29 May 2023
By Roger Kennedy
With the environmental sustainability of the world at stake, there’s no better time than now to turn towards eco-friendly electricity-generating options such as solar PV panels. As a resident of Cork, you may wonder if installing solar panels is even worth it. After all, Cork’s climate is not exactly the best for a solar PV system. Cork has a rainy and temperate climate, translating to few daily peak sunlight hours.
Still, are solar panel installations in Cork worth it? The answer to that is yes. Thousands of Cork residents are turning to solar energy for their electricity needs. You may wonder why, and we’re here to answer that question, as well as any other question you may have regarding solar panels Ireland.
Why Install Solar PV Panels In Cork?
Despite the weather, there are several reasons to install PV solar panels on your rooftop, and we’ll be looking at them.
Solar Panels Are Getting More Adaptable
The improvement of solar technology hasn’t just made solar photovoltaic panels cheaper; it has also made them more energy-efficient as well. Initially, the solar panel was virtually useless in areas that weren’t sunny, but that has changed. Now, even when there isn’t intense sunlight, most modern solar thermal panels can harness the UV light from the sun to generate electricity. Of course, they won’t be as efficient as they will be in generating electricity, but they can still do the job.
Like other renewable energy sources, solar energy is great for the environment. This is because its electricity generation doesn’t pollute the environment via the release of greenhouse gases, which is what fossil fuels are known for. Solar energy has no impact on the environment and greatly reduces carbon emissions, which is why several countries are showing massive support for installing solar panel systems.
Reduces Or Eliminates Energy Bills
Depending on the solar power system you’re using, you can either drastically reduce how much you pay monthly as electricity bills or even stop paying. The grid-tied solar panel or hybrid system powers your home with some contribution from the electric grid, so you’ll pay less than people who completely depend on grid power. They can also export excess energy from the solar panels to the electricity supplier.
On the other hand, using the off-grid PV solar system makes you self-reliant and eliminates your energy costs. Moreover, you will have blackout protection when there’s a power outage. Lastly, solar energy is free energy as it comes from the sun.
It Saves You A Lot Of Money
You may ask how. Using solar electricity, particularly the off-grid system, will save you a lot of money in the long run. Although the upfront cost of solar systems can seem expensive, the solar system pays for itself in the long run. The average lifespan of a solar panel is 25 years, so let’s use that period to do a little calculation and then compare and contrast.
The average yearly cost of conventional electricity for a 2-bedroom apartment in Cork is €1,504. Multiplying that by 25 years will give us €37,600. If we factor in inflation costs within the next 25 years, the figure could go up to €40k. On the other hand, the average solar panels cost for a 5-KW solar system in Cork ranges between €10k and €15k. This is before solar incentives are applied to offset the cost. If we throw in the battery and inverter replacement costs which is once in 10 years, the total figure won’t exceed €20k-25k.
The gap between the cost of using solar panels and the cost of grid power is the amount of money you could save in 25 years.
Durability And Maintenance
Solar panels require minimal maintenance and are incredibly durable – two very appealing factors that make buying solar panels prudent. The solar panels last for at least two decades, while the battery and inverter last for a decade. Some solar panels (depending on the brand) can last up to 40 years.
Increases The Worth Of Your Home
The installation of solar thermal panels can enhance the value of your home. When you put it on the market, it will sell much quicker and attract a better price on the property market than properties without a solar PV system. This is because prospective buyers understand that buying such homes will mean they will either pay reduced electricity bills or none at all. If it’s a grid-tied system, they can even earn from exporting surplus electricity via feed-in tariffs.
Factors That Determine The Suitability Of Your Home For Installing Solar Panels
Before the renewable energy project can get a green light on your property, there is a list of things to check. The presence and absence of these factors will determine if your property is an ideal site to install solar panels. These factors include;
The Age Or Condition Of Your Roof
If your roof is old or nearing the end of its lifespan, it won’t be suitable for installing solar PV panels. This is because the older the roof, the worse its condition gets, and the roof will be prone to leakages or depressed spots. Also, old roofs will be weak and unable to bear the weight of the solar panels. Sometimes, the roof doesn’t have to be old for it to be in bad condition.
So whether the roof is old or not, avoid installing solar panels as long as it’s bad because you’ll only spend more eventually. For example, let’s say the solar panel is supposed to last for 25 years; you may have to remove these panels from the roof after a year or two, replace or repair the roof, and then re-install the panels.
The best thing to do is to first repair or even replace your roof if it’s bad before going on with the solar energy project. This is because the condition of your roof is the first thing the solar company will check for.
What direction is your roof facing? This matters because a south-facing roof will be ideal for solar panels than other directions. An alternative direction that’s also good for solar panels is towards the west. Any other direction asides from the south and west, and your solar panels will not generate electricity efficiently.
Shading Or Obstructions
Ensure that the site of your installation is free of anything that can impede direct access to sunlight. For example, if you intend to use your roof space to install these panels and it has chimneys, your roof won’t be ideal for the installation process. Also, watch out for tall trees and buildings close to the roof because they can obstruct direct exposure to sunlight. In summary, a home with minimal or no obstruction or shading is the best place for installing solar panels in Ireland.
The climatic condition of your area of residence determines its solar potential. Areas with tropical weather have more peak sunshine hours than others with mild or temperate climates. Areas like Cork in Ireland have 3.8 peak sunlight hours, which boxes them into the latter category. The Irish climate is characterised by rainfall and cloudy weather. However, in areas like this, installing more solar panels is the solution to generating more electricity that will be sufficient for the home’s energy needs.
The Size Of The Roof
The larger the size of the roof, the more panels it can accommodate and vice versa. This is why homes with large roofs have a higher solar potential. For example, if your house’s roof can only accommodate 12 solar panels and what you need to power your home is 16 solar panels, the solar installer may consider ground-mounted installation.
What Influences The Cost Of A Solar Panel Installation In Cork
A lot of things will determine the total cost of the solar project. Let’s discuss the key factors;
The Type Of Solar System
As you already know, the solar panel system comes in three varieties – grid-tied, hybrid, and off-grid solar systems. They all go for varying prices in the market, with the grid-tied system being the most affordable and the off-grid system being the most expensive. The reason for the price variance is that the off-grid system requires a large battery capacity to store the extra electricity generated by the panels for later use.
On the other hand, the grid-tied system is connected directly to the grid; it doesn’t require batteries. The hybrid is connected to the grid and has battery storage, but at a smaller capacity than the off-grid system.
So, if you’re purchasing an off-grid system, the installation costs will be higher than that of a grid-tied or hybrid system.
The Size Of The Solar Energy System
A 5-KW solar PV system will be more affordable to install than a system with a larger capacity because the former will require fewer solar panels. This is why it’s more expensive to install PV panels in large homes than in an average household, and it’s the same reason that commercial solar panels cost more than residential solar panels. The larger the building, the more its energy consumption, and this translates to a greater amount of solar panels it will require to generate sufficient electricity.
The Solar Company Handling The Project
The total cost of installation also depends on the company you’re hiring to install solar PV panels on your property. Some companies are known for being too expensive, while others charge more affordable prices. To get the best price on the solar project, get quotes from 3-5 solar installers and compare them.
The Type Of Installation
A ground-mounted installation costs more than a rooftop solar installation because the former requires the use of ground mounts. Solar installers use the ground as a last resort if the roof space is insufficient.
Availability Of Grants, Solar Loans, Or Incentives
If there are solar incentives to offer the costs of purchasing and installing the solar power system, the cost will be lower than it should be. Fortunately for Cork residents, the SEAI grant, among other solar incentives, is offered to eligible house owners to cover part of the expenses. This is the forte of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
The Cost Of Instal ling A Solar System In Cork
The most commonly used solar system size in Ireland is 5KW. Its price ranges between €11k and €13k.
How To Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need
To get the number of solar panels you need, you should be familiar with monthly energy usage, the peak sunshine hours in Cork, and the wattage of the panel you’re installing.
The formula for calculating how many solar panels you need is the hourly energy usage x peak sunshine hours ÷ panel wattage. Let’s assume our panel wattage is 250W. We’ve already pegged our peak sunlight hours at 3.8. So let’s get the hourly rate for electricity consumption.
The average monthly energy consumption in Cork is 416kWh. To get the hourly rate, let’s first break it down to daily rate = 416kWh/30 = 13.86kWh.
The hourly rate is 13.86kWh/24 = 0.577 (approx. 0.58kWh). In watts, this is 580W.
How many solar panels = 580 x 3.8 ÷ 250W = 2204÷250 = 8.8 (9) solar panels.
Solar Rebates In Cork, Ireland
The SEAI grant is offered to eligible homeowners in Cork. Through this incentive, homeowners with a 1kWp system earn €900. Homeowners with a 2kWp system earn €1,800. Those with a 3kWp system earn €2,100, and those with a 4kWp system earn €2,400.