Solar payback at the lowest it's ever been..
Joe Freyne, CEO, Swyft Energy
A proposed change in planning legislation contained in the new Programme For Government could herald a quiet revolution that will see Ireland generate 5% of its electrical needs from its rooftops.
Solar PV (photovoltaic)and battery storage technology allows householders, businesses and farms to generate their own clean energy, saving up to 70% on the cost of an annual electricity bill.
It is currently the most attractive option for many households who want to make a conscious contribution to a green future.
However, the Green Party’s key strategy of removing the current restrictions of 50% of roof space, or 12m2 for solar panels, will open the doors on a renewal energy revolution that could see each household form a two-way relationship with the national grid.
Green energy generation is not just about wind or wave in Ireland. In terms of sunlight hours and PV production, Ireland is comparable with Germany which is one of the largest solar powered nations in the world, producing 8% of its overall needs.
Even in so-called low-light conditions, on cloudy or rainy days, or at dusk, quality solar PV systems keep producing relatively high output – and pay back their purchase cost in the first seven to nine years of a 25 year-plus lifespan.
Solar PV technology uses sunlight, either direct or diffused, to create a physical response which sees the solar cells generate a direct current.
The electrical current produced at the terminals of the solar modules flows through the connected cable to an inverter, where it is converted to alternating current so that it can be used by electrical equipment.
The key to capitalising on this energy when it is needed lies in the use of a battery, which captures the excess electricity generated by solar to power your home in the evenings.
We integrate our solar PV systems with a smart programmable battery, meaning that it is able to charge at night from the national grid, using electricity which is statistically more likely to coming from a green source such as wind.
If plans for reform of current legislation contained in the Programme For Government are implemented, the Irish solar PV market will follow a similar growth trajectory to Germany.
Removing planning restrictions on roof space will mean that the majority of homes in Ireland could maximise their levels of self-sufficiency in electrical usage, sparking a quiet revolution in green energy.
An EU directive is in force that gives citizens the right to sell electricity back into the National Grid, which will create a revenue stream for households and businesses.
The Government has a clear choice when it comes to setting this feed-in tariff for microgeneration.
If it is too low, it will not generate a high take up, but if it is in the right area then it will be hugely net positive for more households and businesses to convert to solar PV and produce green energy.
When Germany and the UK introduced feed-in tariffs, their solar PV markets experienced massive growth.
In Ireland, this will create green jobs and mean huge opportunities for businesses, schools and community structures, which have large amount of roof space, to generate income by selling back into the grid.
After starting out as an online marketplace for tradespeople two years ago, Swyft Energy identified a need for technology in the energy controls market and developed a successful online platform which simplifies the installation of energy products.
In that time we have grown to a staff of 30 and an 80-strong nationwide network of installers.
The next stage of our platform development will enable a customer to get an instant quote using artificial intelligence technology, based on the size and orientation of their house. Homeowners will also be able to build customised solar PV packages online to suit their requirements.
We see the marriage of our technology and our industry-leading products as bringing a new dimension to the solar PV market, and allowing people to seamlessly evolve their homes into greener energy spaces.
Solar PV has to be viewed as a long-term investment with a minimum estimated lifetime of 25 years.
It is vital that the consumer purchases industry-leading solar panels, batteries and inverters that carry extended warranties that will cover this time period as standard – as shorter warranties will invalidate savings.
We use Q Cells systems from Germany which are guaranteed for 20 years, built for real-life conditions and recognised for their particularly good performance with diffused light.
Even at a very low irradiation of 200 watts per square metre (W/m²) – a cloudy day in Ireland – a Q Cell solar module still achieves 98% of its original efficiency.
An investment of €5,000 in a 2KW solar PV system will produce savings of up to €400 per year on the average electricity bill, or €10,000 over 25 years.
A solar PV system can also increase Building Energy Rating and, as a result, the list price of a property.
An empirical study conducted by Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics on the Price Effect of Building Energy Ratings in the Dublin Residential Market found that a one point improvement in the BER scale yields a list price increase of 1%.
As an example, we recently installed a six panel solar PV system with fully integrated smart heating controls to a three bedroom semi-detached property in Cork, resulting in an improvement in BER from a C2 to a B2 rating.
This resulted in a three-point improvement on the BER scale equivalent to a potential 3% increase in the list price of the property or €10,500.
The total outlay for the system was €4,999 after grants, resulting in a potential profit of €5,501 if the homeowner was to sell their property.
The SEAI offers grants to homeowners installing Solar PV and battery storage provided you meet certain installation criteria and your property was built prior to 2011.
The grants offer homeowners up to €900 per kWp of installed power up to 2kWp and €300 for every additional kW of power installed up to 4kWp provided you install battery storage.
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