The sun shines 12 months a year in Karachi but harnessing its energy to power your house is easier said than done. Solar panels are popping up on rooftops across the city but are a daunting investment that perhaps only the well-heeled can afford.
The incentives are that you can not only save money on your K-Electric bill but actually sell units back to the grid.
Ayaz Danish of Exide Technologies shared some start tips and advice for people interested in going solar.
Related: Karachi paying higher electricity bills but prices haven’t increased yet
What are the types of solar panel systems?
There are two types of solar system: On-grid and Hybrid.
In the on-grid system, you stay connected to the grid and in the day time, when you produce electricity you use that.
ADVANTAGE: If the electricity you are producing is more than what you use, the extra electricity is sent back to the grid. You install a net metering meter.
ADVANTAGE: At the end of the month, you get the net bill for units you consumed minus the units your system produced. And if the units you produced are more than the total units consumed, you can be paid.
If you live in an area where there is no load shedding you can choose the on-grid system. It does not offer backup as it does not include batteries to store energy from the sun.
ADVANTAGE: This is a more financially cheap option as you won’t need to spend every 2-3 years on replacing the batteries.
In the Hybrid system, you need batteries so you have back-up in case of load-shedding.
How much does a solar panel system cost?
Any good solar system lasts almost 25 years, and the per kilo watt (kw) cost comes around Rs85,000 to Rs90,000. So, if you are thinking of installing a 10kw system, the cost of an on-grid system would come around Rs900,000. If you go hybrid and add batteries, then the cost jumps by Rs200,000 to Rs300,000.
How much roof space do you need for a solar panel system?
On average, you need around 130 square feet to put up panels that can generate 1kw. This means that you can easily set up a 10kw system on the roof of a 240 sq yard house.
You need to mindful that the roof gets direct sunlight. Your roof should not be surrounded by buildings higher than your house. There should not be any kind of shadow falling on your roof, otherwise it will reduce the area where solar panels can be installed.
How complicated is maintenance of solar panels?
It is not difficult to maintain a solar panel system. All you need to do is keep the panels dust-free. When dust coats the panels, it reduces their ability to absorb sunlight. You can easily wash the panels with water or use a wiper. You have to do it twice a week.
How long does it take to install a solar panel system?
It takes around 10 days to install the complete system, including all the wirings and connections. However, getting the net metering meter takes around 5 months.
After the system has been installed, an application is sent to your local power distribution company. In Karachi, that is K-Electric. Within 30 days, a KE representative will visit your home to check if the system that you have installed is compatible. After that you’ll receive an estimate for a net meter. It will be around Rs67,000. Then your application will be forwarded to Nepra for approval as a power producer. Nepra has to respond to the application within three months.