hard hat on top of solar pannel

Sustainability, synonymous with future and savings

Saving the environment has become an increasingly prevalent concern in our daily lives. However, the successive increases in electricity prices have made the pursuit of sustainable solutions a constant reality, often becoming the primary reason for this quest.

Ensuring the future and continuous savings is essential. Nowadays, it’s hard not to notice a photovoltaic panel or a solar water heating system on a neighbour’s roof. Often, when we ponder the costs involved, we end up feeling intimidated and give up, continuing to pay for the electricity supplied by the grid, thus increasing our carbon footprint. What if it were possible to understand the workings behind all this technology that protects our environment and, at the same time, save money and lose the fear of investing?

The well-known solar energy operates by converting sunlight into electricity. This electricity can be used directly in your home, stored in batteries for use during nighttime or on cloudy and rainy days, and even injected into the grid when it is not needed, potentially resulting in a pleasant monthly surplus.

This process involves the installation of solar panels (photovoltaic panels) on your roof or in a designated space for the purpose of generating direct current (DC) electricity. This DC electricity is then converted into alternating current (AC) electricity using an inverter for the purpose, which must be hybrid if batteries are installed or if there is a future intention to do so.

Understanding what to install and how it can help reduce your monthly expenses becomes even easier when you understand the meaning of each element in your electricity bill.

Installations are generally divided into single-phase and three-phase systems. As the name suggests, the single-phase system has a single phase of energy distribution, resulting in a better utilization of the energy produced by the photovoltaic panels. The three-phase system distributes energy in three phases in your home, which must be balanced to minimise losses.

Typically, at least three to four types of tariffs can be applied. Simple tariffs charge a single rate for the consumed kilowatt-hour (kWh). The bi-hourly tariff divides into two distinct periods, which can be daily or weekly. There is also the tri-hourly tariff, which is typically applied when the contracted power for your home is higher. In this case, there are hours during the day when electricity consumption becomes significantly more expensive.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the unit of measurement that represents the amount of energy (power) used by an appliance over a period. It is almost always presented in kWh for ease of reading. For example, if a refrigerator with a power rating of 150 watts runs continuously 24/7, it consumes an average of about 108 kWh per month. Considering an average cost of €0.19 per kWh, the monthly cost is approximately €20.52.

Currently, there are variable tariffs that adjust the kWh values according to energy market fluctuations. All this information can be easily verified on your electricity bill.

We often hear terms like “Vazio”, “Ponta”, “Cheias”, and “Fora de Vazio”. What do these terms mean, and why are they so important in analysing the solution to implement in your home? These terms can indicate your consumption pattern during the day (“Ponta”, “Cheias” and “Fora de Vazio”) and at night (“Vazio”), helping to determine the installation size in kilowatts (kW) and whether the use of batteries is necessary.

Much is said about the high cost of batteries and their composition, which is becoming better. The savings reflected in our bills can provide increasingly faster returns on investment, which was not common a few years ago when the return on a system installed with batteries often occurred after the expiration of their warranty.

Drawing attention to an important factor: the quality of the installed materials. The advice is always to consider the price/quality ratio and the time the brands have been on the market or their warranties, which is especially crucial for inverters and batteries. Furthermore, technical support plays a vital role.

Photovoltaic systems typically require little maintenance, but constant fluctuations in the power grid, especially in areas with few residences, can sometimes contradict this premise. It is crucial to know that you can count on a fast and efficient repair or replacement service for components to prevent your panels from adorning your roof for long periods without energy production.

The icing on the cake is the incentives provided by the government, subject to certain rules, but you can get up to 85% of your investment, with a maximum cap. Although the process can be laborious, sometimes there are companies that offer the complete package to the customer, ensuring that it is very worthwhile.

Note that the government considered installations carried out since May 2022 in the last incentive that took place just between August and October 2023. Therefore, do not delay your installation as you can also benefit even more from the returns of your installation by selling the surplus power to the grid in a straightforward manner – this is becoming an increasingly easier process.

Additionally, remember that a solar system becomes an integral part of your home, so consider adding it to your existing insurance or taking out separate insurance to protect it. Becoming sustainable while ensuring the future by helping the environment and saving money is indeed a current reality.

Isa Conceição is the CEO of Soren – Renewable Energy Solutions, based in Almancil. She assists individual customers and small businesses seeking renewable energy solutions across Portugal. +351 910 030 423 | [email protected] | www.soren.pt