Getting started with Solar Power is easy! The following will serve as your guideline on on the basics of Solar Power and the definitions of some of the frequently used keywords: PV Module or also known as a solar panel or photovoltaic panel or photovoltaic module is the one that converts sunlight into electric energy. It comes in various sizes and wattages, but the most typical PV modules usually used for homes is about 14 sq. ft. in size at 200 watts. PV Array is defined as 2 or more photovoltaic modules that are wired in series to be used in solar-electric energy systems. A 5 x 200 watt of PV module could create a 1000 watt PV array. Typically, PV array comes in various sizes, from 2000 to 5000 watts and above. Inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) that is used in your home. Typically, inverter ranges from 2000 to 7000 watts; and a 3000 watts inverter can output 3000 watts of alternative current electricity. On-grid or Grid-tied solar system is when your solar PV is connected to utility grid. With this type, you will generate the electricity during the day, and the excess electricity is supplied to the grid (these excess electricity can be sold at a higher rate which is known as Feed in Tariff). Now when solar energy is not generated, say during the evenings, the electricity is drawn from the grid which actually avoids the need for expensive battery banks. Kilowatt Hour (kWh) is the standard unit of electricity equals to 1000 watts over an hour. Your electricity service provider charges you by the number of kWh you used.
Three main factors that determine your solar power system are:
- Daily energy requirements – PV array generates most the energy that your home needs. This is why checking your own usage is a great way to start. What you can do is to take a look at your utility bill to check your energy usage in terms of kilowatt hour per day (kWh/day). The best way to do this is to use your average kWh/day for the past 12 months to get your energy consumption in different seasons. When you talk to your electricity service provider (such as Tenaga Nasional Berhad) and SEDA, you should be asking for their Interconnection Agreement – a contract that you’re going to take when you connect PVs to their grid. When you already have the details of your average kWh/day usage, you may use this number to calculate your system size and cost.
- Shade-free space available – To produce electricity, PV modules will need direct sunlight; and even just a little shade of sun rays onto the PV array will already cause significant drops in generating power. For this reason, PV array should be in areas where it will significantly receive direct sunlight, preferably from 11 in the morning up to 3 in the afternoon (early morning and late afternoon hours does not provide enough energy for solar production). Remember that we have 4-6 hours of “peak sun hours”, which is the average number of hours per day that is good for solar production.
- Project Budget – You must understand that solar power systems are not cheap. These technologies are usually expensive ranging from RM45,000 to RM100,000, but most of the systems cost RM60,000. Although it may seem expensive, the cost actually becomes reasonable when you take a closer look at the long term advantage it provides. Because it guarantees return of investment, plus the fact that you have the opportunity to generate your own electricity (thus, reducing your electricity bill payments), solar power systems becomes a risk-free long term investment.
You might want to visit SEDA Malaysia’s official website for more details on FiT Rates.
System size and cost calculations: If you already know your average kWh/day, or the number of kWh/day you wanted to produce, you may already calculate the system size and cost following the steps below: System size in kilowatts
- Divide your average kWh/day by the number of hours of peak sun.
- Multiply by 1.43 to account for system losses due to heat, friction, and other inefficiencies.
computation: kW = kWh/day / 4 hours (peak sun) x 1.43 (system loss) example: Finding the system size needed to produce 20kWh/day.
20kWh / 4h = 5kW
5kW x 1.43 = 7.15kW
7.15kW is the system size needed to produce 20kWh/day at 4 peak sun hours (11am – 3pm)
- Multiply system size by RM13,000 for competitive system cost installed.
- Multiply system size by RM15,000 for conservative system cost installed.
computation: system cost = system size RM13,000 or RM15,000 example: Finding the cost of a 7.15kW system.
7.15 x RM13,000 = RM92,950 (competitive system cost)
7.15 x RM15,000 = RM107,250 (conservative system cost)
We used RM15,000/kW (array size) installed as the average grid-ties system cost. However, since this type of market continues to grow, systems can be installed for as low as RM12,000/kW in competitive areas. All the information above are some of the most basic considerations you needed to understand before you purchase a solar power system. For more detailed information, you may visit SEDA Malaysia’s official website or leave us a comment below.
- It only has 4 peak sun hours in Malaysia and maybe less in some areas where pollution is high.
- There’s an average of 2 months cloudy or rainy day per year in Malaysia; during these months, solar power is not suitable.
- When solar panel heat up, say in the afternoon, solar panel’s power output will start to drop, meaning solar PV actually produces less energy during a hot day.
- For maximum performance, installed solar panels needs to be cleaned every few months as dusk accumulation reduces system’s efficiency; this reduces the amount of money you need to provide for maintenance costs.