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Homeowners warm up to solar energy

In recent years, more homeowners are warming up to renewable energy, with the number of solar panel installations increasing nearly four times.

SINGAPORE: In recent years, more homeowners are warming up to renewable energy, with the number of solar panel installations increasing nearly four times.

For those reluctant to fork out the installation costs, there are other options. These include an upcoming crowd-leasing initiative that allows installation without any upfront costs.

Installing solar panels on your roof-top could set you back S$10,000. For those who baulk at the amount, one company has a solution. 

From late July, SolarPVExchange will match investors with homeowners who want to install solar panels. Investors will pay for the installation costs.

With the solar panels, homeowners enjoy lower electricity bills. They pay a percentage of the amount they save to the investors for the next 20 years.

Investors can expect to get a minimum of five per cent return. 

Gary Ow, 29, is one of the five investors who has signed up. He will be forking out about S$8,000.

Ow said: "I'm interested in the green movement, I want to save the environment in some small way. Investors in the company, or the system, get a regular steady return.

"It's not going to make anyone phenomenally rich, but if you're interested in regular cash in your pocket every month, it's okay."

Recognising the market potential, the company also matches suppliers with customers.

Customers can visit its website to check the viability of installing solar panels and get quotations. 

Another company tapping into a growing interest in solar technology is Sunseap Leasing.

It now receives about 30 enquiries each month, compared to five per month in 2010. 

Frank Phuan, director of Sunseap Leasing, said: "One reason is because solar panel prices have dropped over the years. Since 2009 till now, the prices have dipped more than half."

Two years ago, 28-year-old Jeanne Phua spent about S$7,500 to install solar panels on her rooftop. 

She now sees a 10 per cent reduction of about S$80 in her monthly electricity bills.

"If we are going to stay here for a pretty long period of time, we'll be able to enjoy a lot more cost-savings," said Phua.

With the purchase, her contractor also provides regular maintenance and cleaning services for the panels. 

In 2011, there were only 35 residential solar panel installations islandwide. Two years later, the number has increased to 129.

As of end 2013, the capacity of the grid-connected solar panels in residential and non-residential properties accounts for only 0.12 per cent of Singapore's overall power generation capacity. 

Despite the technological advancements, many home owners are still reluctant to install solar panels. They felt that there wasn't enough information available on this topic, and that the upfront costs were still too high.

The government is also encouraging more to use solar power. 

Homeowners can sell excess electricity generated from solar panels back to the power grid. They are paid the energy cost of the electricity they export into the grid. This amount is then offset from their electricity bill.

As of April 2014, there are 280 landed homeowners and town councils under this credit scheme. 

With more options than ever for homeowners, prospects for solar energy are looking bright but suppliers say they will need to generate more awareness so that more will come on board.

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