Are you thinking of investing in rooftop solar panels?
With the rising electric power charges in Malaysia, this could be a great idea to cut down on your electricity budget.
Studies have shown that the energy produced by the rooftop solar panels makes up more than the cost for manufacturing, installing and recycling them.
What is Solar Power?
Solar power is the energy that is directly harnessed from the Sun. Each packet of energy present in the sunlight (known as the photons) fuels our planet.
Our Sun is a massive nuclear star where a tremendous amount of energy is produced through nuclear fusion reactions. Massive amounts of energy are radiated out into space from the Sun in the form of heat and light. This energy released from the Sun is responsible for all the weather phenomena and energy sources on the earth.
The solar energy radiated from the Sun can be harnessed and converted into usable energy through solar panels.
Specialised cells present within the solar panels called photovoltaic cells (PV cell) convert the Infrared and Ultraviolet radiation into Direct Current (DC).
Although the first solar panel was invented almost two centuries ago, it was only in the last two decades that solar panels have increasingly become energy efficient in their design.
The present-day solar panels can convert 20% of the absorbed energy into electricity.
This might seem like a low number, but the good thing is that it is free energy that you are receiving from the Sun. By harnessing solar power, you can save on your home’s electricity bills. What’s more, you do not have to bother about electric power failures!
The Net Metering Scheme is an innovative step established by the Government of Malaysia to reward both the commercial and domestic power generators.
As per the scheme, you can apply to sell the power back to Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) or Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB).
Is Malaysia sustainable for solar energy?
When it comes to harnessing solar energy, Malaysia holds enormous potential. Several smart citizens are harvesting the power of the Sun by installing solar panels on their rooftops.
The CEO of SEDA (Sustainable Energy Development Authority) Dr Sanjayan Velautham has pointed out that more than 4.1 million buildings in Malaysia can still be utilised for installing solar panels and that could collectively generate 24-gigawatt peak (GWp) of electricity.
In recent years, the Malaysian government gave more focus towards renewable energy due to several issues such as climate change, depletion of fossil fuels and global warming.
SEDA previously offered the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) programme, which has since been replaced by Net Energy Metering (NEM).
Under the NEM program, energy produced by the solar panels is first utilised for the house and the excess is “sold” as credit.
Solar power scenario in Malaysia
Studies have shown that in Malaysia, the consumption of solar power is on a steady rise. If you are a proud Malaysian that owns a rooftop solar panel, it is best to be acquainted with some of the commonly used measuring units.
1) Net Metering
Solar panels produce more energy than you usually need. The excess electric power is pumped back into the grids in exchange for credits.
After sunset, when your solar panels are not producing electric power, you pull out energy from the power grid like you usually do and use this to compensate for the cost of that energy.
Several changes have been introduced in the pricing model, which is highly beneficial for Malaysians who have installed a solar power unit in their homes.
The pricing is now on a one to one basis, which means for every unit of electric power that is pumped from household to the power grid, you are paid the same amount that one unit of electricity from the power grid would cost.
Now if you evaluate the cost benefits, it is a massive boost to the total savings from electricity bills.
The exciting thing is that this is not only available to Peninsular Malaysia, but the feature was extended to Sabah in 2019.
2) Peer-to-peer or P2P
This is a more advanced form of the electric energy market that is being tested in Malaysia in 2020.
The unique feature of this technology is that it will enable households with their own installation for power generation, allowing them to sell electricity directly to each other.
This method will help to eliminate intermediaries enabling household generators to sell electricity to your neighbours through the TNB grid.
What are solar panels, and how do they work?
A solar panel is simply an assembly of solar cells that converts sunlight falling on it into electricity. By combining several solar cells, household electricity needs can be easily met.
The photovoltaic cell (PVC) is a sandwich of two semiconductor materials. The primary component is silicon which is not pure in its natural state. To make solar cells, the raw materials-silicon dioxide of crushed quartz or quartzite gravel is placed in an electric furnace where a carbon arc is produced to release the oxygen.
The byproduct is carbon dioxide and crushed silicone. The silicon needs to be further purified to make it fit for solar cells.
The purified silicon is doped with phosphorus and boron to produce an excess of electron and deficiency of electron to make a semiconductor capable of conducting electricity.
The silicon cells are further given an anti-reflective coating made out of titanium dioxide.
The entire solar module consists of a semiconductor silicon which is kept in place by a protective metal frame that is usually made out of transparent silicon or butyryl plastic.
This is kept firmly around the cells and bonded by silicon rubber or butyryl plastic. A polyester film is used to make the back portion. A lightweight plastic cover is found on satellite arrays and glass cover on terrestrial arrays.
Once an electric field has been established when a photon from the light falls on the cell, it knocks an electron free. The electric field will then push the electron out of the semiconductor junction.
At the moment, depending on the panel, a 5 to 19% output can be obtained.
Benefits and drawbacks of solar panels for a house
Let us compare the pros and cons of having a solar panel for house rooftop:
Advantages of solar panels
1. Reduces electricity consumption
One of the most important benefits of using solar panels is that it can provide substantial savings on your monthly electricity bills.
The Net metering facility will allow homeowners to compensate for the electricity cost with the energy that the solar panels produce. The additional power that is produced can be pumped back to the utility. This will be added on to the electricity bills as credit which can be used to offset energy charges in the future.
2. Friendly to the environment
The fantastic thing about solar energy is that it is a renewable resource. This means that unlike fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum, it won’t deplete the source.
When solar energy is harvested, nothing is released into the atmosphere, unlike coal, oil or natural gas drilling, which makes it a clean energy source.
3. It works in any climate
While some people believe that solar panels won’t work effectively in a cold climate, it isn’t true. In fact, excessive heat in the panels will reduce the output voltage.
Solar panels can be sufficiently effective in colder weather conditions. Additionally, modern solar panels are designed with state of art manufacturing technology to ensure that good output is produced even in the minimal light situation.
4. Long lifespan
Modern-day solar panels are sufficiently advanced to withstand even harsh weather conditions. The cells are designed to last for an extended period without losing their efficiency.
5. Safeguards against rising in power bills
The electricity price is increasing at a steady rate, and it will continue to grow in the future as well. Since you are producing your own household electricity, you don’t have to deal with the constant rise in electricity costs.
6. Energy independence
Having your own solar panels will help you to gain complete energy independence. Since you are not dependent on the power supplied by the traditional electric grid, you gain the freedom to control and manage your home energy.
7. Create a Return on Investment
Having a home, solar panels will not only help to eliminate energy bills, it also can be an additional source of income by selling the extra power generated by your home unit.
The money which you earn by saving your electricity bills plus selling the excess power can help you to pay back the cost of your system.
Drawbacks of solar panels
1. Land Use
One primary concern of using solar energy is that it will usually take up a significant amount of land space.
However, the impact can be reduced by making use of existing rooftop or using low-quality areas for installation.
Solar panels have a lower power density. Power density is the amount of power which can be derived from an energy source within a selected area.
This means that you need a greater area to generate the same amount of power produced by other sources.
2. It is not a continuous power source
The main reasons why solar power is an intermittent source of energy is due to the following reasons:
- Solar panels cannot produce electricity at night due to the absence of the source.
- Cloud cover, snow or other factors can hamper with the production of electricity.
- The intensity of sunlight varies at different times of the day.
3. Manufacturing of solar panels has an environmental impact
Although solar panels have zero pollution, there is some pollution associated with the manufacturing process due to the release of greenhouse gases.
Another problem is disposing of the old panels. As this technology becomes more and more popular, disposing of the materials will be another challenge that the government has to deal with.
4. Storing solar power can be costly
Even though solar panels come with a lower price, it is quite expensive to store the energy using batteries. By adopting better power management practices, homeowners can utilise most of the energy produced during the day time and be energy efficient.
5. Solar panels can require irreplaceable materials
The unique feature of solar panels is that they often demand the use of rare materials such as cadmium telluride (CdTe). Excessive use can deplete these rare materials.
7. High upfront cost
Installing solar panels can cause a high upfront cost, which is a drawback. The actual price of the panels may vary depending on the manufacturer and the quality of cells,
Solar panel price in Malaysia
The price of solar panels depends on various factors.
On average, you will have to pay somewhere between RM 5,000 to RM25,000 for a basic 3KW system.
After purchasing a 3KW system, the owner can expect to earn an approximate average of RM40,000, throughout the lifespan of the system.
Having listed both the advantages and drawbacks of harvesting solar energy, it is evident that the benefits far outweigh the limited number of drawbacks. Starting from lowering your energy bills, giving yourself energy independence to reducing your overall carbon footprint, solar power offers innumerable benefits to your home.
Installing a large scale solar plant does have high upfront costs, but proves beneficial as well as cost-effective in the long run. Additionally, small scale rooftop solar panels are not very high in terms of cost and can keep serving you for years to come.