Solar energy use in home design
‘The sun is a constant source of energy.
Everyday it provides us with 5000 times as much energy as
the whole world needs.’ (Unknown)
In the 1950s and '60s efficient energy use
was often neglected in constructing buildings and houses,
but the high energy prices of the 1970s changed that. Some
buildings built in the 80’s use only about 20% of the
energy used in buildings constructed just ten years earlier.
Techniques to save energy include designing and siting
buildings to use passive solar heat, avoiding overlighting,
and using better insulation. A “life-cycle” approach, which
takes into account the total costs over the entire life of
the building, rather than simply the initial construction
cost or sales price, is encouraging greater efficiency.
SOLAR ENERGY IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is one of the areas in the world
with the highest count of sunny days per year in the world
therefore making it also one of the most appropriate places
in the world to use solar power energy should that be the
only reason for using them.
A photovoltaic sell uses the sun’s light to
create an electric current and not the heat of the sun as is
commonly thought. A photovoltaic sell actually decreases in
efficiency when the sell is heated extremely because of the
resistance building up in the material. Because of the above
fact, one can see that these photovoltaic panels is actually
less efficient in very warm climates. South Africa, in
summertime, can be extremely hot and could cause a
photovoltaic panel on certain summer days to work less
efficient although not as significantly as 25% less
efficient as it is said can be lost in desert-type climates.
Cost efficiency & economy
Eskom South Africa provides our country with
some of the cheapest conventional unsustainable electricity
costs in the world, and that is the main reason for solar
energy technology not taking off in South Africa. Although a
number of solar thermal panels is in operation, even in
residential buildings in the country, photovoltaic panels
was up to date just not cost effective enough to justify the
money saved using conventional electricity for manufacturers
making them available on a large scale. Because of the
uncommonness and unavailability of these panels the prices
of theses panels has not significantly decreased in South
Africa as it has in other more technologically advanced and
Also, because the electricity has been so
inexpensive in SA, the cost of paying off a solar
electricity system that provides the same amount (or
sufficient amount) of electricity as a conventional system,
will take an extremely long time to pay off with the money
saved without using conventional electricity, and most home
owners in South Africa doesn’t stay long enough in one home
to justify the cost saving.
Another factor is that the technology is
becoming more advanced day by day, and one might purchase a
system today which will reach the end of it’s life before
the system has paid for itself with money saved from not
using conventional electricity is over.
Sustainability & the environment
Eskom might well be one of the cheapest
electricity providers in the world, but it is also a fact
that eskom releases some of the most pollution in the
atmosphere by burning coal to generate electricity. Although
air pollution doesn’t seem to be that big a problem here
than in other countries where acid rain etc. is huge
concerns for the community, it would be wise to sooner
rather than later start to concentrate on the environment in
South Africa and that is when solar power could start
playing a big role as an energy provider.
Appropriate for us?
Solar panels can be used very effectively and
appropriately in the remote areas around the country because
the cost of connecting to the conventional power grid
by laying cables might be even more expensive and once a
solar PV system is installed one does not need any tools or
technicians to maintain a PV panel regularly.
There are a number of places in our
environment where solar power could be (and are already)
used very effectively for example water pumps to dams in
nature reserves. PV panels have also been used to power
electric fencing in game reserves very successfully for
interruptions in electricity is eliminated and big mammals
like elephants has no chance of breaking through a fence as
could be the case in an normal power interruption.
In conclusion, the use of solar power in
South Africa isn’t that far fetched when one look at the
very appropriate weather conditions and the need to look at
a more sustainable and renewable energy source for the