Information on Rooftop Solar PV

A PV system can be ground mounted or freestanding, fitted on a residential or commercially owned roof, or even used as an alternative to traditional building materials (for e.g. roof tiles, paving on roads, etc.).

In South Africa, there has been an increasing customer interest for rooftop PV installations, even in the absence of specific policies or standards for the promotion of this technology. The generated electricity from a rooftop installation can be used to supplement the building’s own electrical requirements or can be directed back into the grid in certain instances where permitted, and a NERSA approved tariff is specified.

Classification of rooftop PV systems

The most common way to differentiate a solar rooftop installation is via the connection to the electrical load/grid.

Grid tied / connected with reverse power blocking

The property is connected to the national grid in order to receive electricity, but any surplus electricity generated by the system is prevented from being directed back into the grid.

Grid tied / connected

Electricity generated can be used at the property and any surplus can be directed back into the grid. In some cases, this feed-back is compensated for.

Off-grid / standalone

The PV system generates electricity for use on-site, and operates completely independent of the national grid. In this case, it necessary to have additional components such as a charge controller and battery storage.

Challenges in the space

The Solar PV industry has developed significantly over the last 5 years despite some of the challenges faced in the sector. The PV GreenCard Programme was developed to address many key challenges including education, training skills development, quality, lack of standards etc. Some of the challenges are defined below.

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Lack of Regulations

The paucity of specific standards, rules and policies for SSEG leaves room for uncertainty in the sector. It also hinders the progression of the sector as many are sceptical to enter into a regulatory environment that is unclear and under transition.

Skills Development

Currently, there is no nationally accredited training or qualification for PV installers. However, this challenge is currently being tackled by various initiatives linked to the PV GreenCard skills development programme.

IRP Allocations

New-build limits and a poor allocation stated in the 2016 IRP update for renewables, especially for SSEG applications, does not allow for the immense potential of solar to be recognised. The industry is awaiting the release of the final version of the document, but increased activity at the municipal level is predicted regardless of the outcome.

Rapid Transformation

Progression of the market and more customers installing PV are pushing municipalities and Eskom towards rethinking their strategy of electricity distribution. Many municipalities are already showing great adaptability and creating their own by-laws, polices and processes to deal with SSEG; but there are still reservations held by some. It is well known that the grid was designed for a 1 way flow of electricity and for no external sources of generation. Additionally, the reliance on the revenue stream from the electricity department to resource other municipal departments also offers little incentive to change the current business model. However, it is becoming increasingly important to decarbonise our economy and embedded generation has a central role in this regard.

Other

Some other stumbling blocks to the market development of rooftop PV include the lack of awareness and misinterpretation of the technology.