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Solar Power In South Africa – Can You Afford It?

Solar Power In South Africa – Can You Afford It?

South Africans are bombarded with quite a lot of bad news: the falling Rand, the rising cost of living, and a struggling infrastructure amongst other things. 

But not all the news is bad. Did you know you can halve your electricity costs for your business or household?

Solar energy is the obvious way forward for a country that has a great deal of sunshine – over much of the country, we get over 3000 hours of sunshine a year. We’re the world’s 4th sunniest zone – after the Sahara, South West USA, and the high Andes plateaux in South America.

solar in south africa1

Solar energy is becoming increasingly more affordable for average South Africans, compared to a few years ago when only large companies could justify the expense. The technology has come a long way, and solar power is now outstripping coal power cost-wise.

Here we take a look at some of the factors to consider when deciding whether to keep paying for Eishkom’s coal-powered electricity grid, or to opt for solar energy.

The cost of Solar Power vs Coal Power

Solar power has now dropped to about 80c/ kWh while Eskom prices have risen to R1.92/kWh – and are set to keep on rising. This drop in the price of solar power can be attributed to many factors such as a rise in demand and drop in production costs.

Let’s look at the breakdown of such a system (approximate pricing):

Solar panels

R85 000

A battery bank

R72 000


R36 000

Additional costs

R34 000

Total Costs

R227 000

Before you fall off your chair, this is the luxury model of solar power systems – many other solar panel pricing options are available.

Also, you don’t necessarily need a battery bank. You can use a grid-tie system to supplement electricity during the daytime hours, while still using the grid at night. This system still works out cheaper than relying on the grid fully.

solar inverter

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Cost of Solar Energy on a large scale

The costs of producing solar energy on a large scale is dropping quickly worldwide. While developed countries are able to rely more heavily on alternative sources of energy like biomass, wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, these systems are costly to install and manage, and their use in the South African economic sphere is currently relatively limited.

This means that the “powers that be” are looking ahead to a time when clean, renewable solar energy will power the nation, and create job opportunities for South Africans as well.

Environmental Cost of Solar Power

Like any manufacturing process, waste and pollution is formed. The production of solar panels produces tetrachloride and toxins. However, as it’s a fairly new industry, solar panel production plants are very tightly controlled so as not to lose credibility with consumers and government bodies alike.

Harm to the environment caused by solar power is miniscule compared to that of coal. 90% of the electricity produced by Eskom currently comes from coal-fired power stations. The threat of climate change caused by carbon emissions from coal is a scientifically-verified fact, not a theory.

In South Africa, the demand for energy keeps rising, but the supply isn’t rising with it. The need for coal has soared, but it can’t be supplied.

This situation is known as the looming coal cliff. The shortfall ranges from 60 to 120 Megatons and is expected to be at its worst by 2019. This means that coal is just going to become more expensive and so are the electricity tariffs.

As coal dwindles, so do job opportunities. But our people have increased job opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

jobs in solar south africa

Why go Solar in South Africa?

Not that long ago, Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona said load shedding was “here to stay”. We thought we were going to have to learn to live without power for part of our daily lives!

Luckily, we’re not currently suffering a “powerless” existence  – but the increased electricity tariffs, added to VAT and petrol price increase are pushing a lot of households to the brink, or under…

Load shedding is still a possibility, and tariff increases will probably be around  for many more years to come. Even though the Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has signed a renewable energy bill that government hopes will mitigate cost hikes, it remains to be seen how this will affect us over the long run.

These are among the many reasons why consumers need to consider other options, such as having solar panels installed. The cost of solar panels is definitely worth it.

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So what’s the next step?

While the set-up costs for solar panel systems might seem steep, they will be offset in a few years by the savings in power costs. Householders who go Solar are also doing more than the average person to help prevent coal emissions. If more and more people switch to solar energy, climate change will  hopefully slow down!

Solar power installations are an investment that will create big returns for households over time – and don’t forget that as the technology improves and production becomes easier, the cost of solar installations for heating and running appliances for the average individual householder are more and more within reach.

future of solar panels

If you want to see how much you can save by going solar, check out our solar savings calculator.

Not sure which solar system is right for you, get a quote for a solar installation.
Think you can't afford to go solar? Think again, you can still save over 50% on your energy bill, even with solar financing.

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