The Climate Conversations: Tips for powering your home with solar panels
Solar prices have dipped dramatically over the last decade but installing these energy-saving panels is not necessarily cheap nor straightforward. Julie Yoo asks Bolong Chew, founder of the start-up Solar AI, what are the challenges and long-term benefits of going green in The Climate Conversations podcast.
SINGAPORE: When Bolong Chew joined the solar industry, he heard customers say that when they asked their architects about installing solar panels in their homes, they were told it would cost at least S$100,000. That was the cost of installing rooftop solar set-ups five years ago.
The 31-year-old startup founder of Solar AI says costs have gone down significantly and yet adoption is slow-going.
From about 2015 globally, the cost of rooftop solar has already fallen below any other kind of fossil fuel energy. But looking around Singapore, you rarely see rooftop solar panels installed.
If solar is already cheaper, why isn’t adoption much higher?
One of the reasons he believes is a lack of awareness and misconception about how the product works.
Despite this though, Chew says installing solar is worth the effort, time and cost.
“If you talk about greening the grid for Singapore, solar is probably still the best available option out there.”
Chew outlined some basic tips for installing solar panels on roofs:
COSTS AND BENEFITS OF INSTALLING SOLAR
Breaking even for each homeowner depends on three factors: The number of panels on their roof, their energy consumption patterns and their electricity bill. After comparing monthly utility savings to the total cost of installation for more than 500 homes, Chew estimates that the average homeowner breaks even at about seven years.
SOLAR PANELS SHOULD BE AS FLAT AS POSSIBLE
"In Singapore, because we are on the equator, the angle of your solar panels does not change the solar irradiance (output of light energy from the entire disk of the sun as measured from earth). Instead, the flatter your panels are, the more sunlight it captures,” said Chew.
EVEN PARTIAL SHADE CAN BE A PROBLEM
Solar panels are connected in a string, known as solar panel arrays, to generate electricity as a system. If just one panel is shaded by a tree, it can reduce the amount of electricity generated by other connected panels.
THE MATERIAL OF YOUR ROOF MATTERS
“Homeowners with older roofs, especially tile roofs which might be brittle, may want to consider doing waterproofing at the same time," said Chew, adding that "metal or concrete roofs … are non-penetrating in terms of installation, so it is really fuss free”.
For the full conversation, listen to this episode on what homeowners should know about installing solar panels.