What and Why Solar PV?

What is Solar PV?

Solar PV involves the conversion of sunlight into electricity by means of photovoltaic cells. The cells create direct current (DC), which is converted to alternating current (AC) by means of an inverter.

This AC current is what is commonly used by most household and industrial appliances. The current that is produced is either consumed by the producer, stored in batteries for future or emergency use, or merely exported to the grid, where in some cases, the producer receives “credits” for exported energy.

Why Solar PV?

Southern Africa is “gifted” in terms of its solar resource. We have one of the highest average solar-irradiance levels in the world. The region has, to date, chiefly relied upon coal-fired electricity for its energy needs.  As the cost of this power escalates, in terms of both its financial and environmental implications, solar PV is the obvious alternative, for some of the reasons listed below:

  • No feedstock required (as in the case of coal, gas or nuclear power)
  • No moving parts = Reliable, with low maintenance costs.
  • Easily integrated in new-build or retro-fitted projects
  • Ability to predict and fix energy cost over the long term
  • Power is localized and doesn’t require additional transmission lines, in most cases.

The cost of solar PV has come down incrementally over the last few years, with its mass roll-out across Europe, the USA and China. In fact, it is well documented that, in many parts of the world today, solar power is the cheapest, or close-to-becoming the cheapest form of electricity. In South Africa, we are able to achieve “grid parity” on many of our tariff bands already and as the cost of utility power continues to escalate, those using solar power will be able to reap the benefits of clean, cheaper power.