electricity bill amount per month and gives an approximate idea of rate of return, annual savings and break-even period.
If you live in a residential society, then use this solar calculator find out the electricity consumption of your common utilities like lift, water pump, etc. Don’t be surprised if you find out that solar can actually reduce your society maintenance charges drastically!
2. Identify optimum dependency level on solar electricity
At this stage, as a home owner, you must ask yourself as to how much dependency do you want on solar energy.
Your solar energy output expectation impacts your solar system design, capacity, size and hence the cost.
It is a common tendency to assume amongst households to assume they can power everything via solar power. It may be beneficial to consider economic and practical factors at this point.
Related Post: Should you go 100% solar?
Residential societies (multi-storey buildings), for example, usually solarize their common areas instead of supplying solar energy to individual apartments. This is usually due to available roof-space and the fact that one single larger solar plant has better economics than many smaller individual solar plants adding up to the same size.
Vacation home or second-home owners in remote areas may face constant power cuts and are largely dependent on UPS and diesel generators. They can decide to install solar panels to reduce their dependency on generators or limitations faced by a typical inverter.
Similarly, independent home owners or bungalow residents may have a different requirement.
Availability of electricity from the main supply is also taken into account.
3. Assess usable shadow-free area for solar panel installation
Just because there may be some open space available at home on the roof, garden or driveway does not make guarantee its suitability for Solar power generation.
a. Identify shadow free areas
A slight shadow from overarching trees, boundary wall, water tank, etc. may restrict sunlight and cast shadows impacting the production and efficiency of the solar plant.
b. Evaluate type and condition of rooftop or ground space
The type of roof must be surveyed. Is it tiled or flat? How much area is occupied by other utilities? What are the obstructions and the height of these obstructions? The objective is to identify the spot that receives strong and ample sunlight for the maximum hours of the day.
Normally a system of 10 kWp Solar Plant will require around 850 sq. ft. of shadow free space.
A residential solar company will typically send their experts for site survey to analyze the open space available considering these and many other factors. So you may have a requirement of 10 kWp solar PV system but if the usable area available is not big enough to support it, then that must be known before performing the cost-benefit analysis of the project.
4. Design the Solar PV system
It is critical that a Solar PV system is designed considering not just installation but also lifetime operation & maintenance aspects. At times, the consumer may be tempted to remove certain features that actually add to the reliability and safety of the system to cut costs. Specifically, the material used for the:
- Mounting structure (viz. Painted Structural Steel v/s. Galvanized Structure Steel)
- Protective devices (viz. voltage surge protection, lightening arrestors, etc.)
- Properly sized AC and DC cables (smaller than optimum sizes can increase losses and lead to fire hazard due to excessive heating).
At the same time, it is also important not to oversize the equipment, by which the system may get costlier without adding any significant value to its performance or safety.
5. Assess cost-benefit
After taking components such as power consumption, available space and budget into account, the solar power expert drafts a statement of assessment. This statement shows:
- Savings generated by going solar, typically in Rs. saved per annum
- Payback period, typically in Years
- Rate of Return, to compare it against other financial investments
6. Check eligibility for solar subsidy
To incentivise adoption of Solar Energy by residential consumers the Government of India offers subsidies on installation of Solar PV Plant via various programs.
The value of subsidy amount is 30% of the benchmark cost as fixed by the Government.
There are certain additional requirements for eligibility, the most important one being the use of Indian manufactured solar panels. There are many good domestic brands available for sale, technically at par with their foreign competitors.
7. Evaluate solar financing options
Many solar companies have tie-ups with financial institutions such as banks to give customers easier access to loans, etc.
In case you are considering financing your solar project, read more about it at solar finance in India.
8. Purchase solar PV system components
If the solar company that you get on-board provides turnkey solutions, then you really don’t have to worry about buying solar panel components on your own. They are also known as solar EPC providers. EPC stands for Engineering, Procurement and Commissioning. In fact, as a homeowner, you just have to sit back and relax once you hire a solar EPC company as they take care of everything from start to finish.
Also note that solar panel is just one of the components of the solar PV system. Other main components include inverter, cables, mounting structure, electrical and safety equipment and batteries.
Related article: About efficiency of solar panels
9. Install the system
Solar panel installation process can take anytime between a few days to a fortnight, depending on the complexities involved.
In most cases, the solar PV system is ready to start generating power from the day it is installed.
Your solar provider must provide access to the panels and other equipment, when installing them, for maintenance.
At Insolergy, we also ensure that the Solar PV system blends into the aesthetics its surroundings. This is particularly beneficial for bungalows.
10. Apply for net metering for grid-tied solar
Grid connected solar system users can apply for net metering.
Related Article: What is grid-connected solar system and net metering?
Under net metering agreement, the user gets to export excess energy produced by Solar Plant during day time, and use it again when needed. The user is billed for only the NET (import minus export) energy usage for any given month. In case the energy exported in a month is more than import, the balance is carried forward to the next month for use (within the period of financial year).
Net-metering procedures are now available in most of the states, with slight differences in actual process. In Maharashtra, any eligible consumer, with sanctioned load between 1 kW or above can apply for net metering. The solar plant size, eligible for net-metering is 1 kW to 1000 kW.
Your solar plant installer should be able to help you with the application and installation process.
11. Maintain your solar panel system
Solar PV plants are the easiest to maintain. The only regular activity required is cleaning of solar panels. Additionally, as all the critical components are covered under manufacturer’s warranty (Solar Panels: 25 years | Inverters: 5 to 10 years), the consumer doesn’t really need to worry about any recurring expenses on repairs.
Most of the good solar plant installers offer some kind of workmanship warranty, which allow the consumers to avail their troubleshooting services at a discounted rate, or for free, depending upon the type of problem.
For small residential solar system users with install capacity of 5 kWp or less, it doesn’t make financial sense for consumers to pay for cleaning of panels. In this case, homeowners can easily maintain solar panels without professional help.
However, for larger systems, AMC can be beneficial. Especially, residential societies must consider solar AMC, similar to any other kind of services like lift maintenance, etc.
Annual maintenance contract is different from workmanship warranty.
Don’t forget to check with your solar expert about both the AMC and the workmanship warranty.