A Guide to Maintaining Home Solar Plants
Why is a Site Survey required prior to installing a Solar Rooftop System?
Solar rooftop systems and other sources of renewable energy are on the rise. Residential rooftop solar systems have proven to be environmentally sound and efficient for domestic households, along with monetary benefits such as saving on electricity bills and government subsidies.
Solar panels are generally placed on a rooftop or in an elevated position to ensure a steady and consistent supply of sunlight. This sunlight is then converted to DC electricity and then into AC electricity by an inverter.
To ensure domestic solar systems perform at optimum capabilities, solar providers must consider a variety of factors before going ahead with the installation. A Site Survey prior to installation gives service providers all the information they require to correctly install and operate a residential solar system, tailored to every customer’s specific needs.
The three main factors assessed during a site survey are:
Feasibility – is the solar plant installation feasible at the location?
Viability – does the solar installation provide financial benefits in the long term?
User requirements – are user requirements correctly understood?
Site surveys ensure that you have a rooftop solar power system designed specifically for your needs as per your location, rooftop space and the electricity required to power your home. HomeScape has three unique product variants that are tailor-made to fit your space: the Atrium, the Aerial and the Terra.
During a site survey our team determines the following factors:
This helps determine the correct location to install a solar plant. The orientation and mounting of the solar panels determine the amount of incident sunlight which in turn contributes to the amount of electricity generated. The solar panels need to be shade-free to get the optimum performance from the solar photovoltaic system. The area must be assessed to ensure there are no barriers that cause shading on the panels.
Roof Structure Inspection
This is done to measure the size and to determine the attributes and structure of the roof. The rooftop area and size of the panels determine how many solar modules can fit in the space available. We consider the following factors:
- Surface Area (rooftop dimensions)
- Roof Inclination
- Roof Direction
- Construction Material
This is the overall analysis of required instruments such as DC and AC converters and electricity usage. This helps determine the overall generation of electricity and an estimate of the units of electricity that can be saved.
Government has released many incentives and financial aids for the solar panel system users. The overall cost of installing and the economic viability of the system are other important parameters that are estimated during the site survey.
Conducting a site survey is the starting point for a rooftop solar power system installation for a home in India. Your site survey results and shading evaluation in combination with the energy audit helps you make an informed decision about switching to solar.
The Lifespan of a Solar Plant
When you are considering investing in solar electricity for your home, wondering how long solar panels last is a question that inevitably pops up. Studies have proven solar panels can last anywhere between 25 to 30 years — or sometimes more. HomeScape offers a 25-year warranty on all solar systems. However, this does not mean that the panels on your roof will stop producing electricity after a couple of decades. It just means their energy production will decrease by what solar panel manufacturers consider optimal to meet the average Indian family’s energy needs.
Solar panels produce less electricity as they age. This process is called degradation. Solar power plant degradation rates vary depending on the brand, as well as the climate where they are installed.
On average, solar panels degrade at a rate of 1% each year, which guarantees 90% production in the first ten years and 80% by year 25 or 30. However, a study conducted by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows a more accurate picture of solar panel degradation. This study found that monocrystalline panels made after the year 2000 degraded at a rate of just 0.4%. This means, if you get superior quality monocrystalline panels, the panels suffer only 0.4% degradation a year, resulting in 88% operation of their original capacity after 25 to 30 years.
Just like a car that only runs for a certain number of kilometers or a piece of equipment that starts to lose its efficiency after some years, solar panel degradation is bound to happen. There are many ways you can extend the life of your solar power plant.
Tip #1: Team Up with a Trustworthy Solar Provider
The smartest way to ensure your solar panels work long-term is to partner with a well-respected solar installer that offers solid customer service. You want to be sure that you are working with certified industry experts that are going to install your system for the long run and with the utmost care, using high-quality panels and parts. This will go a long way for keeping the production of your solar electricity for home high throughout – and even beyond – the system’s life expectancy. HomeScape by Amplus Solar offers high-quality home solar plants, customized to fit the needs of your household.
Tip #2: Keep Your Panels Clear of Debris and Other Damaging Materials
When your home solar plant is free from leaves, dirt, pollen, dust, bird droppings and falling branches, it generates electricity at maximum efficiency. Another factor you and your solar installer should consider when you’re designing your solar energy system is choosing a proper location. Try to avoid placing the panels near things that can cause physical damage, like the trees and bushes, which may speed up degradation. HomeScape by Amplus’ Site Management Team considers all your requirements and resources to help you make the correct decision when installing a solar power plant for home.
Tip #3: Make Sure Your Panels Are Regularly Monitored and Maintained
Though solar electricity for home is a relatively care-free investment, periodic maintenance checks and cleaning can also help extend the lifespan of the solar panels. It is imperative that you work with products and companies that practice proper methods for cleaning and maintenance. Doing routine maintenance checks will help keep your solar system’s panel performance, meters and other parts running at maximum efficiency. HomeScape by Amplus offers On-Site Visits and Maintenance for all its residential solar plants.
Is Residential Rooftop Solar ready to take off Post Subsidy and Falling Equipment Costs?
Rooftop Solar in India has been seeing a steady adoption, evident from the rising capacity addition every year. According to a Bridge to India report, India’s total commissioned rooftop solar capacity stood at 6130 MW as on September 2020, predominantly driven by the Commercial and Industrial segment. The Residential segment, which is in the nascent stage stands at 804 MW, which is approximately 14% of the total of 5880 MW of Rooftop Solar as on June 2020. However, with the changes in policy and business environment, the residential segment is poised to pick up the pace and is anticipated to have a significant share in the coming years.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in 2019 launched the Phase-2 of Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme in which the Central Financial Assistance (CFA), or in other words subsidy, was accorded to the Residential sector. Phase-2 of the programme had revised the subsidy limits for individual residential houses to 40% for capacity up to 3 kW and 20% for capacity between 3kW to 10kW. The subsidy is based on either the benchmark cost mandated by the MNRE, or the discovered price in the tender, whichever is lower. The subsidy allows the homeowners to significantly reduce their share of the price paid for the rooftop solar system making it more affordable.
On the other hand, the equipment costs have significantly fallen over the past few years globally, which has been observed in India as well. The prices of solar panels which constitute almost 60% of project cost had fallen by almost 18% year-on-year as per Bridge to India.
18% year-on-year as per Bridge to India.
Figure: Solar module prices (USD cents/W) Ref: Bridge to India
However, the drop in prices has been offset by safeguard duties in India against the import of solar modules to promote local manufacturing, which is also mandated as part of the Domestic Content Requirement (DCR). According to DCR, it is necessary to use indigenously manufactured solar panels to avail subsidy in solar projects. In addition to this, the shortage in supply has driven the prices higher during the second half of 2020. Despite temporary volatility in prices, the long-term reduction has helped Residential Rooftop Solar project costs to reduce significantly and help drive adoption. A major challenge that remains in adopting residential rooftop solar is the lack of awareness, which is being addressed actively by DISCOMS through community-level demand-aggregation programmes. Also, to make rooftop solar economically attractive, businesses in partnership with NBFCs offer financing options through EMIs at lower interest rates for longer tenures than traditional banks.
Reference: Bridge to India
The percentage share of residential solar in the total rooftop solar capacity added in a year has been almost steady with it being at 11% in 2017, 10% in 2018 and 12% in 2019 and 14% up to June 2020. With the developments to promote residential segment, there is a strong sentiment for it to take off. Charukesh N R B Manager, Residential Solar
Tips for Maximising Efficiency and Reducing the Impact of Shade
Solar panels function by transforming photons into usable electricity, acting as a solar power plant for your home. Due to its functionality being entirely dependent on the duration of direct sunlight received each day, and the angle at which it hits the solar rooftop system, shade can pose a big problem. However, there are methods to reduce the negative impact that shade may have, along with other ways to increase the efficiency of the solar energy system for your home.
The best way to avoid facing the brunt of shadows and reducing the inefficiency of your solar rooftop system is to ensure that during the installation process, existing shadows, as well as prospective shadows, are measured. For example, even though your current rooftop may be getting enough direct sunlight to power a solar energy system for your home, if you live next to an empty plot or a construction site that might have some kind of high-rise structure, you need to plan for it.
Getting the Right Tilt
All solar panels are tilted to get the best possible access to direct sunlight, but at times, tilting in a certain direction can increase the efficiency of your solar rooftop system while also avoiding shade. The optimum solar panel tilt can be calculated by adding 15 degrees to the latitude of your location. Suppose you live in Gurgaon, the center of which has a latitude of 28 degrees, the best tilt angle would be 28+15= 43 degrees.
If one portion of your solar power plant is obstructed by shade, you can stop this from affecting the output of the whole system by using a bypass diode. This helps the solar energy system to bypass the single cells under the shade without disturbing the rest of the panel that is under sunshine.
Micro Inverters & Power Optimizers
A Micro Inverter is a plug-and-play device for your home solar power plant that converts direct currents to alternating currents but differs from regular inverters because of their superior performance. By boosting the overall performance of your solar rooftop system, you can make up for the energy lost because of shade obstructions.
Invest in CPV Cells
CPV stands for highly concentrated photovoltaic cells that hyperfocus the sunlight hitting the solar panel cells to boost efficiency, at times even doubling it! While they do cost more to install, if your home solar energy system is suffering because of shade, these would be a good investment. Thus, with just a few alterations, the shade that once posed a big problem to your solar energy output is now fixable. Ultimately, if you take care in the installation and planning process of your solar rooftop system, having to upgrade for efficiency will not be necessary. HomeScape by Amplus Solar provides luxury alternatives to common shade problems in the form of rooftop pergola solutions, with great height and width to reduce the possibility of low functioning and to add glamour to rooftops and open spaces. To see a variety of HomeScape variants, click here.
An Architect’s Guide to Photovoltaics
Photovoltaics (PV) is the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, like a solar power plant, a series of glass panels that are usually attached on rooftops, creating sustainable, clean solar energy. The new inter-discipline of environmentally conscious architecture has been booming, in the corporate world, and on a personal scale, growing the need for aesthetically pleasing solar system options for the home. Already the architecture and photovoltaic solar inter-discipline has created interesting, beautiful, and functional systems, including:
Photovoltaic solar power shade canopies are a raised extension of the solar panels that provide shade to anybody below, while also themselves receiving direct sunshine, creating powerful PV solar energy. Functionally, this has been used for creating a shaded patio, seating area, or even general rest stops. By adding greenery and elegant seating under it, the PV solar system used as a shade canopy can act as an interesting eyepiece while also being doubly functional.
Rooftop Solar Systems
The most common form that PV solar systems for homes come in, rooftop arrangements are the most convenient as they ensure direct sunlight. However, the roof’s existing architecture needs to be heavily considered – from its current available space, weight capacity, and construction health, to ensure that they can structurally take the heavy PV solar system.
A backsheet is the deepest colour layer of the PV solar system. While most are white, with blue coloured solar cells, black backsheets are available as well. This tints the whole structure and creates a sleeker, darker solar system that may match the aesthetic of the building or brand identity. The best part is that changing the colour of the backsheet does not affect the production of PV solar energy!
Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline cells
Changing the appearance of solar cells can have an aesthetic impact on the whole PV solar system, although certain colour changes in the monocrystalline cells do result in a lower production of solar energy. The biggest difference is that monocrystalline cells appear matte, dark, and thus give a more subdued visual while polycrystalline cells look brighter, shinier, and give off a powerful and eye-catching glint.
The biggest factor that affects the architecture of a PV solar system is the functional demand of the client. If the electrical demand is smaller and caters to a solar system for the home, then the aesthetic approach will be different as well. Conversely, if the PV solar energy demand is high, the bulkiness of the solar plant will affect the design approach. With the growing interest in photovoltaic solar, from a consumer and supplier view, new changes are being made every day to enhance the solar energy produced and to allow for greater customisation. HomeScape provides three such options to clients, two of which are shade canopies – the Atrium and the Aerial, while the Terra is the simplest design.
- The Atrium is a pergola that mounts solar panels in a wooden structure, creating a luxurious design that is perfect for providing necessary shade under which barbecues and parties can be hosted, or simple leisurely time can be spent admiring the unobstructed view.
- The Aerial is a canopy style solar system that uses iron to provide a sleeker and glossier look, making for a more modern aesthetic while providing the same level of functionality.
- The Terra is a low elevated iron-mounted solar panel structure that can be placed on the edge of a rooftop, making the most of limited space and allowing for easier cleaning.
Each of these HomeScape products makes productive use of limited space, provide high performance, and add aesthetic appeal to any area. To know more about HomeScape by Amplus Solar, click here.
How Solar Panels Produce Electricity
Solar energy has transformed electricity production into a cheaper, environmentally safer, and sustainable process. Its accessibility now has allowed for individual homeowners to use them on a smaller scale as well. So much so that India is now the third largest producer of solar energy globally, driving an aesthetic trend towards patio spaces and rooftop gardens that have solar panels.
What is the science behind solar electricity?
Sunlight consists of photons (tiny particle waves), and essentially, a solar panel absorbs the photons and transforms them into electricity. Every solar panel is multi-layered, with the topmost coat being glass to protect the smaller units underneath it. These smaller units are called solar cells and contain silicon in them, the silicon present collects electrons and passes them through a positive and negative charge, creating solar electricity in the process. The energy obtained from this movement back and forth is DC electricity (Direct Current), and it needs to be transformed into AC (Alternating Current) for usable solar electricity to power homes. This is done using the system’s inverter present in the construction of the solar panel itself.
What are some factors that affect solar electricity?
If you are looking to go solar, here are a few things to keep in mind for your home solar plant:
When on-grid solar systems produce a surplus of solar energy, instead of storing it, the power is fed back to the main electrical grid allowing you to get credited for the solar energy produced. Conversely, off-grid solar systems contain batteries that store the solar energy, diminishing the possibility of transferring it.
If your home’s roof has access to direct sunlight, unencumbered by obstructive trees or large shadows of other buildings, chances are that a solar system for home electricity is a suitable option. If this is not the case, you can still benefit from solar electricity! Community solar plants allow for a shared distribution of electricity from a location in your local community that does have access to strong sunlight.
The ratio of cloudy days to sunny days of the year is an important aspect to consider. This does not mean that cold climates are incompatible, in fact, snow can sometimes help reflect sunlight strongly onto solar panels, increasing their production!
Your home solar plant needs to have a correct tilt towards the sun to optimise its performance. While the average tilt is between 30 to 45 degrees, a solar specialist can give you a more accurate figure according to the specifics of your space. Solar power popularity in India has also been steadily increasing, driven by the country’s immense solar potential along with a youth-driven desire to find sustainable energy alternatives that are functional, trendy, and environmentally friendly. Solar panels for the home are getting cheaper, while also providing the advantage of having a constant source of back-up electricity for nighttime. In conclusion, solar panels have a simple to understand science behind them, allowing you to approach the process with transparency. Get started with information on a solar plant for your home, click here to know more about HomeScape, a leading rooftop solar option that balances visual appeal with functionality.