As solar renewable energy is gaining momentum both locally and abroad, solar panels have become an increasingly common sight on our rooftops. Malta's Mediterranean climate means that the island is bathed in sunshine for most of the year which makes investing in solar power a wise decision. This coupled with the cost of solar energy plummeting in recent years and the various government incentives up for grabs, having solar panels can significantly reduce your electricity bill and may even provide cost-free energy.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels may have been a promising alternative energy source for a number of years, however, you might still be perplexed as to how the whole system actually works. A typical solar panel consists of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame and a glass casing with a number of wires attached to it that allow the current to flow out. In essence, the silicon cells absorb sunlight, allowing photons to free electrons from atoms, thus generating a flow of electricity. As a consequence, the wires feed this direct current, also known as DC electricity to a solar inverter which converts it into alternating current (in other words AC) electricity. This electricity then flows through your home, powering your home appliances and electronic devices.
Locally, there are two types of photovoltaic systems available, the on-grid and off-grid. On-grid systems are connected to a local electric utility service and, in cases where there is an energy surplus, this is fed into a local grid, allowing the owner to sell the energy. On the other hand, off-grid PV systems, also known as standalone solar panel systems, are not connected to a utility service and instead, they contain a built-in backup battery which allows complete independence from any alternative energy provider. This type of system can be especially useful during black-outs. Moreover, it can also collect any surplus and store it for later in case of a cloudy day.
Are there any incentives available for having solar panels?
Did you know that over the last several years, around €50 million have been forwarded from the EU to those who wish to invest in solar panels? In effect, the government has an incentive known as Feed-in Tariff (FIT), whereby individuals can apply for a €2300 grant. In return, households and businesses generating their own electricity through their panels may receive a payment in return. This FIT, however, heavily depends on whether you have applied and qualified for the said grant. In addition, a €700 grant is also available for those who wish to get a solar water heater.
All you need to do is simply visit the Regulator for Energy and Water Services (REWS) and download the relevant application form. One form must be filled in by the applicant prior to the purchase of the panels and another form is filled in to request reimbursement after purchasing the equipment.
In addition, you might want to consider obtaining some financial assistance from one of the major Maltese banks. Dubbed as green or eco loans, these offer affordable solutions that can be customised according to your needs and can help you gain from this renewable energy while you do your part in protecting and preserving the environment. Typically repayable over a maximum period of 7 years, you'll be expected to pay fixed monthly repayments.
What other products and services are offered by solar panel suppliers?
Offering more than solar panels, providers also sell an assortment of related products such as air conditioners, solar water heaters and under-floor heating. For instance, solar water heaters can help you acquire hot, flowing water without additional costs as opposed to when using another form of water heating. Depending on the model, water heaters come in a variety of tank capacities and vary when it comes to the maximum temperature reached. What's more, thanks to the latest technology, solar water heaters work remarkably efficiently, very often even on mildly cloudy days, while they have the capacity to generate enough energy to keep your water hot for a number of hours.
On the other hand, under-floor heating is a somewhat new service offered on the Maltese islands which unlike traditional systems that heat from the top down, it uses a radiant heat design to heat the room from the bottom up, keeping your feet nice and warm.
It goes without saying that local suppliers are fully knowledgeable on everything related to solar panels and can answer any questions that you might have both technical and practical such as specifications, cost of panels, the materials to be used, as well as any queries related to the performance and efficiency of the selected panels. Generally speaking, suppliers are happy to send someone over your property to assess the space available and offer any advice on both the number and type of solar panels that would be ideal for your household or business' electricity demand. Following an on-site assessment, the supplier will offer a free quote. Ensure that the final price includes installation cost, in order to avoid any unnecessary surprises along the way. If you decide to proceed, suppliers offer full project management with access to their engineers and technicians, while they offer an expert installation service and after sales support.