Personalised advice and solar education

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Don’t let going solar be daunting, confusing or risky. Talk to your own Spark Advisor at any point - we will give you sound advice and guidance so you can make an informed and trusted purchasing decision.

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What is Solar PV?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) is a technology that has been around since the 70’s and converts the sun’s rays into usable electricity for your home or business. You save money by generating your own electricity from the sun.

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How Does Solar Work?

You save money by generating your own electricity from the sun.

  1. 1 Large solar panels are put onto your roof at home or at your business that takes the sun’s rays and converts them into direct-current (DC) electricity.
  2. 2 These panels connect up with an inverter that converts the direct current (DC) into usable alternating current (AC), just like the AC adaptors we use to charge our cell phones, TVs or computers, which we can use to power your home or business.
  3. 3 When you add batteries for energy storage, you will be able to have power even when the grid is down. Alternatively, feed your stored electricity back into the grid to sell to your utility by a process called Net Metering or becoming a Virtual Power Plant (VPP).
  4. 4 The solar system’s inverter connects to your electrical network at your home or business and integrates with your utility’s grid. You get the best of both worlds - electricity from your solar system when the sun is shining and from the grid when you need it, which means you always have electricity.

What kind of solar PV systems can you get?

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Storage only

The most affordable system to avoid load shedding inconvenience is battery storage. The grid charges the batteries, which store electricity to use when the grid power is not available. Power is transferred automatically when the grid goes down.

The disadvantage is that grid power is needed to charge the batteries. Spark’s 'future proof' storage solution enables you to add solar panels to your system if required.

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Grid-tied solar

The simplest and cheapest system is grid-tied; the solar PV system is installed to be tied to the grid or network. The main advantages are that the cost of installing the system is low and you save money on your electricity bills.

The disadvantage is that when the grid goes down during load shedding, there are no batteries to store energy so your solar system will not provide any power to the home when the sun is not shining.

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Hybrid solar system

Solar system which combines the best of both a grid-tied and off-grid system. Here, you are still connected to the network and have batteries for backup energy storage. When load shedding happens or the grid goes down for whatever reason, you can run your appliances that are connected to the inverter for a period of time. This depends on how many batteries are connected. This solution also helps you save on your electricity bills!

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Off-grid solar

Solar system which includes batteries for backup power. Here, kilowatt hours (kWhs) generated from your solar system are stored in large battery banks. What makes this setup so unique is that you act like an island and are completely removed from the grid. It doesn't matter if the grid is up or if there is load shedding, you run a system that is completely independent. This usually comes with a large upfront cost due to the number of batteries needed as well solar PV panels.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is a huge opportunity to save money and help the environment by saving on your Electricity consumption. Here is what you can do to reduce your energy usage.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) is a technology that has been around since the 70’s and was used on early space missions. Over the decades, the technology has become more efficient, cost effective and reliable.

Going solar has never been more affordable. The price of solar hardware components, including batteries, inverters, solar panels etc. has come down in cost over the past few years. This is primarily due to higher global market demand. The cost of your system will depend on the amount of energy you require for daily consumption and how much backup storage you need.

Solar systems are able to generate electricity all year around and across all seasons. Solar panels require sunlight to generate electricity and cloudy or rainy days limit the amount of sun exposure, decreasing the solar system’s capacity.

Solar panels need sunlight to create electricity. At night the solar system is dormant. As the solar systems are grid-connected and/or has battery storage, you are still able to draw electricity at night as you need it.

When Eskom’s initial energy crisis started, the Department of Energy and Eskom went out to create a programme called Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP), to procure renewable energy from the private sector - since 2010, over 1 gigawatt of power has been procured through this programme. This compares to about ¼ of the Medupi Power Station, but obviously comes from renewables.

Further to that, the private sector has seen a boom of solar PV installers and providers that can sell or finance you an installed system at your house or business - roughly 50 megawatts of solar is installed per year (and growing). This can not only save you money on your electricity bill as you will be getting kWhs from the sun, but also provide you with backup power during load shedding if you have selected the right kind of system.

You will have the choice to choose batteries as part of your quote request - when adding batteries to your solar system, you will be able to run select loads and appliances off-grid and protect yourself from load shedding.

Battery technology has come a long way and typically lasts between 5 - 15 years depending on use, weather conditions and technology.

At this stage, the regulation is dependent on the municipality that your property is connected to. Certain municipalities like the City of Cape Town have started a feed-in tariff that allows you to be paid for the kWhs you push into the grid. However, these rates are often low. Hopefully this will change in the future as regulation opens up for the private energy market, much like the UK, Germany and Australia, for example.

Installing your own solar system at home or at your business will allow you to save money on your electricity bills. Because you generate your own electricity you start becoming independent from Eskom or your local municipality. If you have a large enough battery system, solar array and inverter installed to run all your appliances, you can operate completely independently.

It depends on the size of your house and the number of appliances and loads you have. The typical solar system is between 3 - 7 kWp in size, which equates to between 12 to 28 solar PV panels. The average consumption of a 300 sqm house typically has a bill of R2,000 per month and a 3 kWp solar PV can save roughly R1000 per month depending on your current electricity cost and charges from your local municipality.

The cost of your solar PV system is dependent on the size of your home or business, the amount of roof space available and the kind of solar PV system you want (grid-tied, off grid or hybrid). The savings also depend on the cost of electricity based on which municipality provides you with electricity at the moment. In general, solar PV paybacks vary from 4 - 9 years.

Solar systems are designed to be retro-fitted to your existing home or business property. There are design and system benefits to incorporate solar in the building process of a new home or building, but in either scenario an accredited solar provider will be able to assist you.

Not particularly, as there are a number of different roof-mounting systems available that allow solar systems to be installed on top of flat concrete, IBR and tile-roof types. There are even options to mount the solar PV panels on top of carport structures and can even be mounted to the ground.

Any form of shade on the solar panels decreases the efficiency of the solar system and its ability to generate electricity. Industry best practice when it comes to solar system design includes factoring any shaded areas that may appear through the day. This will allow your solar panels to be isolated from shaded areas, increasing the solar system’s ability to generate more electricity.

If you choose to add batteries to your solar system, your installation will be able to store the electricity generated from solar in the batteries. The amount of hours that you can run your appliances from the batteries depends on the size of your battery installation as well as the loads and appliances you run. Low wattage LED lights and appliances like TVs and computers use very little electricity, but running an electrical stove, heater or geyser will deplete your stored electricity very quickly.

To optimize your solar system, location and placement of the solar PV panels is key. In South Africa you preferably have the solar PV panels at a slight angle facing either north or a combination of east and west. This means that the solar PV panels will most likely be visible on the roof to you and your neighbours. In more developed markets, solar systems are seen as a socially-responsible asset to generate clean and green power, which often subsidizes the aesthetic compromise, if any.

Solar systems are very safe to install, if done by an accredited Solar Provider, which is where Spark comes in. The installations will follow industry standards in terms of quality and compliance.

A compliant solar system installation will have the correct earthing in place and lightning protection can be added for additional protection. The solar PV panels are resilient and can withstand hail, but damage can occur depending on the size of the hail.

Your solar system will increase your property value as solar is a highly valued asset to mitigate the inconvenience of load shedding. It will also make your property more marketable due to lower electricity running costs for any prospective buyer.

Should you decide to install solar at your home, you will save money on your electricity bills as well as avoid rising electricity costs going forward. The savings will be dependent on the type of solar you install as well as associated and supporting solar and municipality by-laws.

Your solar system is integrated into your electrical network - once installed it works seamlessly. That said, you can turn it off and on at the inverter and breaker; however, this should only be done by a certified electrician and solar technician.

Solar systems are designed to be resilient and have a long expected life-span. However, regular maintenance is recommended to ensure that the solar system operates optimally, you are able to achieve the savings and maximize the system’s useful life.

Spark offers a 5-year operational & maintenance (O&M) package to all our clients. O&M is a set of activities that allow a solar PV system to produce energy optimally. It includes:

  • - Real-time remote monitoring - Being a part of the Spark family means that you have a professional team of solar specialists keeping an eye on your solar system 24/7.
  • - Solar panel maintenance - We include two solar panel cleaning sessions a year, ensuring that your solar panel energy production output aligns with our projected forecast.
  • - Engineering inspection and maintenance - As part of the campaign, we also include yearly technical inspections of your entire solar system. We are always committed to doing our best to help you get the most out of your solar solution.

This is part of the process that is core to Spark’s offering. We only provide you with quotes that are from accredited solar providers that we have vetted. You will be matched with a solar provider in your area to ensure the best possible service and quickest turnaround time.

Depending on the complexity of your installation, lead times from order to switch-on can be between 1 to 12 weeks. A major contributing factor is stock availability, but as a Spark customer, we will ensure that our suppliers have local stock available to keep lead times at their minimum.

Your home or business premises will determine the complexity of your installation. The solar providers will talk you through the process and plan to make the installation as unobtrusive as possible.

An installed solar system is a combination of ingredients; solar panels, inverter, battery storage, cables and a smart meter. Each of these have different useful lives and warranty terms varying per Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or manufacturer. That said, solar systems are designed to be resilient and relatively low maintenance.

Warranty terms of the main components are:

  • - Solar: 25 year warranty
  • - Inverters: up to 10 year warranty
  • - Battery storage: up to 10 year warranty

Solar systems need to be inspected annually and solar panels need to be cleaned on a regular basis depending on where you live. The cleaning has to be done by a professional who is certified to work at heights - our accredited solar providers have teams to ensure that your system is maintained properly.

Spark offers all clients a package with a 5-year inclusive Operations and Maintenance service for your solar system - this means that all costs for maintenance, inspections and cleaning are included in your solar system’s price.

Solar systems are a big investment and the finance industry has become very innovative to support a number of different finance solutions for the funding of solar systems. If you are considering not purchasing your solar system upfront, you have the following range of options to choose from:

Asset finance

Your solar system is an asset, and your bank or other financial institutions are offering asset-backed finance similar to a bond / mortgage. This would put your solar system on your balance sheet as an asset in return for a loan, similar to how your property bond or mortgage is structured, often requiring a deposit.

Benefits are that your solar system is owned by you and is your asset, with a loan against it.

Lease/Rental finance

Lease or Rental finance provides you with the use of the solar system and its associated energy and utility bill savings, but the lease or rental company will own the solar system as is installed on your property.

The benefits are that you receive the money savings of going solar with no maintenance costs for the duration of your lease or rental contract.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) provides you with the solar system at zero upfront cost, where the PPA financier will charge you for the kWhs that your solar system generated.

You get the benefit of going solar and only pay for what you use, minimizing any financial risk, with zero maintenance costs.

Spark is currently operating in South Africa only and we run exclusive solar campaigns for our partners to service only their clients.

We plan to open Spark up to anyone in South Africa in late 2021, as well as expand into another global territory in 2022.

Like marketplaces we all use on a regular basis, Spark earns transaction fees on the sale and maintenance of solar systems. Using volume pricing, we negotiate deals with our solar providers and product suppliers to always get you the best price. Solar providers save money and benefit as they get sales support from Spark and access to our network, without spending any upfront money on marketing.